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Gruden talks QB options for Bills

The Buffalo Bills are doing their due diligence when it comes to scouting quarterbacks for the NFL Draft.

The Bills have already met with Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins; NFL teams are allowed to bring in 30 prospects for interviews prior to the draft. Arizona State's Brock Osweiler will be the third quarterback on that list after he told reporters at his pro day he'd meet with the Bills.

ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden spoke with reporters on a conference call Wednesday about those three prospects -- as well as about Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"I think Fitzpatrick showed some things early that were very exciting helping the Buffalo Bills come out of the gate in impressive fashion," Gruden said. "But in this league, at the end of the day it's about sustaining. Ryan Fitzpatrick has to prove he can start the season and end the season by putting the Buffalo Bills back in the playoffs where we used to see them. That remains to be seen. I think he's got to answer those questions himself."

The Bills do not have a "project" quarterback on the roster. Tyler Thigpen is No. 2 behind Fitzpatrick, while Brad Smith is the Wildcat quarterback. Toward the end of last season he was moved to receiver.

The good news for Buffalo is the quarterback position is deep in this year's draft, even after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III go in some form of 1 and 2 at the top. Gruden interviewed 10 prospects for his popular "QB Camp" series this season.

"I think this year is a little bit deeper [than last year]," he said. "There's some really interesting quarterbacks in this draft."

Osweiler, who's leaving Arizona State a year early, is the biggest. He measures 6-foot-7 with "a rocket arm and better-than-average mobility," according to Gruden.

There are some concerns, however, starting with experience. Osweiler started just 15 games with the Sun Devils, who lost their last five games of the season.

"He's playing in an offense where he's basically a read-option style quarterback. You never see a lot of pure drops at Arizona State," Gruden said. "But what you do know is you have an intelligent 6-7 quarterback that can make a lot of throws. He's tough. He's smart and he really wants to be great. Those are some things that you want to develop, obviously. When you team a quarterback with [Bills coach] Chan Gailey, usually the quarterback is going to be put in premier situations, so I do like Osweiler."

Wilson's main wart is the exact opposite of Osweiler's strength.

"The only issue with Russell Wilson is his height," Gruden said of the 5-foot-11 quarterback. "That might be the reason he's not picked in the first couple rounds."

Wilson, though, met most of Gruden's other criteria for being a great quarterback.

"He's got tremendous mobility. I've got him at 4.50 [seconds] in the 40 [yard dash]. He's mastered two different offensive systems. This is a tremendous kid. His intangibles are off the charts."

Wilson didn't transfer from N.C. State to Wisconsin until the summer, but won the Badgers' starting job and became a team captain. He led them to an 11-3 record, Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance.

Wilson was also a fourth-round choice of the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 amateur draft, spending a season in Class A ball.

"We all know what a great athlete he is," Gruden said. "The only issue is his height. We used Drew Brees as the classic example with him. If you just look at one inch, or an inch and a half, that's the height difference with Drew Brees. [Wilson's] got a lot of questions to answer. There are not a lot of quarterbacks who are under 6 feet who are playing in the NFL today or who have played the game, period.

"He's going to have to answer those questions. Hopefully the right guy gives him an opportunity and he takes advantage of it, because when you watch the tape, every film you watch at N.C. State or Wisconsin, the results are very similar. It's successful, solid, game-day competitive."

Cousins was a three-year starter at Michigan State, going 28-12 for the Spartans. Not bad for someone who wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school.

"What you're getting is a three-time team captain at Michigan State, so that tells you what type of leader he is. He does have, I think, NFL prototype size (6-3, 214 pounds)," Gruden said. "He's in a very good offense at Michigan State. They ask him to do a lot of different things. He's under the center, he's in the shotgun, there's a two-back attack, there's a no-back attack. And quietly Michigan State has become one of the premier football programs in college football. They're the winningest team in the Big Ten over the last three years.

"I see him going in the second round, and I think he's got a very bright future in the NFL because he's all business all the time. He's a meticulous preparation freak."

email: jskurski@buffnews.com