Quarterback tops Buffalo Bills' priority list entering draft
By JOHN WAWROW
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) There's no secret to the Buffalo Bills being in the market for a quarterback.
Even their players will attest to addressing that position being a priority in the days leading up to the NFL draft.
"This is a quarterback-driven league," veteran defensive end Lorenzo Alexander said. "And whether that quarterback is on our roster or it's somebody that we decide we want to move up and get, that's something that you always as an organization want to build around."
Buffalo has no one closely resembling a franchise quarterback after trading Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland last month. Taylor, who went 23-21 over three seasons in Buffalo, wasn't part of the Bills' long-term plans despite helping them to a 9-7 finish and ending a 17-season playoff drought - the longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports.
His departure leaves Buffalo with two quarterbacks with a combined six career starts (including playoffs): free-agent addition AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, best remembered for throwing five interceptions in the first half of a blowout loss to the Chargers in his rookie season.
What the Bills do have are assets in terms of draft picks - nine overall, including two in each of the first three rounds - to land one of the highly regarded prospects available by either staying put at Nos. 12 and 22, or packaging them in a trade to move up in the order.
Buffalo already jumped up nine spots by swapping first-round picks in a trade that sent starting left tackle Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati last month.
Brandon Beane so carefully guards his intentions the Bills general manager jokes he won't even tell his wife.
"It doesn't leave the building," said Beane, who will oversee his first draft in Buffalo after replacing Doug Whaley in May.
Acknowledging having met with each of the six top-rated quarterback prospects, Beane will go as far as saying: "One of our main jobs as a GM is to find a franchise quarterback."
And yet, he would still deem this draft a success without selecting one.
"There's a lot of good players in the draft. And that was the big thing moving from 21 to 12," Beane said.
"The natural assumption, I get it, is we're moving up to get a quarterback, yada, yada, yada. No, we improved our draft position," he added. "We're excited about where that moves us on our draft board, and the players that we see would be available there."
The offensive line has sprung holes after center Eric Wood was diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury in January, and left guard Richie Incognito abruptly decided to retire two weeks ago. Buffalo lacks an established receiver beyond Kelvin Benjamin, and has yet to identify a starting middle linebacker after losing Preston Brown in free agency.
Beane appreciates the enormity of overseeing his first draft after previously serving as Carolina Panthers assistant GM.
"Thanks, I won't be sleeping for the next 10 days," he said, upon being informed this might be Buffalo's most significant draft since eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly was selected 14th in 1983.
"But again, I think I'll lose sleep every year going into the draft because you're always going to have holes."
The Bills have used a first-round pick on a quarterback just three times, and only once with their first selection: E.J. Manuel, 16th overall in 2013. Kelly was selected two picks after Buffalo drafted tight end Tony Hunter. J.P. Losman was selected 22nd with Buffalo's second of two first-round picks in 2004.
This doesn't include Penn State QB Richie Lucas, the first player Buffalo ever selected, and taken in the American Football League's territorial draft in 1960.
The roster shakeup has been so extensive, Buffalo has nine players left who were on the team in 2015 (not including Wood, who is still on the active roster for now), and only three drafted by the Bills: DT Kyle Williams (fifth round, 2006), OL John Miller (third round, 2015) and TE Nick O'Leary (sixth round, 2015).
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
Hit on LT Dion Dawkins with 63rd pick last year. Dawkins started 11 games in place of the injured Glenn, and allowed the Bills to trade Glenn. ... No one left from 2011 to 2014 draft classes, including first-round picks DT Marcell Dareus (traded to Jacksonville) and WR Sammy Watkins (traded to Rams). ... Kyle Williams remains a bargain. He is the team's unquestioned leader and started 162 games entering 13th season.
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Updated April 24, 2018