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There is plenty to ponder about drafting a QB

It's countdown to draft day time for the Bills and if I am reading the tea leaves accurately they are not going to spend their first-round selection, the third in the entire draw, on a quarterback.

Their needs are many and, aside from Cam Newton of Auburn -- more likely to be chosen as the first draftee overall by Carolina -- Buffalo's deep thinkers see no one worthy of the heavy price a potential franchise quarterback would cost.

This is unlikely to sit well with the Bills' faithful, who have been hungering for such a quarterback since Jim Kelly returned to civilian life. Nevertheless, past performances in quarterback derbies suggest that GM Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey are correct to scoff at the idea of franchise guys hanging from the first-round trees.

A year ago the popular choice as Buffalo's first pick according to mock draft architects was Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Instead, he lasted until the second round, became a starter for a bad Panthers team late in the season and flopped. That's what got Carolina interested in Newton this year.

The only rookie who performed like an eventual franchise type was Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, whom St. Louis made the first pick in the draft.

That's how it usually goes in the annual quarterback derbies. There are 32 teams in the NFL but it says here that there are just seven franchise types currently at work in the league. Let's take a look:

* Tom Brady, New England, 34 years old when the 2011 seasons begins, if there is a season. Quarterbacked three Super Bowl victories.

* Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 35. Quarterbacked Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI.

* Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, 29. Played in three Super Bowls, won two and probably has time for more given the Steelers' record of year-after-year excellence.

* Philip Rivers, San Diego, 29. He hasn't made it to a Super, but he has the Chargers in serious contention almost every year and he has time remaining.

* Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, just 27. Superb work in the last Super. His fingerprints could appear frequently on future Vince Lombardi trophies.

* Eli Manning, New York Giants, 30. The only NFC quarterback to beat Brady on Super Bowl Sunday. He's young enough for more if his team gives him an improved supporting cast.

* Drew Brees, New Orleans, 32. Super Bowl XLIV MVP. He's not surrounded by gilt-edged talent so he could have difficulty returning to a Super Bowl.

Just remember that you don't need a franchise quarterback to win a Super Bowl or even get to one. Doug Williams and Mark Rypien were Super Bowl MVPs.

The Bills are more likely to draft a quarterback who doesn't need instant development, just careful tutoring to bring them eventual happiness. How about Christian Ponder of Florida State on the second day of the draft?

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