It’s finally draft day, and if you’re like many Bills fans, you circled the day on your calendar as soon as the NFL set its league year. It’s the one day where the balance of power in the league is turned upside-down – where you wish you were the Cleveland Browns rather than the Philadelphia Eagles. For a team that’s toiled in mediocrity for so long, the draft is like Christmas – what shiny new toys will Santa bring this year?
The draft has become an absolutely crazy event. What once went virtually unnoticed and reported deep in the newspaper that day after has now become a multi-day primetime event. There are professional draft experts whose fame and fortune rest squarely on these three days and the analysis leading up to it. And speaking of analysis, the Internet and message boards are filled with untold numbers of amateur draftniks making projections and publishing full 7 round mock drafts. If the growing trend continues you may see as many people trying to guess the first round selections for each team the way people fill out brackets in March for basketball (“damn – didn’t expect Mason Rudolph to go top 3 – that really busted my draft”).
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge draft guy despite my love of the Bills and the excitement to think about what new talent will do for the team. Much of the reason I’m not a huge draft guy probably lies with the fact that I rarely watch college football so I don’t usually know much about the pool of draftees and their collegiate accomplishments. Not to fear – plenty of folks seem eager to talk my ear off with their analysis.
So here’s what I do know about the draft this year – it’s going to be exciting for Bills fans. Buffalo has accumulated a tremendous amount of draft capital for the 2018 draft and will get an opportunity to bring in a number of new players who can start at various positions next season. I also know that Buffalo is in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and likely built up draft capital to be able to get one of the top quarterbacks in the draft.
Unfortunately, Buffalo’s needs and motive are plain for all to see – you’d have to be dead not to see that Buffalo wants a top quarterback and has stockpiled picks to go get that player. Barring something completely crazy, the Bills have the worst tell at the poker table – everybody knows the cards they hold and what they need to improve their hand.
And speaking of poker, the price to play seems to have gone up tremendously since the Jets jumped into the third spot in the draft. Moving ahead of the Jets is going to take an immense amount of compensation, maybe even more than a motivated buyer like the Bills is ready to pay. When prices rise and your actions are predictable you’re not in a good place.
I don’t mean to bash the Bills for where they are (picks 12 and 22 in the first round) or what they are looking to do (trade up) – the situation is what it is. I like that the Bills have options, but I hope they have a realistic limit beyond which they will not go. Considering that I expect the Bills to have a challenging year this season I would draw the line at next year’s first round pick – my guess is that it will be a top 10 pick and you can’t trade that away (at least not at this point).
Most Bills fans seem to be in favor of the Bills trading multiple picks to move up and get their man at quarterback and while I can’t argue against that strategy, I’d hate to see them give up too much to do it. There are four main top tier quarterbacks in the draft and two more that are ranked slightly behind, if you listen to all the “draft experts”. Somehow, some way, the Bills are extremely likely to draft one of these top 6 signal callers – the current roster of AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman dictates that a move be made prior to the start of the season.
God help the quarterback the Bills draft, especially if they move up to select one. People will call for this player to be in the starting lineup on opening day. If carrying the team – nay – the hopes and dreams of a long suffering region wasn’t enough pressure on a rookie, the amount of draft capital this young man represents could be the albatross around his neck.
The NFL is a tough place, especially if you’re trying to learn it as a rookie. No matter how highly drafted a player is, there is still a sizable learning curve. It’s hard to be great when you’re young and learning, but every draft pick spent on the new quarterback will add pressure to him to make sure he was worth it. Spending multiple early round picks on a guy who never materializes can set an organization back years – but hey, no pressure, kid.
Beyond quarterback I expect the Bills to use draft picks on a linebacker, some receiving help, and some help on the offensive line. I don’t know where in the draft you’ll see these acquisitions, but I’d be stunned of any of these areas was completely ignored. The New-look Bills and their new regime did a very solid job in the 2017 draft, so I have faith in their ability to get some great players, even if they aren’t a major name now in the pre-draft analysis frenzy.
So on Thursday night I’ll sit by the TV wide-eyed and giddy, waiting to see what the Bills are going to do. They could do anything from trading to the #1 spot to trading back further in the round for other considerations. I’ll listen to all the talking heads determine whether Buffalo made a great pick or a terrible reach and then see what the fans on the Internet think. Regardless, I know I’m going to feel like a kid on Christmas morning and I won’t be able to stop daydreaming about all the future possibilities – I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as me.
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