Tonawanda News —
I was more interested than usual in the NFL draft this season.
The Bills would potentially emerge from the three-day, commercial- and advertising-driven circus with a franchise quarterback. So I wanted to know what the options were.
I studied tape of Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley, considering those were the two names force-fed down our throats from the "experts" the past two months as likely options. I liked certain things about both, but as the time ticked away with the Bills on the board at No. 8, I wasn't certain either was worth the reach so early in the first round.
Then Buffalo traded down and drafted E.J. Manuel. I wasn't mad; I was speechless.
I hadn't spent a single second reading up on him or checking out his highlight tapes. We were told — by the experts — that Manuel was an afterthought and a major project, then he was the first quarterback off the board.
I look forward to the aftermath of the draft every season. It's a time to research teams' new players, predict depth chart movement and watch as many clips on the top prospects as I can find.
Just don't look at Mel Kiper Jr.'s draft grades.
Kiper offers a lot of incredibly insightful information on incoming NFL rookies and is knee-deep in film all year long, but this idea that he is some kind of draft oracle is absurd.
Remember in 2005 when Mel told anybody that would listen that Mike Williams was the best player available in the that year's draft. Not the Mike Williams from Riverside, who caught 63 balls last season for 996 yards and nine touchdowns for the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Mike Williams from USC who played six seasons in the NFL for four different teams and amassed a staggering five touchdowns — for his entire career.
But this isn't a bash Kiper column. He provides a valuable service and it's impossible to expect anybody to be right on every single pick or player.
What is absolutely ridiculous, however, is this idea that Kiper's team draft grades hold any sort of validity. Along with Todd McShay, Kiper grades teams' selections after spending the past year telling all of us exactly what player every team should take.
See a conflict of interest here, maybe?
Kiper ranked Manuel as the sixth-best QB in the class and his selection was the main reason he gave the Bills a "C-" — the worst grade of any team in the draft.
Well, he wasn't going to give the Bills an "A" or "B," basically stating that he's a moron and has no idea what he's doing, right? If Manuel ends up being the top QB in this draft, Kiper takes a pretty big hit in terms of credibility, so of course he's telling us that Manuel is a project, with "slow eyes," that was a mistake pick at No. 16.
But here's the thing about the draft: only time will tell how good of a draft the Bills had. I'm not interested in anybody's grade before any of these players even step foot on the field.
My grade will come in 2015, after Manuel and company have a season or two to show what they can do, and for the Bills' sake and the sanity of their entire fan base, I hope it's better than a C-.
In the meantime, avoid Kiper at all costs. At least until next April when the mock draft becomes our collective Bible for another few months.Find Tonawanda News Sports Editor Matt Parrino on Twitter @MattParrino.