The Buffalo Bills and their fans can spend the next couple of months hoping the quarterback draft class of 2019 looks good to NFL scouts.
The more quarterbacks coveted early in the first round, the better for the Bills, who hold the ninth overall pick.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray was one of the big names among a record 135 players who decided to forego college eligibility to enter the draft. The NFL released its official early-entrant draft list Friday.
Murray is among two, maybe three, underclassman quarterbacks who could be taken among the top 10 picks, if they hold up to pre-draft scrutiny.
It’s also possible none are taken in the top 10. This year’s QB class is not as highly touted as last year’s, when four went in the top 10, including Buffalo’s Josh Allen at No. 7.
Since the Bills are out of the quarterback market, the more QBs taken ahead of them in the 2019 draft, the better.
History indicates that at least one QB will go ahead of the Bills’ pick. Since 2001, a quarterback has been taken in the top five every year but 2013. That’s when the Bills made EJ Manuel the first QB off the board with the 16th pick.
Teams ahead of the Bills in the draft with a need at quarterback are the New York Giants at No. 6 and the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 7. Other teams with an obvious QB need include Denver (No. 10), Miami (No. 13) and probably Washington (No. 15).
The 135 early draft entrants surpasses the total of 119 from last year. There are 103 underclassmen and another 32 players who have graduated but have college eligibility remaining.
That latter group includes University at Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson. No draft analysts list him as a first-rounder at this point.
The top four QBs in this year’s class all are underclassmen. No. 1 appears to be Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, and numerous draft experts project him to be a top-eight pick.
After Haskins, the top quarterbacks include Murray, Duke’s Daniel Jones and Missouri’s Drew Lock. Murray signed a contract in June with the Oakland Athletics. The A’s open spring training Feb. 15, and the NFL Scouting Combine starts 11 days later. It’s expected Murray will pick his preferred sport by then.
The 2019 draft is deep in elite defensive talent, especially on the line.
The early favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick is Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa, brother of Los Angeles Chargers star Joey Bosa. Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen are widely viewed as top-five candidates. Bosa and Williams are underclassmen.
Projecting picks before needs are filled in free agency is guesswork. Nevertheless, with the ninth pick, the Bills potentially could fill needs at edge rusher, offensive tackle or cornerback.
Last year, 16 of the top 20 picks were underclassmen. The number is likely to be similar this year. Of the 106 underclassmen entered for last year’s draft, 69 were drafted. That left 37 (or 35 percent) undrafted.