If you believe the popular pre-draft literature, the Buffalo Bills ought to draft the quarterback with the biggest arm so he can throw the ball through our miserable weather.
"Because the Bills’ QB will need to navigate Western New York winters, they roll the dice on (Josh) Allen’s cannon versus the touch and accuracy of Josh Rosen," Yahoo! Sports wrote.
"Buffalo's last big-time quarterback was Jim Kelly, who had the arm to rip it through the weather in upstate New York," CBS reminded. "Allen would be able to do that as well."
"I don’t know if Buffalo loves Allen," the venerable Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote, "... but I hear they love his ability to throw it through the lake effect winds and snow."
These would be good points if the weather in Buffalo was significantly worse than the weather in other NFL cities. Except it isn't, according to WGRZ-TV meteorologist Kevin O'Neill.
"It seems really lazy just to say we need a guy with a particular arm strength or a guy with a particular hand size just because the weather’s so terrible around here," O'Neill said in a recent interview. "I think that people just don’t know where Buffalo is. Outside of a couple lake-effect storms a year, our weather is very comparable to Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Chicago."
The data supports O'Neill's side of the argument. When compared to other northern NFL cities, Buffalo's temperature and wind speed are not out of the ordinary.
Buffalo is shown in red on the graphs below.
O'Neill said he expects quarterback to get about one bad-weather game per year.
"For some reason, I think a lot of the draft experts seem to fall back on, ‘oh, Buffalo,’ and I think that maybe the famous game, the Bills-Colts game being caught in the lake-effect snow, reinforced some of the stereotypes," O'Neill said. "But you think of that game ... what’s a Josh Allen going to do in that game anyway?"
The NFL records the temperature and wind at kickoff for every game. Buffalo certainly has some cold games, but not significantly more than other cities.
The Bills had 23 regular-season home games at 40 degrees or below in the last 10 seasons – the same amount as the Patriots, and fewer than the Browns, Bears, Steelers and Packers.
Leaguewide data on wind speeds was harder to come by, but an analysis of NFL game books found the recorded wind speed at Bills home games over the last 10 seasons, excluding dome games, averaged 10.7 mph. The Beaufort wind force scale describes that as a "gentle breeze" capable of moving leaves and twigs and extending light flags. Small trees begin to sway at 19 mph, which the recorded wind speed at Bills games topped only four times in the last decade.
"I would just say it’s a misconception that was probably reinforced by the Colts-Bills game," O'Neill said of the idea that the Bills require a rocket-armed quarterback. "They’re just uninformed. They need to know that, with the exception of the lake-effect storms, that our weather is very similar to a Pittsburgh or a Cleveland or a Denver. I would say they’re just uninformed. That’s all."
Josh Allen, the Wyoming quarterback, was reportedly clocked throwing 62 mph at the NFL Combine. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield reportedly topped out at 60 mph, while UCLA's Josh Rosen peaked at 59. USC's Sam Darnold didn't throw at the Combine.
Bills quarterback AJ McCarron, an Alabama native who spent the first four years of his career in the AFC North, understands how people can get enamored with arm strength but said it is hardly the most important trait of a quarterback.
"I think a lot of people get sold on big arms. I mean, you look at the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, there's been a lot of great quarterbacks that haven't had crazy-strong arms," McCarron said. "How many times do you drop back and actually throw the ball 60 yards? Very rarely. The game is played with timing and accuracy. If you have those two things, you can be successful."