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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: Assessing non-quarterback options at No. 12

Consider this my official plea to the NFL: Please, move the draft up at least two weeks on the calendar.

Perhaps the pre-draft process just feels like it's dragging more than usual this year because of the buzz around the Buffalo Bills' plans, but I'm ready for the picks to start being made. I've read more mock drafts and scouting reports than I  care to admit.

With a scheduled six picks in the first three rounds, anticipation for what the Bills might do is as feverish as I can even remember. Naturally, several of your questions for this week's mailbag revolve around those plans. Let's get to them:

Denny Maines asks: Who's the target at 12 if the top four quarterbacks are gone and we couldn't trade to get one?

Jay: That depends on the Bills’ evaluation of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. If they feel he has franchise potential, taking him at 12 is justifiable. There is a good chance Jackson won’t be on the board at No. 22 if the Bills pass at 12, because the Cardinals could also use a quarterback.

If the Bills don’t think Jackson is worth the 12th pick, the other glaring need on the roster is at linebacker. If Georgia’s Roquan Smith is still available, and there is a chance he could be with four quarterbacks going in your scenario in the first 11 picks, he would become an immediate starter. The Bills could then consider Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph at No. 22, or they could wait until the second round and look at players like Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Washington State’s Luke Falk or Western Kentucky’s Mike White.

John asks: Am I the only Bills fan who won't have to be talked off a ledge if they don't take a quarterback on Day One of the draft?

Jay: Not the only one, but you’ll be in the minority. Every move the Bills have made since Brandon Beane took over as general manager has pointed to this year’s draft as the time to acquire a franchise passer. If the first round comes and goes without that happening, people will understandably be disappointed. That’s not to say the Bills’ decision will automatically be wrong – at least a few years will need to pass, so we can see how those quarterbacks turn out, as well as the players the Bills picked instead. Last year, the Bills passed on Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. They landed a good player in cornerback Tre’Davious White, but the glaring hole at quarterback persists. That’s why a significant portion of the fan base will be disappointed if the Bills don’t use a first-round pick on one.

Paul Waas asks: Without quarterback fever, where would you place the five most talked about quarterbacks in the first and second round based on their scouting evaluations?

Jay: I’d put all of them in the first round. The most talented player in the draft, in my opinion, is Penn State running back Saquan Barkley. There are also players like Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson and North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb who are elite prospects. But there is a reason this quarterback class has gotten as much hype as it has. These are all prospects worthy of being drafted in the first round. Surely, the importance of quarterback will lead teams to pick them perhaps a little earlier than they otherwise would have if they played a different position, but not dramatically so. For example, if the Bills traded up for, say, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, there would be some people screaming that it was a reach, while others would say they got the player with the most potential in the draft.

Will all five of these quarterbacks turn out being great? Probably not, but the importance of the position demands that teams spend premium picks on trying to get the right guy.

Rick McGuire asks: “Can you fathom a reason, any reason at all, as to why the Bills have not yet inducted Frank Reich into their Wall of Fame? I know others are deserving, too, but Frank is a legend here in Buffalo. Way overdue!!”

Jay: That’s an interesting name to consider. As a member of the Wall of Fame selection committee, I can say that Reich’s name was not brought up at our last meeting, when we elected Cookie Gilchrist. I’m also not sure his induction is as much of a slam dunk as you make it. The Greatest Comeback is right up there with 51-3 over the Raiders in the greatest games in franchise history. Reich’s role in directing that comeback is something that will live on for all time. But does that make him a Wall of Famer? He was, after all, a backup quarterback. I’m not sure that makes him “Wall” worthy.

Hector Magana asks: Is it responsible to play a rookie quarterback with the wide receivers the Bills have?

Jay: I’ve seen this topic come up a couple times on social media this week. It wouldn’t be irresponsible of the Bills. How do we know that a rookie is going to win the job? I feel like AJ McCarron isn’t being given much of a chance to even win the starting job. In my mind, that’s a big mistake. While it’s true McCarron doesn’t have a big body of work, he played reasonably well for the Bengals in 2015. It’s not out of the question that the coaching staff feels like he gives the team the best chance to win.

Secondly, I’ve never heard of a team saying they aren’t going to play a quarterback because its receivers aren’t good enough. Head coach Sean McDermott has to determine who he thinks is the best player for every position, and that’s who should start. If it’s a rookie quarterback, it should be because he was the best option.

No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and top tight end Charles Clay are legitimate NFL players. There is definite concern about Zay Jones – the projected No. 2 receiver – after his troubling recent arrest. The offseason’s not over, though, so let’s see what else Beane has planned before evaluating the team’s receivers.

Andrew asks: Shaq Lawson on the cutting block for draft capital?

Jay: The option has to be considered. Beane has insisted he’s not trying to move on from players acquired by former General Manager Doug Whaley, but that’s exactly what has happened. The addition of Trent Murphy gives the Bills a possible replacement for Lawson.

The only problem with the idea is the Bills would be selling low. Lawson has dealt with injuries in both of his first two seasons, and frankly hasn’t produced the way a first-round pick should. There also is no cap savings involved with trading him. For those reasons, I’d keep him and hope that the light goes on in his third season.

“RF” asks: How high are we moving up? Rosen or Allen? You know the drill …

Jay: My preference remains Rosen. The expectation is that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will want to install a system that features quick, precision throws. That’s what Rosen does best. The negatives about him don’t scare me. Worrying that a quarterback is “too smart” sounds crazy.

Allen is also an intriguing prospect. Scouts are blown away by his arm. I’d be worried about his completion percentage, but would reserve judgement until seeing him play. The reality about any quarterback the Bills pick will be the same. If that player ends up being the franchise guy, Beane’s job is likely safe for at least a decade. If that player busts, the general manager might be looking for a new job much sooner.

Marwah asks: Is Mayfield really their guy?

Jay: Here’s the reality: I don’t know. I also am not sure they know. Beane has made it clear he planned to be deliberate in fully researching every option. That process is not complete yet. I’d expect all of the top quarterbacks to make pre-draft visits – including Mayfield, who has one planned, according to Sports Illustrated.

Most teams don’t have their draft boards completely set yet. That process won’t be finished until much closer to the draft. Maybe then we’ll know more about who the Bills are targeting, but the team will surely want to try and keep that information as close to the vest as possible.

Thanks as always for all the questions.

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