INDIANAPOLIS – It's looking more likely the race for a quarterback in the 2019 NFL draft will benefit the Buffalo Bills.
Odds are that either two quarterbacks will be taken ahead of their No. 9 spot in the first round, or there will be someone looking to move up to their No. 9 position to get a quarterback.
Executives from the handful of teams with glaring need at quarterbacks faced an onslaught of quarterback questions Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine.
The New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, who pick sixth and seventh, respectively, are the two teams with an obvious quarterback need picking ahead of the Bills.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said last week he could envision either of the top two quarterbacks in the draft, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins or Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, going anywhere from No. 4 to No. 13.
Obviously, the Bills would like to see both taken before No. 9, increasing the chances that a top “big man” – either an edge rusher or offensive tackle – drops to their spot.
The Giants are projected to take Haskins by numerous analysts, including both Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN and Charley Casserly of NFL.com.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur said Wednesday that 38-year-old Eli Manning will be back as the starting quarterback. On drafting a quarterback to play behind Manning, Shurmur said, “I think a young player would greatly benefit from that.”
“The Kansas City model really worked well,” said Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman, referring to the fact Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith in 2017.
However, Gettleman defended Manning, who is 31-48 over the past five seasons and 8-23 over the past two.
“The narrative around Eli the past four years is really negative,” Gettleman said. “There’s an old saying: ‘If you tell a lie long enough, you believe it.’ ... The narrative has been negative, and I don’t think it’s been fair. … At the end of the day, we saw what Eli was capable of when we gave him help. We looked at Eli and we feel good about him.”
As for Jacksonville, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that the Jaguars are viewed as the favorites to land Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, who will become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. The Eagles announced Wednesday they will not put the franchise tag on Foles, putting him on the open market.
Jacksonville is likely to release current starter Blake Bortles.
Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell, perhaps signaling a preference for a new veteran quarterback, expressed confidence in the talent level of his team, which fell from 10-6 in 2017 to 5-11 in 2018.
“We feel like we still have a core of players we can win with,” Caldwell said. “It needs a little bit of retooling and it needs a little bit of reshuffling and an influx of some talent – whether it’s draft picks or free agents. Then, we can hit the ground running come September next year."
History suggests that someone will trade up in the first round to get a quarterback, whether it’s Haskins, Murray or the other top-rated quarterbacks who aren’t viewed as top-10 prospects (Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones).
Over the past three drafts, 10 of the last 11 quarterbacks taken in the first round were acquired via a trade up.
Tampa Bay holds the No. 5 pick and has committed to sticking with Jameis Winston at quarterback. Another quarterback-desperate team might want to move ahead of the Giants to get their man. The Bills, in fact, moved up from No. 12 to No. 7 last year in a trade with the Bucs.
“I guess it’s a nice place to be,” said Bucs General Manager Jason Licht. “If anybody wants it, we’d certainly listen. We did that last year. It has to be the right amount of capital we wanted.”
Which teams are close behind the Bills who could want to move up to get a quarterback?
Miami is the prime candidate. The Dolphins have the No. 13 pick. Kiper, McShay and Casserly all forecast Murray going to the Dolphins, but none of those analysts project trades in their forecast.
It’s less likely but not out of the question that Denver at No. 10 or Cincinnati at No. 11 could pursue a quarterback in the first round.
Washington, which picks 15th, could pursue a quarterback, given the fact the future of incumbent starter Alex Smith is uncertain due to a serious leg injury.
Then, of course, there’s the possibility of a draft-day surprise.
Arizona holds the No. 1 pick. New coach Kliff Kingsbury is an admirer of Murray. As Texas Tech coach in October, Kingsbury said he’d draft Murray No. 1. The Cardinals used the No. 10 pick last year to draft quarterback Josh Rosen.
Kingsbury said Wednesday Rosen “knows where he stands with us.”
Said Cardinals GM Steve Keim:
“Is Josh Rosen our quarterback? Yeah, he is right now, for sure.”
Right now? NFL fans have two months to read between the lines on Keim, Gettleman and the rest of the NFL major-domos.
Story topics: 2019 NFL Draft