Projecting who will be available when the Buffalo Bills are on the clock with the 19th overall selection in the NFL Draft at this point is mostly a fool's errand.
With more than two months to go, there is still plenty of time to prospects to improve -- or hurt -- their draft stock, including this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
For the Buffalo Bills, most mock drafts have been in agreement that defensive help should be the top priority in the first round. But one of the most interesting lingering questions leading up to the draft is what the Bills will do if one of the perceived top three quarterbacks -- Cal's Jared Goff, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Memphis' Paxton Lynch -- happens to be on the board when it's their turn to pick.
Speaking on separate conference calls Tuesday to preview the combine, two veteran NFL Draft analysts said the Bills should consider using the No. 19 pick on a quarterback if that indeed was the case.
"I think quarterback always trumps all," Mayock said. "If they believe that a franchise quarterback was sitting there at 19, I think they'd have to consider it, and that's despite visit the fact that I really like Tyrod Taylor."
In Kiper's latest mock draft, he has Wentz and Goff going in the top-four selections, but Lynch falling out of the first round. On Tuesday, however, Kiper indicated teams in the bottom half of the first round would have to consider Lynch.
"He has to be in play for Houston, for Buffalo, certainly for Arizona, the L.A. Rams," he said.
The Bills' biggest perceived need heading into the draft is in their defensive front seven. The majority of mock drafts to this point have given them help at that spot, either along the defensive line or at linebacker. Kiper, for example, has them taking Clemson's Kevin Dodd at No. 19.
But there is one important reason why the Bills could elect to pass on the defensive line in the first round in favor of adding a potential franchise quarterback. The defensive line class is thought to be rich in talent this year, with Kiper saying he currently has 25 players with first- or second-round grades, and could have up to 27 by the time the draft starts. That means Buffalo could wait to address the position in the second round and still get a starting-caliber player.
"That would depend upon on how you feel about Lynch," Kiper said. "I think the combine -- to see him with Wentz, to see him with Goff, and they’ll have a chance to judge him just in terms of pure throwing ability, pure passing ability -- will be important. If the measureables and everything comes back, he interviews well, shows that kind of command and that knowledge and interviews to the level – because you know Goff and you know Wentz are going to interview off the charts -- so if he can at least be in that ballpark, he’s in the discussion."
Hypothetically, if the Bills were to take Lynch, Kiper thinks there will still be plenty of talent along the defensive line for the Bills to choose from in the second round or later.
"A guy like Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, Antwaun Woods from USC, a guy like Hassan Ridgeway form Texas, you know players like that," he said. "Chris Jones from Mississippi State, Kenny Clark from UCLA, I don’t think he’ll get past the second round. So yeah, you could maybe wait a little bit.
"With that depth you could maybe … roll the dice you get the guy you want at a bargain point, which in this particular case would be the third or fourth round."
Lynch struggled in Memphis' bowl game against Auburn, going 17 of 37 for 108 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Kiper, though, cautioned about overrating one particular poor performance.
"It takes more than a quarterback when you’re outmanned to win these games," he said. If you got down on Derek Carr, you made a big mistake when they got dominated by USC in the bowl game, so I think you’ve got to be careful of underrating or pushing him down too much based on the Auburn game when you’re that big and you’re that mobile and you’ve got an arm that he does.
"Now he’s got to develop into a pitcher, not just be a thrower. That’s a quarterback coach. That’s the NFL coaching he’ll get."
Lynch finished his junior season with a school-record 3,778 yards and 28 touchdowns, including a 384-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 37-24 win over Ole Miss of the SEC.
Mayock does not see any of the top three quarterbacks being available to the Bills at No. 19.
"I don't think there's any doubt," he said. Then you're talking about, to me ... probably a defensive line conversation at No. 19, but I also think there's some offensive line needs that have to be dealt with, also.
"But as far as the defensive line, when you're sitting at 19, that's a pretty good place to be because there's going to be some great football players sitting there. ... How about Sheldon Rankins at No. 19? We keep talking about what a pass-first league this is, and it certainly has become that. So anybody that can create immediate interior pressure has got higher value than he did five years ago. Rankins is one of those kind of guys."
The Bills under Rex Ryan are expected to go all-in on his base 3-4 scheme in 2016, but Mayock thinks Rankins could fit any type of scheme.
"Regardless whether you're a 3-4 or 4-3 team you've got to get guys who can get to the quarterback quicker," he said. "Rankins to me is intriguing."