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2015 NFL DRAFT

2013 NFL Draft: Is Barkley the answer for the Bills?

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

The Buffalo Bills released starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as part of a salary cap purge Tuesday, making it all the more likely that the team will be using one of its first picks of the 2013 draft on a passer.

General manager Buddy Nix stated in December his intention of finding a "good, young quarterback" and that "the time's now for [the Bills]" to go get one. Our mock draft experts tend to agree.

The question now, of course, is which one will the Bills take.

Holding the rights to the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, the Bills would appear to be in good position to land the quarterback of their choice. After all, as you've no doubt heard or read by now, the 2013 class of quarterbacks isn't nearly as gifted as last year's crop.

All is not what it appears, however, as the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 2), Oakland Raiders (No. 3), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4), Cleveland Browns (No. 6) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 7) are all thought to be considering drafting a quarterback this year.

What could aid in the Bills' decision is the fact that new coach Doug Marrone is more familiar than most with the incoming class of passers. As head coach of the Syracuse Orangemen the past four years, Marrone faced West Virginia's Geno Smith and USC's Matt Barkley, the top two quarterbacks on NFLDraftScout.com's board. Needless to say, Marrone is even more familiar with Ryan Nassib, who played in 48 games (starting 38) over their four seasons together with the Orange.

This gives the Bills an obvious advantage but could put them in a precarious situation should they elect to use their first-round pick on a position other than quarterback. If the Bills are committed to a quarterback, logic says that they will select either Smith or Barkley at No. 8. Nassib would be considered by most to be a significant reach this early but could make perfect sense with the Bills' second-round pick, No. 41 overall.

The problem is, of course, that everyone else would anticipate that the Bills would be targeting Marone's former pupil in the second round, which would give teams plenty of opportunity to move up ahead of them. The Bills could trade up as well, but with only six picks due to their trade for another quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, from Seattle a year ago, the Bills aren't likely to make an aggressive move.

So, the smart money is on the Bills to take Smith if he's there, right? Not so fast. It is interesting to note that under Marrone, Syracuse went 3-0 against Smith and West Virginia over the past three years. In those games, Smith completed 59 percent of his passes for 717 yards and five touchdowns against five interceptions.

While it's true that USC boasted significantly better overall talent than West Virginia, the fact that the Trojans were 2-0 against Marrone is worth mentioning; especially when you factor in that Barkley completed 71 percent of his passes for 511 yards and 11 touchdowns against just one interception in the two games.

The obvious concern Barkley will have to address is his supposed lack of arm strength. If Fitzpatrick owned a stronger arm, he might have been successful in the windy conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the Bills wouldn't be in this position in the first place.

As such, expect Nix and Marrone to be careful observers of Barkley's Pro Day, March 27.

Of course, the Bills could also elect to go in a completely different direction. Florida State's E.J. Manuel has created a great deal of buzz for himself with a strong showing during the Senior Bowl and the combine. Arkansas's Tyler Wilson or North Carolina State's Mike Glennon could be a interesting fits.

What seems to be reasonably clear at this point, however, is that barring a shocking trade for a veteran quarterback, the Bills will be drafting a quarterback early and perhaps not the one most anticipate.

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