AFC East: Matt Barkley

The Buffalo Bills made one of the most surprising picks of the NFL draft by selecting former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel at No. 16 overall Thursday night.

Should the Bills double up at the position and draft former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib or USC's Matt Barkley Saturday for insurance?

The fourth round of the NFL draft begins Saturday and there is still tremendous value available at quarterback. Nassib and Barkley were widely considered second-round prospects entering the draft and remain on the board. Buffalo has the eighth pick Saturday in the fourth round (No. 105 overall) and could have a shot at one or both of these quarterbacks.

New Bills head coach Doug Marrone is very familiar with Nassib after coaching him at Syracuse. Nassib knows Buffalo’s offensive system well and could provide a solid insurance policy if Manuel is a bust. Barkley has some physical limitations but plenty of experience playing in a pro-style offense at USC. The Bills heavily scouted Nassib and Barkley and staged private workouts with both quarterbacks this offseason.

Drafting another quarterback could invite controversy. But the situation can pay dividends if handled properly.

The best recent example is the Washington Redskins last year drafting first-round quarterback Robert Griffin III and backup Kirk Cousins in the fourth round. Some criticized Washington for doubling up at quarterback. But the Redskins' brass wisely calmed the situation by immediately declaring Griffin the starter and Cousins the backup. Now, Washington has one of the best young quarterback combos in the NFL.

Buffalo hasn't had a long-term franchise quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired in 1996. The Bills hope Manuel is the answer. But boosting their odds for success by drafting Nassib or Barkley Saturday is not a bad idea.
The plot thickens on draft day, and so does the smokescreen being released by NFL teams.

Here is the latest example: Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin is the No. 1 player on the Buffalo Bills' draft board. That's right: Austin isn't the eighth best player or the fifth best player -- he's No. 1, if you believe the information coming out of Bills' camp.

Austin is one of the hottest prospects in this draft. But after months of scouting, it's hard to believe Buffalo would take the undersized Austin if it had the No. 1 overall pick. This smells like a blatant smokescreen by the Bills to drum up interest in the No. 8 pick. Buffalo is a team looking to trade back for additional selections. But the Bills are sending a message that other teams do business with them to get Austin. The New York Jets are one team interested in Austin, and as Buffalo and New York continue to play mind games this week. The Jets on Wednesday said they are interested in drafting Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who is a strong target for Buffalo.

I warned AFC East readers to believe only a fraction of what you hear from teams this time of year. Teams are not truly divulging who is at the top of their draft board. There's no reason to let everyone know that information. The Bills surely have several players rated ahead of Austin, who is a top-10 or top-15 prospect.

Last week, reports surfaced that the Bills want Nassib in the first round. On Wednesday, the Bills were “seriously targeting” USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Now, just hours before the draft, Austin is their No. 1 player.

Credit Buffalo for doing a good job with misdirections. The Bills are one of the toughest teams to predict in the first round.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: Miami is four deep at wide receiver and could use the extra pick in the NFL draft, which begins tonight, to help fill out another position. The Cleveland Browns reportedly are interested. If the value is right, I have no issue with this move.
Morning take: This is a luxury move for New York. The team can use depth at tailback but is not looking for a starter. If the price is too high, the Jets can get an extra running back later in the draft.
Morning take: Rhodes would be solid value for New England. I would prefer the Patriots to draft a receiver, but cornerback would be the second or third position on my list.
  • Will the Buffalo Bills take Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the No. 8 overall pick?
Morning take: I just don’t see this happening. Buffalo could take a quarterback high in the first round, which I think would be a mistake. But Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith appear more likely with the Bills' first pick than Manuel.
The Buffalo Bills have taken a sudden left turn at quarterback, according to various reports.

Barkley
Barkley
Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Albert Breer of the NFL Network both report the Bills are "seriously targeting" USC quarterback Matt Barkley with the No. 8 overall pick. This comes after various reports in the past several days have clearly linked Buffalo to having strong interest in taking Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib.

What does all of this mean?

Frankly, this is par for the course as the draft gets closer. Teams are sending out various smokescreens and misdirections one day before the draft in order to gain a competitive advantage.

It’s probably not a coincidence this latest round of Buffalo reports comes just hours after the rival New York Jets essentially threatened Buffalo that they would take Nassib if the Bills passed. Now, Buffalo is essentially responding "We don’t like Nassib, we want Barkley instead." Who knows who is telling the truth?

So, there is some more smokescreen for Bills fans and the rest of our AFC East community. We will not get firm answers until Thursday night during the NFL draft.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC East: Morning take: Eifert would be a good fit in Miami’s West Coast offense. However, the Dolphins just signed starter Dustin Keller and would essentially quit on 2012 draft pick Michael Egnew with this selection. Miami could address other needs such as cornerback or left tackle.
Morning take: It may be a while before New York builds itself back into contention. It will be very tough for head coach Rex Ryan to post his first winning season in three years with this group.
  • Should the Buffalo Bills draft quarterback Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley with the No. 8 overall pick?
Morning take: I’ve said all along that I would not take a quarterback from this draft in the top 10. That doesn’t mean someone won’t reach for one, and many projections have Buffalo potentially being that team this week.
  • Should the New England Patriots take Cal receiver Keenan Allen with the No. 29 overall pick?
Morning take: I would prefer a few other receivers for the Patriots in this spot, which include Tennessee’s Justin Hunter or USC’s Robert Woods. But I do agree that receiver is a position of need for the Patriots.

Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC East:
  • After the New York Jets traded away star cornerback Darrelle Revis, is Rex Ryan now a lame-duck coach?
Morning take: If this is a must-win year, Ryan's prospects do not look promising. The Jets are not a playoff team and have one of the weakest rosters in the NFL. Ryan would have to do the best coaching job of his career to make New York a contender.
  • Will the Buffalo Bills draft Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib or USC's Matt Barkley later this week?
Morning take: Preferably one of these players falls to the second round. The addition of Kevin Kolb provides flexibility so the Bills won't have to reach for a quarterback at No. 8 overall.
  • The Miami Dolphins could consider West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin or Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round.
Morning take: Miami did a lot to deepen its receiver position, so I don't expect the team to add another one in the first round. Eifert would be a good fit if the team is ready to quit on 2012 draft pick Michael Egnew.
Morning take: The Patriots don’t need Hernandez now. But this is the time to build chemistry. Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski need to focus on getting back to 100 percent for the fall.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: Johnson would be a good pick for Miami at No. 12. If Johnson makes it that far, I think Miami makes this move. It would fill a major need -- protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blindside.
Morning take: This one could go either way. The Patriots need depth at receiver, but Pittsburgh doesn’t want to lose two of its top three receivers in free agency after seeing Mike Wallace sign with Miami. I expect the Steelers to take the full five days to think this through.
Morning take: Not in the first round. The Bills have done a lot of homework on Barkley, but he won’t be a consideration at No. 8.
Morning take: It’s interesting to note how many safeties are on New York's slate. I expect the Jets to address this position fairly high in the NFL draft.
The Buffalo Bills signed veteran quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson in free agency this offseason. Conventional wisdom would suggest Buffalo now has flexibility to pass on a quarterback in the first round with the No. 8 overall pick.

But will the Bills follow conventional wisdom?

According to new Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone, adding Kolb and Jackson does not change the team's draft plans at quarterback.

"I do not think it really is going to change the philosophy on the draft," Marrone said, according to the Bills team website. "I think that when the position comes, whatever is best for our team to get better, I think we will go ahead and choose that player, whoever it may be."

There are only two legit possibilities for the Bills in the first round: West Virginia's Geno Smith and USC’s Matt Barkley. Any other option for Buffalo would be at No. 41 overall in the second round.

Unless the Bills have truly fallen in love with Smith or Barkley during the pre-draft process, it does not make sense at this point for Buffalo to reach and take a first-round quarterback. Kolb and Jackson can compete for the starting job in 2013, while a second-tier quarterback prospect such as Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Florida State's EJ Manuel or Tennessee's Tyler Bray can learn from the sideline.
First, it was the private workout with the Buffalo Bills. Now, it's time for a visit.

It’s safe to say the Bills have interest in former USC quarterback Matt Barkley. About a week after traveling to Los Angeles to hold a private workout with the quarterback prospect, Barkley tweeted that he is heading to Cleveland and Buffalo to visit the Browns and Bills, respectively.

Barkley's draft stock has been all over the place. Some feel he is a possibility for the Bills at No. 8 overall, while others think he's a second-round pick. Buffalo also holds the No. 41 overall pick, which is where the team most likely will be looking for a quarterback.

The Bills recently signed veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb to a two-year contract. Kolb will compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the Bills' starting job in training camp.
The AFC East blog reported over the weekend that the Buffalo Bills will hold a private workout with top quarterback prospect Matt Barkley of USC Monday. We're told that workout will go on, as scheduled.

But Buffalo's workout with Barkley interestingly comes two days after the Bills agreed to a two-year, $13 million contract with veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb. The money invested in Kolb suggests he will be the favorite to start in 2013.

Buffalo no longer has the pressure of drafting a first-round quarterback with Kolb in the fold. So where does that leave top prospects like Barkley and West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who also worked out for the Bills two weeks ago? Could Buffalo's interest in first-round quarterbacks now be a smokescreen?

The Bills traveled around the country doing their due diligence on quarterbacks -- and Barkley's workout today in Los Angeles is another example. Buffalo also held private workouts with Smith, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Tennessee's Tyler Bray and Florida State's EJ Manuel. Perhaps no NFL team spent as much time and resources scouting quarterbacks as the Bills this offseason.

This is all about flexibility for Buffalo. The Bills could still take a quarterback if they really like Barkley or Smith in the first round. But they no longer have to, and that is the key. Kolb’s signing opens up the possibilities to draft other needs or even trade back in the first round to gather more picks.

Buffalo has more draft options that it had a week ago.
After the Buffalo Bills signed former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a $59 million extension in November 2011, I wrote that Fitzpatrick must prove he's not the next Kevin Kolb, who was a struggling, unproven quarterback with a big contract.

Kolb
Fitzpatrick quickly went bust a year and a half later. So what did the Bills do? They replaced Fitzpatrick with Kolb, who has become the poster child for overpaying for quarterbacks too soon.

Buffalo agreed to a two-year contract worth a maximum of $13 million with Kolb this weekend. The money isn't huge for the position, but it suggests Kolb is the favorite to be the Bills' starter in 2013. Kolb is still trying to prove he can be a legitimate starting quarterback entering his seventh season. Kolb is 9-12 as a starter and is also playing on his third team in four years.

The Bills are merely spinning their wheels with this move. Kolb, 28, is not the quarterback of the future for Buffalo, and it's questionable if he can be a solid option for the present.

There are reasons Kolb did not work in Philadelphia or Arizona. Chances are, Bills rookie head coach Doug Marrone cannot do wonders and turn Kolb's career around in the same way respected offensive coaches Andy Reid and Ken Whisenhunt also failed. The Bills are hoping the third time is the charm. But it’s unlikely Kolb will suddenly find consistency, be able to stay healthy for 16 games and win big in Buffalo. All of this is against his six-year track record.

The only good I can see from this move is Buffalo no longer has the pressure of drafting a quarterback in the first round. This is a weak quarterback draft class and the Bills were desperate to find a starter. Now, they have more flexibility to use the No. 8 overall pick on other needs instead of taking a risk with first-round quarterback prospects like Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. Buffalo appears more likely to find a quarterback it can develop, such as Ryan Nassib, EJ Manuel, Landry Jones or Tyler Bray, in the second or third round.

In a perfect world, Kolb can be a successful and productive two-year bridge for the Bills to one of these young quarterbacks. But based on his last two-year stint with Arizona, the Kolb era in Buffalo has the potential to get ugly.
The Buffalo Bills' journey around the country to find a starting quarterback in this year’s NFL draft will make its next stop in Los Angeles.

Buffalo will hold a private workout Monday with former USC quarterback Matt Barkley and former USC wide receiver Robert Woods, a source tells ESPN.com's AFC East blog. The Bills hold the No. 8 overall pick and have needs at both positions. Buffalo cut former starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on March 12 and is looking for a second threat opposite 1,000-yard receiver Steve Johnson.

The Bills are working out Barkley at a good time. He's coming off a solid pro day where he completed 55 of 60 passes last week. Barkley also answered many questions about the right shoulder injury he suffered last November.

Barkley will be the fifth quarterback Buffalo has privately worked out in the past two weeks. The Bills also held workouts with West Virginia's Geno Smith, Florida State's EJ Manuel, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
The Buffalo Bills are searching far and wide for their long-term solution at quarterback. In the past week, Buffalo had private workouts with former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Geno Smith of West Virginia. Buffalo also is reportedly considering a trade for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn.

Smith
We presented a poll to our AFC East community earlier this week on which quarterback the Bills should draft. After approximately 7,000 votes, Smith was the top choice. That means Buffalo must take Smith at No. 8 or possibly trade up to get the draft's top-rated prospect.

Regular readers of the AFC East blog know that I am not convinced any quarterback in this draft is worthy of a top-10 pick. However, quarterback is a huge need for the Bills and Smith has the most potential. If Smith is there at No. 8, Buffalo should strongly consider him. It is clear that Tarvaris Jackson is not the long-term solution at quarterback for the Bills.

Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib finished in second place in our poll. Nassib is an interesting prospect, because he played under first-year Bills coach Doug Marrone in college and knows the system well. Nassib could be a strong option for Buffalo in the second round if the Bills do not draft Smith.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East:
  • Should the Buffalo Bills consider USC quarterback Matt Barkley at No. 8 overall in April's draft
Morning take: Barkley completed his pro day on Wednesday to try to answer questions. However, I still wouldn't take Barkley with a top-10 pick. I'm not fully sure he fits what Buffalo wants to do offensively.
Morning take: The Jets just lost brother LaRon Landry for a lot more money. Dawan Landry is a cheaper alternative who could fill a big need in New York.
Morning take: Louis has 28 career starts with the Chicago Bears. He’s versatile enough to play both guard and tackle, which is valuable for Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.
  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will face Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson in the “Madden NFL 25” cover vote.
Morning take: Gronkowski is a great player who is very popular. However, considering his injury history, Patriots fans might not want Gronkowski to be at risk for the Madden curse.

Tim Tebow worked with Chris Weinke

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
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Former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke runs a popular quarterback school -- IMG Academy -- in Bradenton, Fla. During an interview with NFL Network on Wednesday, Weinke revealed New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow recently stopped by to work on his shaky mechanics.

"I was just working with Tim Tebow a couple of weeks ago for the first time," Weinke said. "I was quite impressed with his ability to make adjustments. I know he's worked with a lot of different quarterback coaches. I had him for two days and I was impressed with his approach."

During his two days with Tebow, Weinke said the Jets quarterback learned to get the ball out quicker and how to adjust his ball speed. Tebow is often criticized for only throwing fastballs that can be inaccurate and/or difficult to catch from short distances.

Tebow's NFL future remains up in the air. He is under contract with New York, and the Jets are trying to trade the popular backup quarterback. However, the trade market for Tebow appears to be non-existent.

If Tebow is released, which is expected, teams must consider if they can work with his limitations.

"Again, he has to go to the right place," Weinke explained. "Coaches have to put him in position to be successful. I know he’s ultra-competitive. I know that guy wants to win and he knows how to win. The future is uncertain on what he’s going to do, but I believe he's a guy who can get it done."

Weinke also worked with several quarterbacks from this year's class at IMG. That list includes West Virginia's Geno Smith, Florida State's EJ Manuel, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and USC's Matt Barkley, who has his much-anticipated pro day on Wednesday.

Weinke knows the 2013 quarterback class is often criticized, but he believes there are talented players in this year's group.

"Where are all these guys going to land? I don't know," Weinke said. "The 32 teams have to make that decision. But I know this: There are some guys who are very well-prepared, ready to step in on Sundays and are quarterbacks who I think will have great success."

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