In a draft where the quarterback class had one of the more disappointing showings, there were signal callers after the draft was over that were in demand. Arizona's Matt Scott, Tennessee's Tyler Bray and a Washington State quarterback that not only agreed to terms with the Bills as a rookie free agent Monday, but had a pre-draft visit with the team in early April.
Jeff Tuel had a star-crossed career at Washington State. After becoming just the second quarterback in school history to start at least five games as a freshman, Drew Bledsoe was the other, it looked like his career would be a prolific one for the Cougars. However, a dislocated knee cap ended his freshman season prematurely.
His sophomore season proved to be his best as he completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,780 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The following season the wheels came off when a broken collar bone forced him to miss four games. Upon returning he re-injured the collar bone and additionally sustained a leg injury. His junior season was over with just 276 passing yards and a touchdown to show for it.
A change in coaching staffs brought in a new offensive system and an open competition for the starting job.
"He won the starting job initially and then he tweaked a knee early in the season," said Bills scout Brad Forsyth. "They had a young guy come in and he played pretty well so Tuel kind of lost his spot. He played in spots the rest of the year, but I think he's a kid that really does have a legitimate shot. He needs some time, development and experience, but he has all the physical tools you're looking for and he's a smart kid as well."
Forsyth, who was a college quarterback himself, sees upside in Tuel knowing his time on the field has been limited by injury.
"I'm real excited about him as a free agent," said Forsyth. "Really good size, really strong arm. You really notice that when you get on the practice field and at the two All-Star games that I went to watch him. He just stands out as a pure thrower. He really spins it well and can make all the throws."
He describes Tuel as deceptively quick and can buy time to make plays. Tuel has been knocked some for his accuracy, but he finished as the school's all-time leader in the completion percentage (64.1%). Forsyth has an idea as to where the concerns originated.
"This year was kind of a different story because in that offense you throw to areas or spots," said Forsyth. "It's a little bit different because in talking to Jeff he felt he mentally struggled a little bit in it. Not so much with what he was doing, but because everyone has to be on the same page he wasn't sure guys were going to the spots where he's supposed to throw to and he held onto the ball a lot and took a lot more sacks than he should have.
"It's just not feeling comfortable. He didn't want to throw a pick and have it go the other way so he was waiting and waiting to make sure his guy was making the right break. In that offense you just have to trust each other."
Tuel (6'3' 218) despite great arm strength does show a touch on the ball as well. He routinely dropped the ball over defenders into the waiting arms of one of his receiving targets.
"I don't have any problems with his accuracy," said Forsyth. "When you see this guy in 7-on-7s, at the all-star games and even in the games, I think the first game he went 6-of-8 and in the NFLPA game he went 8-for-8. He is accurate. He's got sneaky athletic ability."
With veterans Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb on the roster along with prized draft choice it will certainly be an uphill climb for Tuel, but there's one Bills scout eager to see how he progresses through the offeseason and in training camp.
"I just like this kid's physical upside," Forsyth said. "He's got a lot of the thing you want. It's just a matter of putting it all together and doing it on a consistent basis."