Sunday, November 14, 2010

What does it mean when our guys score more than the other guys?

The Bills won! The Bills won! The Bills won! So, no pie in the face of my cartoon Bills fan this week.

But now, I'm sure that some Bills fans are disturbed by a victory now, since the focus for many here has changed from winning this year to securing the best possible draft pick for next year. The Bills have been streaking toward the first overall pick, with which they would hopefully be able to pick the best quarterback in the draft (hopefully either Andrew Luck or Ryan Mallett; hopefully not Jake Locker, whose stock has been dropping). So, now that most teams have played nine games, let's look at the Bills versus the other teams who are in position to end up picking first.

The Bills, of course, are now 1-8 on the year. If they pick first and Luck or Mallett are there, the Bills will almost certainly take one of those two. The question mark right now is whether or not Luck will actually decide to enter the draft or remain in college. He has indicated in the past that he plans to return to Stanford next year, and Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan is constantly pointing out that Luck may see that he'd be drafted by Buffalo and decide not to enter the draft, especially since his coach, Jim Harbaugh, rejected the Bills' head coaching job last year. The motivating factor in favor of Luck's entering the draft is money: when the NFL gets its new collective bargaining agreement, there will almost certainly be some sort of salary cap structure for rookies, so there is a big chance that the 2011 Draft will be the last one where rookies can get enormous contracts to launch their careers. And who knows? Maybe Luck will look at the Bills and see a team with more potential than many thought before the year started. They're not a total wasteland of talent, after all. We'll see.

Also sitting on a single win are the Carolina Panthers, who are also really bad. I don't know much about the Panthers, but I do know that they drafted one of the top QB prospects last year in Jimmy Clausen, so I tend to think that unless Clausen looks really awful, the Panthers are unlikely to be looking for a QB next year. So, if the Bills end up picking behind them, maybe they still get a shot at Luck.

Next up, at 2-7, we have the Cowboys, Lions, and Bengals. I'm not sure I see any of these teams looking to go QB high in the draft -- maybe the Bengals, if their almost-certain new coaching staff decides that Carson Palmer needs a change of scenery. I don't see the Cowboys dumping Tony Romo, and the Lions still have last year's top pick, Matthew Stafford, as their young prospect. Stafford seems to have some injury problems, though, that could put the Lions in the QB market. But I'm not so sure.

Then there are the 3-win clubs. The Bills are almost certainly not going to win three games, so I think there is very little chance that any of these clubs will end up edging the Bills in terms of draft position. But, you never know! So, our 3-win teams are the Browns, Broncos, Vikings, and the Cardinals. The Browns have a QB prospect drafted just this year in Colt McCoy, and the Broncos traded up to get Tim Tebow, so both teams may be looking to draft something other than a QB. Not so those other two teams, though; the Vikings absolutely need to address their future QB situation, with Brett Favre looking worse and worse, and the same goes for the Cardinals, unless Derek Anderson somehow manages to turn it on over the rest of this season (unlikely).

So, it seems to me that even if the Bills don't end up picking first overall, they might still have their pick of quarterbacks if they end up picking behind Carolina, Dallas, Detroit, Cleveland, Denver, and maybe Cincinnati. They're screwed, however, if they're beaten for draft position by the Vikings or Cardinals.

Another scenario that could screw the Bills anyway is if any of those bad teams end up (a) drafting ahead of the Bills, and (b) firing their current coaching staff and hiring Jim Harbaugh, who might well decide to draft his college standout, Andrew Luck. But we'll worry about that when it happens....

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