Breathe easy, Bills fans. Just two days left until the long-awaited 2018 draft unfolds. In a year that includes one of the most intriguing quarterback classes in the last decade, fans have fiercely debated how the organization should address the most important position in sports. On top of that, the Bills currently hold six of the top 100 picks, so it comes as no surprise that anticipation is at an all-time high.
With so many potential scenarios that could take place leading up to the moment that the Bills are on the clock, we dive right in and analyze several of the more plausible outcomes.
Three-Team Trade for the First Overall Pick
Let’s start with a fun one, shall we? Last week a rumor surfaced about a potential three-team deal involving the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and of course, the Buffalo Bills. In this scenario, the Bills would receive the first overall pick from Cleveland, who would move down to the second slot while receiving the Bills’ 12th overall pick. The Giants would receive the Browns’ fourth overall selection as well as another pick in the first two rounds from Buffalo.
What is unclear is exactly how many picks the Bills would have to part with in order to make this happen. More likely than not, they would have to send both of their first-round selections this year (picks 12 and 22), and likely one of their second round picks this year and possibly next year too. At first glance, it seems like a heck of a lot of draft capital to part with, however Brandon Beane could be enticed by a situation where he would have his choice of any of the quarterbacks on the board.
So if the brain-trust over at One Bills Drive were able to bring such a deal to fruition, who would they take with the first pick? To the fans in Western New York, the quarterbacks in this draft class are like pizza toppings. Nobody can agree on a favorite, and everyone likes something different. Reading the tea leaves based on what we’ve read from various media outlets (which is most certainly a mix of conjecture and hearsay), it would likely boil down to one of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield.
Throughout the draft process, nearly all of these players have been linked to the Bills in some way or another. Allen appears to be the flavor of the week among national pundits, however it’s a little tough to see why.
Sure he has a cannon for an arm, but there isn’t much else about him that justifies moving into the top-five to acquire his services. His accuracy is downright atrocious and would require a great deal of fine-tuning. Some will attribute his low completion percentage to a lack of receiving talent at Wyoming, but considering the level of competition he faced in the Mountain West Conference, that justification is pretty flimsy.
Beane allegedly runs a much tighter ship than his predecessors, and it would be a pretty glaring indictment of his regime if everyone caught wind in advance about their desire to draft Allen. If the process is indeed to be trusted, then it would stand to reason that the Allen talk is all a smokescreen.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the ever-polarizing Baker Mayfield hasn’t really been rumored to the Bills at all, even though the team has met with him as much as (or more than) any of the other QB prospects. From a talent standpoint, it’s hard not to love Mayfield’s game.
He is deadly accurate, and can read a defense with incredible speed and efficiency. Of course, there are concerns about his height and perceived attitude. At just 6-foot-1, he has more of a Drew Brees type build, which can sometimes hinder signal-callers at the professional level. Stature aside, he has caught heat for some of his in-game antics, which either resemble a fierce competitor, or unhinged headcase, depending on who you ask.
Josh Rosen has a lot of the same strengths as Mayfield, and he was linked to the Bills very early on in the offseason. His sniper-like ability to fit passes into tight windows are unrivaled, and his intelligence is off the chart.
Despite his abilities on the football field, he has faced his fair share of criticism (fair or otherwise) about his outspoken political stances and overall commitment to the game. It is somewhat silly to expect the face of your franchise to behave like a robot who just “sticks to football”, however a lot of NFL front offices take an old-school approach.
Considering the fact that Bills owner Terry Pegula wasn’t exactly in support of players kneeling for the National Anthem last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he vetoed Rosen becoming his franchise quarterback. From a health standpoint, there is also concern about his concussion history. He suffered two of them last season alone.
That brings us to Sam Darnold. Does this guy not just embody everything Beane and Sean McDermott represent? He is a straight-laced, well-spoken kid from a tough division who quickly began to fly up draft charts once the NFL combine and private team workouts took place.
Though there have been rumblings that the Bills covet Darnold, those talks haven’t received a ton of traction. If the Bills brass believe that he has the highest odds of becoming the top player in the draft, then no price is too high to get into a position to bring him to Buffalo.
A Trade Up to Number Two
This scenario is a lot less convoluted. After seeing who Cleveland picks first overall, the Bills could opt to strike a deal with the Giants for the second overall pick. The hard part is determining what it would cost to get there.
The Giants front office might not be too keen on moving all the way down to the 12th pick, regardless of the bounty Beane offers them. The Bills might have to swing a deal with Indianapolis or Tampa Bay (who hold the sixth and seventh overall picks, respectively) prior to trading with New York in order to present the G-Men with a more palatable draft position in the top-10. Either way, Buffalo would need to part with both first round picks, and their first round pick next season at minimum, and even then it likely won’t be enough.
This deal could also be contingent upon whether or not Cleveland decides to draft Darnold for themselves. If this is the case, the Giants might be more open to dealing the second overall selection. If Cleveland picks someone besides Darnold, the Giants might command an even bigger bounty, or just pick him themselves to become Eli Manning’s protege.
Despite all of the hoops they’d have to jump through in order to make this happen, let’s assume the Bills get it done. So who do they pick? Obviously if the Browns decide to take someone other than Sam Darnold, AND the Giants are still willing to deal the pick, then Darnold could reasonably be the guy. If the USC product is off the board however, it gets a bit more complicated.
Would the Bills then turn their sights toward Mayfield? It has been rumored for weeks that the Jets plan to pick him with the third overall pick. If the Bills hold him in high regard, they may need to jump them in order to have a chance. Beane could of course go an entirely different direction and select Allen, though it would be hard to imagine them parting with so many picks for such a flawed prospect, regardless of his perceived ceiling.
A Trade Up Between Picks Four Through Six
In the increasingly likely scenario where the Bills are unable to obtain one of the top-two draft slots, they could try to swing a less expensive deal to jump other QB needy teams in the top-10 and beyond. As with any position after first overall, the price will be contingent on which players are left on the board. Assuming the first three picks are all quarterbacks, which could very well end up being the case, an opportunity to secure the last of the “big four” could end in a bidding war.
At this point in time, it appears that Rosen and Allen are the most likely candidates to fall out of the top-five. If Rosen in particular is sitting there when Cleveland is on the clock again at fourth overall, the Bills would be foolish not to try and strike a deal.
Denver holds the fifth overall pick, and while John Elway did say that the pick is for sale, if Rosen or Allen are still available, that could change very quickly. Though the Broncos did sign Case Keenum to an expensive contract this offseason, it is unclear as to whether or not they may still try to add another QB early on. At the end of the day it comes down to just how far the Bills expect Rosen and/or Allen to tumble.
If they feel that Denver isn’t a threat at five, then perhaps they wait and make the Colts an offer at six. With Andrew Luck apparently nearing a full recovery, it would be a surprise to see them consider a QB so high. A leap from 12th to sixth would be manageable, and it’s quite possible that it could get done without the Bills parting with their second first-round pick (22nd overall).
If the Bills wait any longer than that, they run a very serious risk of a team like Miami swooping in and taking their guy. One of the worst kept secrets in the league is the Dolphins desire to acquire an upgrade under center. Beane is a careful tactician, however his patience could backfire if Miami, or even the Arizona Cardinals pull the trigger first.
Standing Pat at 12th Overall
What a gut-punch this would be. Sure players like Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph will still be available here, and while they’re both talented in their own right, with so many high-caliber options at the top of the draft and with more trade ammunition than they’ve ever had, it would be tough to watch the Bills stay put on Thursday night.
One particularly positive note on Jackson is his experience in the Erhardt-Perkins offense that Bills’ offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll is expected to run in Buffalo. This approach uses a lot of QB option plays, which Jackson has executed to perfection at the collegiate level. Similar to Allen, Jackson suffered from his fair share of accuracy issues last season, though not nearly to the same degree of severity.
Rudolph is a decent prospect, though largely underwhelming, especially at 12th overall. He does have the prototypical size and frame for an NFL quarterback, however, there isn’t anything he does particularly well. If the Bills do stay put, they may be better suited waiting until pick 22 to pick a player like Rudolph, even though a team like the Cardinals could pick him for themselves.
A shrinking minority in this whole debate is the “fill other needs” crowd, who would like to see the Bills stay put and strengthen other areas of weakness on the roster. To be quite frank, this approach is unacceptable. With only Nate Peterman and A.J. McCarron on the current roster, the Bills need a franchise quarterback. They are one of just two organizations in the modern era who have never picked a signal-caller in the top-10. For over two decades now, the team has floundered in obscurity, in a seemingly endless pursuit of a viable, long-term option at the most critical position.
Only once in a blue moon do teams have the type of draft ammunition the Bills do this year. Who knows when their next chance will be to make the jump and get “their guy”.
Is there risk associated? Of course there is. Nobody ever drafted in the history of the NFL has been a sure thing. But after generations of watching other teams win year-after-year because they picked the right quarterback, the time is now for the Bills to take that risk.
At the end of the day, fans need to ask themselves this simple question. Do you want to make the playoffs, or do you want to win a Super Bowl? The time is now, and the people of Western New York should be very excited.
Editor’s babble: Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.
*Views shared by authors are solely theirs and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the owners of the BillsMafia.com website.