Bills GM Doug Whaley has been pretty clear about the team's quarterback situation heading into the 2016 offseason. Tyrod Taylor has earned the right to be the starter heading into next season after an encouraging 2015 campaign in his first season with Buffalo. At the same time the team has to fortify the position knowing the only two quarterbacks under contract are entering the final year of their deals.
"Well right now we only have two quarterbacks on the roster," said Whaley in reference to Taylor and EJ Manuel. "So just out of pure numbers we'll have to add one. How we add that guy is still to be determined."
Knowing Buffalo's tight cap situation, which will need to be managed to get top free agent priorities like Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito re-signed, the odds of the Bills adding a veteran signal caller seems less likely than picking up a prospect with the potential to develop.
"Just because of the constraints on the cap I wouldn't be sure about a veteran," Whaley said. "It might be a young guy, but we'll keep all options open."
Spending the week at the Senior Bowl there is capable NFL talent on hand, but Buffalo's personnel boss doesn't see much in the way of elite talent.
"Right now I would say that just with the seniors it's not particularly top heavy, but it is deep," said Whaley. "There are a lot of quarterbacks that you could get in rounds two through six that have a chance to grow and progress into a solid number two and possibly a number one with some time and seasoning."
"You want to get one of these quarterbacks and develop them; not to put the pressure on them to be a superstar the first year," said Bills Director of College Scouting Kelvin Fisher. "I think out of this class you can get a good group of guys and have them develop and become a star quarterback."
The only exception to that assessment in Mobile this week might be North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Blessed with prototype size at 6-5 and 230 pounds, Wentz has all the physical tools and is forecast as a first-round pick. His task this week is to prove that he can hang with the power five conference talent at the FBS level after playing his entire college career in the FCS.
"Big guy. Quick release. Strong arm, and he's a winner," said Whaley of Wentz. "He's won two national championships and that's one of the things that a lot of people, we put a lot of stock into. Is this guy a winner? Can he raise the level of his teammates and get them to play at a championship level? He's proven it."
A prospect more in the range of what Whaley described is Stanford QB Kevin Hogan, who is also working at the Senior Bowl this week. His unorthodox release is going to be heavily scrutinized, but it's hard to argue Hogan's production, level of success and ability to play big in big games in his time at Stanford.
"I really like him. He's an underrated athlete," said Whaley of Hogan. "There were a couple of games where he won those games at Stanford with his legs. Obviously he's smart. He gets the ball there with an unorthodox release. But it gets there, and it gets there with some accuracy."
Hogan is projected as a mid to late round draft choice.
"The North Dakota State kid Carson Wentz is the kid everyone wants to see because he played at North Dakota State," said Bills Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos. "But Dak Prescott, what a career he had at Mississippi State, Kevin Hogan from Stanford. There are some guys to really pay attention to. It's going to be fun to see them compete."
Other quarterbacks in Mobile this week who fit in the second to sixth round range include N.C. State's Jacoby Brissett, Alabama's Jake Coker and USC's Cody Kessler.
Fortunately for the Bills, for the first time in a long time the quarterback situation isn't grim. That will allow them to be judicious in determining when the time might be right in April's draft to take a quarterback. And if Buffalo does in fact select a quarterback somewhere in the draft, that prospect will have the time to learn and develop behind Taylor, who by most accounts is only scratching the surface of his full capabilities.
"Imagine this time last year if I said a Bills quarterback would be a Pro Bowl alternate and play in the Pro Bowl," said Whaley. "You would've been like, 'What?!' It's a testament to Tyrod. He came in and really won the job, got us to 8-6 when he started, and now he's in the Pro Bowl. He put the team on his back and the end results for us as a team weren't what we wanted, but it's a building block on where it can go and where he can lead us. We're looking for him to do better things next year."