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QB depth in draft may not give Bills options

Some opinions formed while waiting for the Bills to fill their holes at offensive tackle, tight end, linebacker and at whatever other positions the free-agency predators may leave them weakened.

The meager production in their usual loss to New England last week should have brought them nose-to-nose with reality. The welcome good play of Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback gave their following a feel-good treat in the last half of the season but in retrospect it was a replay of the Frank Reich story, not that of Jim Kelly.

Fitz is a good man to fill the backup role but this team can't afford to continue its commitment to mediocrity.

The problem is that the depth chart at quarterback when the college draft nears may be no deeper than it was last spring when it began and ended with Sam Bradford. He gave St. Louis, to its delight, its own escape from mediocrity. The only other quarterback selected in the first round was Tim Tebow, whom many scouts decreed was more likely to become a tight end. Tebow began to look like a true quarterback only last week.

After that the biggest name, that of Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, came in the second round and went to Carolina. Clausen became a starter at midseason and looked more like Brady Quinn than Joe Montana. With some sort of lockout looming, the better quarterbacks with eligibility remaining in 2011 may be scared back into the classroom.

How many scouts will think of the Bills' infatuation with linebacker Aaron Maybin and his one good year at Penn State before they become infatuated with Cam Newton, Auburn's Heisman trophy winner? He may turn out to be wonderful but by that time his first group of pro classmates will have retired.

Speaking of drafts, the Bills' decision to select nose tackle Torell Troup with their second pick last April instead of home boy tight end Rob Gronkowski could haunt them into the next decade. What is behind Buffalo's aversion to employing top-of-the heap tight ends anyways? They move the sticks, and in Gronkowski's case dominate the red zone.

The four victories, so far, in the second half of the season weren't the only thing cheering about the 2010 Bills. The fans clamored for every big-name coach without a job at the time, even though Bill Parcells was just two games over .500 in four years at Dallas and hadn't won a playoff game since 1990, while Mike Shanahan's experience with success had a flat tire when his great quarterback, John Elway, retired in Denver.

The fans were furious when the Bills hired veteran Chan Gailey but he began what looks like a turnaround in the last half of the season and earned the respect of the players and fans.

Meanwhile, Bill Belichick of the Patriots reestablished himself as the coach of the century and has the future draft choices to build an impenetrable NFL fortress. The Bills, for a while at least, must be satisfied with smaller successes and eventually respectability.

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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