The NFL Combine is over, the Buffalo Pro Day is complete and private workouts are in full swing as NFL teams make their final preparations for the upcoming NFL Draft in Chicago. Among the many hopefuls throwing their hat into the ring in the hopes of hearing their name called is former UB quarterback Joe Licata.
We'll cover plenty on Licata's draft stock, strengths/weaknesses, etc., but what I'll be examining today are what NFL teams does he fit with.
Joe played high school ball at Williamsville South and college ball at UB so why not start out his professional career with his hometown Bills? Other than being a convenient choice, the Bills may present a unique opportunity to Licata given the right set of circumstances.
Tyrod Taylor is coming off of a Pro Bowl season where the former 6th-round pick threw for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. Taylor also was second on the Bills in rushing yardage with 568 yards, setting the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback. While Taylor will be the starter next season, the Bills don't have much in the way of an insurance policy if Taylor were to get injured and miss time again much like he did this past season.
The only other quarterback on the Bills' roster is EJ Manuel who started two games this past season, losing both in Taylor's absence. Although Manuel recovered after a first half implosion against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he's seen by many as an unreliable option.
Licata makes sense for the Bills because of the lack of quality quarterback depth on the roster and the Greg Roman's run-first offense suits Licata well. In 2013 when UB ran a ground-and-pound run-first offense, Licata thrived, throwing for a career high 2,824 yards and 24 touchdowns while only tossing 8 interceptions. In Roman's offense, Licata would be asked to make deeper throws downfield, something he needs work on, but having Sammy Watkins on the receiving end is a plus. However, given that Taylor is firmly entrenched in the starting lineup Licata would have time to sit down and learn the offense and improve his game before being pressed into action.
Los Angeles Rams
Much like the Buffalo Bills the Rams are lacking quality depth at the quarterback position on their depth chart. Nick Foles started 11 games for the Rams last season, throwing for 2,052 yards and 8 touchdowns but threw 10 interceptions in that same frame. After Foles went down due to an injury former Houston quarterback Case Keenum started the remaining 5 games for the Rams throwing for 828 yards and 4 touchdowns. Entering this offseason Keenum is being strongly considered by the Rams to be their starting quarterback.
This leaves the Rams with Foles and former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion as the only quarterbacks under contract. Licata could provide the Rams with an inexpensive insurance policy in the event that Foles underwhelms once again as the starter or if the Rams don't want to keep Foles' salary as just a backup.
Like the Bills, the Rams feature a solid stable of running backs headlined by 2015 first round pick Todd Gurley. However, there is still a wait-and-see situation going on with the Rams' offensive coordinator position. Pat Shurmur who was rumored to be one of the top choices ultimately signed with the Minnesota Vikings to join Mike Zimmer's staff. Depending on who the eventual offensive coordinator is the new offense may or may not be a fit for Licata. Furthermore, the Rams may be looking to upgrade the quarterback position in the first round if either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz is available when they pick at number 15 overall.
Another NFC West team with uncertainty at the quarterback position, the 49ers are coming off of an embarrassing season that saw Jim Tomsula fired after just one season at the helm. With Tomsula's departure and the entrance of Chip Kelly the entire 49ers roster is being reworked. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding Colin Kaepernick and the only remaining viable quarterback option for the 49ers is Blaine Gabbert. While Gabbert perfomed admirably this past season after being pressed into service after Kaepernick went down with an injury the 49ers need more options at the position.
Luckily for Licata the 49ers have already expressed interest and brought the UB product out to the Bay Area for a private workout. Licata could be an option in the later rounds for the 49ers if they are unable to draft either Goff or Wentz in the first round. Additionally, even if the 49ers sign a veteran quarterback like a Robert Griffin or Ryan Fitzpatrick, there will still be a spot for Licata on the roster if the 49ers part ways with Kaepernick because he'd be a low cost low risk option.
Licata's fit in Chip Kelly's offense would be an interesting storyline to follow. Kelly's offense runs a simple set of plays but they are run at such a fast and furious pace that it can be difficult for defenses to keep up with the pace. Licata is smart in the classroom and perfecting the playbook shouldn't be an issue and he's run no-huddle in the past but keeping the Kelly pace will be a challenge.
We'll have plenty of coverage in the coming weeks as we get closer to the NFL Draft. The Draft will take place April 28th-30th in Chicago, Illinois.