Well, that was…. interesting. After months of speculation regarding what the Bills would do in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, fans got their answer last night.
Debate and discord ran rampant leading up to Thursday evening, mostly regarding the quarterback position. Supporters in Buffalo sat on pins and needles as the first round wore on with Baker Mayfield (first overall to Cleveland) and Sam Darnold (third overall to the Jets), off the board. Finally, the Bills made a long awaited trade up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Buffalo received Tampa Bay’s seventh overall pick in exchange for the 12th overall selection and both of the Bills second rounders this year.
With Josh Allen and Josh Rosen still available, the team would soon reveal their next franchise prospect under center. Though the vocal majority certainly would have preferred the Bills opt for the UCLA product in Rosen, to their general dismay, the organization instead opted for a very raw developmental option from Wyoming in Allen.
With a completion percentage of just over 56-percent in his two years as the starter with Wyoming, Allen will have to defy all odds in order to develop into a player worthy of the price tag and draft position. While anything is possible, the situation doesn’t appear particularly promising.
Sure, statistical outliers like Brett Favre have been able to forge successful careers after struggling with accuracy in college but most of the time, it’s not really something that suddenly gets better at the professional level. In terms of strengths, Allen does boast a cannon for an arm, though he posted an abysmal completion percentage of 14.5 on passes over 40 yards in college.
So, where does the team go from here? Considering just how much work Allen will need in order to take the reigns as the starting signal-caller, there is a decent chance Sean McDermott will allow A.J. McCarron to start this coming season while the rookie holds a clipboard. Naturally, fans wanted to see the franchise go and get a more NFL-ready option, however, Brandon Beane and company had other plans.
One of the most concerning aspects of this pick is just how many “insiders” were aware of the fact that the Bills coveted Allen in the weeks leading up to the draft. Fans were under the impression that Beane ran a “tighter ship” than his predecessors, who’s moves were always known ahead of time, however it appears as though the loose lips haven’t been silenced. It is a glaring indictment of the current regime’s ability to keep things under wraps.
At the end of the day, there is something about Allen’s situation that the Buffalo faithful can appreciate. He’s an underdog. A staggering majority of people expect him to fail. The people of Western New York love those who overcome the odds, and succeed despite nobody believing in them.
Cliches aside, Beane and the rest of the Bills executives have taken a huge risk here. The “process” theme bought them a great deal of goodwill in their inaugural season, however that support will dwindle as quickly as it appeared if Allen falters, and pushes the team further into quarterback purgatory and general obscurity.
In an unexpected turn of events, the Bills actually traded up for a second time in the first round, giving up the 22nd overall selection and a 2018 third-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for the 16th overall pick and a 2018 fifth rounder. They used their newly acquired first round position to fill a glaring need at linebacker, selecting Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech.
At just 19-years-old (turning 20 in less than a week), Edmunds is a relatively raw prospect who has elite potential. Last season with the Hokies, he posted 108 total tackles, and 5.5 sacks. DraftTek had him ranked as the ninth overall player in the entire draft, so in reality, the Bills got themselves a steal in the middle of the first.
Not only is he a phenomenal athlete who uses lateral quickness to cut the field, he can also fill in as a pass rusher, which the organization desperately needed behind their run-stuffing defensive line. According Lance Zierlein at NFL.com, the versatile linebacker’s playing style compares to hall-of-famer, Brian Urlacher. Not too shabby.
According to various scouts, Edmunds is consistently criticized for his difficulty analyzing and diagnosing plays, often utilizing his supreme athleticism to make up for occasional mental gaffes. A the NFL level, defenders simply cannot rely solely on their athletic gifts to find success. Everyone in the league is a great athlete, and those players are often exposed if they can’t keep up from a cerebral standpoint (See Aaron Maybin).
Overall, fans will just have to buckle up and hope that these guys turn out the way Beane thinks they will, particularly Allen. In what was quite possibly the most important and intriguing first round in the last decade, Bills fans are left with mixed emotions, to say the least. Allen holds Beane’s and by extension, McDermott’s fate in Buffalo in the palm of his hand. If he emerges as “the guy” they will be lauded ad geniuses for believing in him when so many others didn’t. Should he fail, Terry Pegula will be looking for a new GM and coach tandem in a few years.
Editor’s babble: Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for recapping the insane first round of the draft. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.
*Views are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners of the BillsMafia.com website.