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Will new Bills QB be moribund organization's Manuel ignition?

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills know something nobody else does?

That idea alone is fascinating.

The chance of it being true is small based on the organization's track record. But maybe -- just maybe -- the Bills were smart to name EJ Manuel their franchise quarterback.

And if that decision is proven to be correct, while gathering two additional draft picks, then the possibilities are endless.

That's why the Bills' decision to trade back and draft Manuel, when every quarterback still was on the board, is captivating. It's fun to dream.

The problem with taking that leap of faith, however, is the Bills' long history of being feeble aforethought. They're known for missing out on significant, unfolding NFL trends. They misidentify quality players.

Over the past two years, the Bills have evaluated future playoff quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. The Bills deemed them unworthy.

Now, we're being asked to believe they've pinpointed Manuel to be the best quarterback in the draft when none of the top analysts -- Jon Gruden, Bill Polian, Mike Mayock or any other former coach or executive with a microphone -- agrees.

But there's something exhilarating about pushing the boundaries of perceptions, isn't there?

Manuel will define the next Bills era. Manuel was the first pick after Ralph Wilson turned over his presidency to Russ Brandon, the first pick for rookie head coach Doug Marrone, the first pick with the football world knowing Doug Whaley waits in the wings to be the next general manager.

Perhaps there's enough fresh thinking, younger blood and an altered vision in the draft room to make it fathomable Buffalo nailed the Manuel choice.

Although the Bills have emphasized Buddy Nix is running this year's draft, I wonder how much say he really has this week. I hope not nearly as much as before.

To wit:

Even though the Bills watched Ryan Fitzpatrick disintegrate down the 2011 homestretch, they traded up to draft receiver T.J. Graham, a player who made one predraft visit (with the Indianapolis Colts), in the third round instead adding Russell.

Two years ago, Buffalo drafted Aaron Williams (already a failure at cornerback) one spot ahead of Dalton, two spots ahead of Kaepernick.

In 2010, the Bills failed to see the possibilities with a local boy, drafting defensive lineman Torell Troup one spot before the New England Patriots took Rob Gronkowski. The Bills took C.J. Spiller when they already had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.

In 2009, with Nix the team's senior scout, Buffalo chose Aaron Maybin over Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews.

The Bills acted like a different team Thursday night.

They got the man they wanted at the most important position and added two draft choices in the process. They defied the consensus and avoided Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley -- all the quarterbacks analysts expected them to take.

If all this works out, then nothing sounds impossible anymore.

That would be refreshing.


2013 draft | Aaron Maybin | Aaron Williams | Bill Polian | Buddy Nix | C.J. Spiller | Doug Marrone | Doug Whaley | EJ Manuel | Geno Smith | Rob Gronkowski | Ryan Fitzpatrick | Ryan Nassib | Torell Troup
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |