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Tyrod Taylor's success could affect QB development across NFL

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is compelling for more than just the obvious reasons.

Anybody can see the skill set he possesses and the way he's ignited a Buffalo team after being a relatively obscure backup in Baltimore. The more fascinating aspect of Taylor's ascent has more to do with what he might mean for the quarterback position moving forward. If he continues to succeed as he has so far, he could set the template for developing multidimensional quarterbacks in the very near future.

Taylor easily has been one of the most pleasant early surprises of the regular season. He's led the Bills to a 2-1 start and his passer rating (116.1) currently ranks fifth in the NFL. He's completed 74.4 percent of his passes and leads an offense that is averaging 33.3 points per game (third-best in the NFL). Basically, Taylor has been everything the Bills hoped he would be when they signed him as an unrestricted free agent in March. He's the epitome of a diamond in the rough.

His rise in Buffalo also suggests something else: That he has benefited from the kind of apprenticeship that it would behoove many raw quarterbacks to serve as they enter the NFL.

"You can see the accuracy, the poise in the pocket, the way he makes plays on the move now," Bills general manager Doug Whaley said. "When he came out of school, he was a 'run-read' guy who had to get on the edge to make plays. But with the broad difference between the college and pro game today, you're probably going to see more guys sitting for four or five years before they start. The higher a quarterback gets taken and has to play, the shorter the time he has to develop. If Tyrod had to play early, he might be out of the league by now."

That is the important thing to note about Taylor, along with nearly every other quarterback who thrived in a spread offense in college. There have been constant debates about how players in those systems are supposed to transition into a league that asks far more of signal callers than they were ever expected to handle at lower levels. It's one thing for quarterbacks to never enter a huddle, take a snap under center or change a play without looking to mini-billboards on a sideline. It's an entirely different situation when those same quarterbacks move into a league where they have to decipher complicated coverages, recognize exotic blitz packages and pray that defenders like J.J. Watt don't end their careers.

Taylor is an early success story in 2015 largely because he was given the time to figure out how to play the position correctly. He had plenty of nice accomplishments at Virginia Tech -- he was the 2010 ACC Player of the Year and a four-year starter who passed for 7,017 yards and ran for another 2,196 -- but he wasn't a user-friendly product by the league's standards. Taylor was a raw passer -- at best -- when the Ravens selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was a project who needed quality time to become a quarterback a team could trust, the kind of time that is harder to come by in a league where players have limited exposure to coaches in the offseason.

We now can see that Taylor's route is a far better path for young quarterbacks who blossomed in the spread. There are some players who have revealed the ability to blow us away with their skills early -- such as Washington's Robert Griffin III, Carolina's Cam Newton and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick -- but we also have watched many of them struggle mightily, as well. There's little doubt that the Jets' Geno Smith and Browns' Johnny Manziel weren't nearly as ready for prime time as they might have thought coming out of college. For every former spread quarterback who shows promise (like Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater), there are three or four others who bottom out quickly (think Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy and Jake Locker).

It's appealing to point to an impressive rookie like the Titans' Marcus Mariota as a counter-argument to the notion that spread quarterbacks struggle to assimilate into the league, but even that would be a reach. What Mariota proves is that not all spread offenses are created equal. His coaches in Tennessee say that he had far more exposure to pro-style principles during his All-American career at Oregon than outsiders realize. By being asked to go through progressions on passing plays, understand pass-protection schemes and throw with anticipation, Mariota had the opportunity to learn vital fundamentals that assist him today.

Taylor is displaying a similar savvy this season, largely because the Ravens had a smart plan for him. He sat behind Joe Flacco for four seasons. He learned from bright coordinators like Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell and Gary Kubiak. And he grew without the weight of heavy expectations or the frustration of not being able to do everything that he needed to do to start in the NFL.

From the minute Taylor joined the Bills, he displayed a self-assurance that was undeniable. Whaley said the Bills had been tracking his progress since college and their research had reassured them that, as the GM said, "A lot of people thought Tyrod had a chance to take the next step as a passer."

Said Taylor: "Like I've said from Day 1, I've been confident in my ability, but it's never just about me. I'm definitely steadily growing, learning each and every day and the goal is to get better each and every day. Learn from your mistakes and continue to keep moving forward."

It will be interesting to see if Taylor succeeds enough for other teams to pursue a similar route with young, multidimensional passers. For example, the Green Bay Packers used a fifth-round pick on Brett Hundley in this year's draft (and some thought the UCLA product had the potential to go much higher). He could be a player who blossoms while sitting behind Aaron Rodgers. Other teams already might be monitoring how Hundley grows in that kind of environment.

The main point of all this is that we're entering a brave new world when it comes to developing quarterbacks. It used to be a simple debate when it came to handling such players: Do you start them as rookies or sit them for a few years? It almost seems like a conversation that isn't even worth having today, not unless you're selecting a quarterback from a pro-style system (like Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston, formerly of Florida State) or one who is considered a once-in-a-lifetime prospect (like Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, who also learned his craft in a pro-style offense at Stanford).

The value Taylor brought to Buffalo went beyond his skill set, by the way. He also was smart enough to see the benefit of joining a team that already had a strong defense and an improved running game (Buffalo traded for LeSean McCoy just before Taylor signed). Taylor didn't fear the idea of competing with 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel or veteran Matt Cassel for a job. As Whaley said, "Tyrod won the job because no matter who was out there with in the preseason -- first-string, second-string, third-string -- he made the other players better."

So far, everybody is happy with how things are turning out. In fact, Taylor impressed his teammates after last Sunday's 41-14 win at Miami by wearing a three-piece suit on the team plane -- after head coach Rex Ryan had given his players the option of wearing sweats or going business-casual. When a teammate asked Taylor why he donned the fancy outfit, he told him, "If I'm going to be the starting quarterback, I'm going to carry myself like one."

It was a comment that told everybody something that more people are discovering about Taylor: He's already learned plenty about what it takes to succeed at this level.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.

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