By Paul Wanecski
It has long been the struggle of Rex Ryan to find a quarterback, which mirrors the recent struggles of the Buffalo Bills for nearly two decades. As we see constantly throughout the NFL, unless the starting quarterback is of well above average, the new regime beings in someone new. The Bills have not been shy about adding players to compete with roster incumbents EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel. With that, it is hard to imagine that they won't look to add another quarterback in the 3rd day of the draft or in the undrafted free agent pool.
You can eliminate the top QBs from the draft board. Jamies Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and Garrett Grayson could all be gone. Bryce Petty may still be on the board, but with Greg Roman, you have to ask why kind of quarterback they are actually looking for. The free agent signing of Tyrod Taylor and the retention of Jeff Tuel (who is more mobile than he is given credit for) gives us a glimpse of what they want; a player who can move and dictate coverage with his feet. No quarterback in this draft has put up career numbers like Cody Fajardo.
What makes Fajardo a better fit with the Bills than with other teams? Why would the Bills invest even something as low as a 7th round selection on yet another quarterback when they already have 4 on the roster? The answer is actually pretty simple; Fajardo is only the second player in Division 1 NCAA football to throw for both 9000 yards and rush for over 3000. The first player to have done that was none other than Colin Kaepernick, Roman's starter with the 49ers. Both Kaepernick and Fajardo come from the same offense at Nevada. It is clear that Roman was able to transition Kaepernick successfully into operating an NFL offense and with Fajardo, the language would all be the same.
Now let's not get ahead of ourselves. Kaepernick was drafted at the top of the 2nd round, where Fajardo will absolutely slip past the 6th round by most projections. Physically, Kaepernick is a more naturally gifted athlete, with a stronger arm and runs with a bit more explosiveness. The knock against Kaepernick was that he could only take care of half the field. Even after going to 3 straight conference championship games, the same criticism can be used. Fajardo on the other hand doesn't have the cannon sported by Kaepernick but he is a better student of the game. He has intense passion to be the best player in the room. He put together the 3rd fastest 40 yard dash time at the combine, but that shouldn't fool you. He is not a player who will break your ankles with his agility. His college statistics do speak for themselves.
Until last season, the 6'1 Fajardo was carrying a 67% completion percentage across his career. This year, that number dropped to below 58%. He has a near 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio in his 4 years as a starter. He is in an elite category when throwing on the run as he has proven to keep his eyes downfield and is exceptionally accurate when on the move. His pocket footwork is a bit of a different story. He elevates a lot of balls due to poor pocket footwork and forces a lot of throws. He consistently powers through every throw, appearing to give it all he has. He falls off balance, struggles with inconsistent release points and will try to slide to the exterior of the pocket to find better throwing lanes when he doesn't need to. The stark difference between him in the pocket and him on the run indicates one major issue that could be addressed; he is simply over thinking when in the pocket. As he rolls out of the pocket, his natural skills take over. Because of his high football IQ, he is managing and coaching himself when in routine situations when he doesn't need to. His arm is about average for the NFL. In the video link at the bottom of this page, you can see him trying to rip the ball from the pocket, causing a really awkward motion. He does not fire his hips through in the pocket, but on the run is able to keep his shoulders in excellent position to maintain solid velocity. He is a different player on the run and the highlights of his game in 2014 against BYU show that.
With his skill set and collegiate familiarity with the coaching staff, we could find the Bills pulling the trigger on Fajardo in the late rounds. He has quite a bit of work to do if he wants to take snaps with a starting NFL offense anytime soon. Roman has had to play a QB who wasn't ready before and handicapped the offensive system. While Fajardo may not be ready this year, if a disaster hits at One Bills Drive under center this season, he may find himself sitting in a competitive position going into 2016. Rumors are floating that Chip Kelly is really interested in Fajardo.
Fajardo Vs BYU 2014