It’s over. After all the anticipation and fanfare, the 2018 NFL Draft has finally come and gone. If you’re reading this you probably saw some, if not most of the three day football overload. What once was an event limited to the most fervent and crazed fan has expanded into something that just about all levels of fans watch in some part – if there was a halftime show featuring Bruno Mars or Beyonce you’d draw in that last group of NFL watchers – the people who don’t care about football at all.
The Bills were in an exceptionally exciting place this year having made trades to acquire substantial draft capital – 2 first round picks, 2 second round picks and 2 third round picks. Although their highest pick was #12 overall, the team was widely expected to use some of their draft capital to move up and take one of the top four quarterbacks. The thought of drafting the quarterback of the future and adding additional young talent had Bills fans chomping at the bit to see what would happen on Thursday night – if you’re the type of fan who follows the team at all I suspect you were in front of your TV. Folks in the Buffalo television market turned out in force – Buffalo had the highest percentage of TVs tuned to the draft out of any major market surveyed.
The draft for me is always fun, but I can’t say that I ever go in with strong feelings. As I mentioned previously, I’m not much of a college football guy, so what I know about players comes largely from the various analysis I read before the draft. Without my own analysis to rely upon, I know whether all the analysts have any sort of consensus on a player. It’s a rarity that almost everyone is in agreement on a given player – for every analyst raving about a prospect being a future Hall-of-Famer there is another who proclaims the player will be a bust, so I try and keep an open mind about players as they are drafted. Lest I forget, plenty of names I thought would be good and wanted for the Bills turned out to be some of those guys who had short and unremarkable NFL careers.
This year there was no single consensus player who would be drafted at the first overall spot by the Cleveland Browns. Most suspected they would select a quarterback, but exactly which one was unknown – each of the top four had their strengths and liabilities. Cleveland picking Baker Mayfield set the draft ablaze for the get-go- would the Giants now also pick a quarterback? Could three signal callers be selected with the first three picks? What would that mean for Buffalo?
Things settled down a bit when the Giants did not pick a quarterback and selected Saquon Barkley (a running back almost universally touted as a guy who will be nothing short of spectacular), the Jets stepped up to take their quarterback – Sam Darnold. With Denver picking fifth and possibly looking to draft a quarterback it looked as if Buffalo may need to move up to the fourth spot to get their man. When the Bills refused to give up both first round picks to move up I was pretty puzzled – isn’t that why the Bills had accumulated 2 first round picks – to move up and get their quarterback?
Denver didn’t pick a quarterback – whew. The Colts weren’t going to pick a quarterback. With Tampa on the clock it seems that Arizona was looking to grab the 7th spot and select a quarterback, so Buffalo made its move and gave up both their second round picks to draft at 7.
As the minutes ticked away the suspense ate at my gut – Josh Rosen and Josh Allen were still available – looks like the kid from UCLA was heading to Buffalo. The commissioner stepped to the microphone and said, “With the 7th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select Josh…[here’s where time stood still]…Allen, quarterback, Wyoming”.
My initial take on Allen was a bit of disappointment – of the top four quarterback I read about, Allen seemed to me to be the riskiest selection. Many analysts said that while Allen has all the physical traits to make it in the NFL – size, big hands, a cannon arm, ability to throw on the run and move the pocket – they decried his low completion percentage, his inconsistency, his inaccuracy, his lack of touch and his decision making. Indeed, if you believe the analysts, Allen is they type of guy who can hypnotize with his physical gifts but become a huge bust when he can’t succeed in the NFL. The NFL highway is littered with players like Josh Allen – Ryan Leaf, Kyle Boller, Ryan Mallet, Jake Locker, EJ Manuel, just to name a few.
On the other hand, there were some analysts who absolutely loved Allen and predicted he would live up to his high ceiling. Some claimed that multiple NFL teams loved Allen and had him ranked as the #1 guy at the QB position. Allen seemed pretty polarizing – either he was going to be as least as good as Ben Roethlisberger or he would be a project who shouldn’t be touched until day three of the Draft.
For my part I have some major trepidation about Allen. I’m not a professional football man and I’m certainly not an NFL coach, but my gut tells me the hardest flaws to rectify in a quarterback are his consistency, accuracy, touch and decision making – you either have those or you don’t. Sure, you can improve in these areas, but can you ever really be good? I hope to heaven that Allen’s issues can and will be corrected and that years from now we’ll wonder why anyone passed on him, but I am terrified that he will join the list of strong armed, physical specimens to have a short NFL life.
For now I have to trust the professional NFL people at One Bills Drive – they must feel that Allen’s shortcomings can be addressed and they must have a plan to make that happen – if they didn’t they wouldn’t have drafted him. Whether I like it or not, Allen is a Bills quarterback and deserves my support until he shows otherwise – I refuse to withhold my support for anyone in a Bills uniform simply because some analysts don’t think he’s going to pan out. I may not run out and buy a new Allen jersey, but damn I’m going to be rooting for the new guy – all Bills fans should.
The next thing I’m hoping for is that Allen is given time to develop. With AJ McCarron and Nate Peterman being the other two quarterback on the roster there will no doubt be pressure for Allen to start on week 1 this season, but I think that would be a huge mistake. I am a firm believer that too much pressure on a rookie NFL player can ruin him, especially if he didn’t play anything near NFL quality opposition in college. This is not the Mountain West conference – this is the NFL and the pressure to play well and win, especially if you were drafted with a large amount of draft capital, is immense. I believe the plan is and will continue to be to Ride McCarron (or Peterman if he earns it) in 2018 and play Allen only if there is an injury or it’s late in a season already lost. If Allen does play it has to be clear that it is to get him live fire experience and not to have to carry a veteran NFL ream – that’s just too much pressure. If all goes well you have a decent season and go into 2019 with draft picks, some solid young players with at least a year of experience/training on them and a huge pot of dollars to spend in free agency – then it’s time to make a run. The Bills likely take a step back from a 2017 playoff berth in 2018, but things may finally really converge in 2019 – I think it is all part of the Beane/McDermott plan.
So cheer with me, Bills fans, as I shout heartily for Josh Allen. Cheer as he begins his NFL journey. Cheer as he learns and grows and know that should he get better not only do the Bills win, but we all win – that’s something we all want.
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