How Did the Pick-Rich Bills Fare in the 2018 Draft?
The Buffalo Bills were the team, above all, to peak the interest of observers in the run-up to the draft, making a trade up in numerous mocks. The AFC East team had manoeuvred its way to having two picks in each of the first three rounds, and the expectation was that they would trade up for a QB. But at which spot? And what would they have to give up to get there? In a year when six quarterbacks were tipped to go in the first round, which QB they would (and could) get caused much debate among draft pundits. As the Bills’ six picks whittled down to three, let’s look at how they did in those first three rounds.
Round 1, Pick No. 7: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Bills traded picks 12, 53, and 56 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in return for picks 7 and 255
The Bills took a gamble on one of the draft’s most polarizing players. While Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were off the board, the two Joshes (Allen and Rosen) were both still available when the Bills traded with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No.7 pick. Allen, however, is a far more unpolished prospect than Rosen. The former had been criticized for the entire lead up to the draft, with accuracy issues that have seen him being compared to some of the most famous first-round busts of the last 10 years. With just a 56.2% completion percentage, those concerns were warranted. If he works out, Beane will be immortal in a town that has been searching for its first franchise quarterback since the days when Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly took his Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. If Allen flops, Beane could eventually find himself run out of town. This is the first time that the Bills have ever picked a QB in the top 10 of the draft, so it ranks as among the most important decisions in team history.
Round 1, Pick No. 16: Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech
The Bills traded picks 22 and 65 to the Baltimore Ravens in return for picks 22 and 154
It was always expected that the Buffalo Bills would be aggressive in moving up for a QB. However, the trade up to No.16 was a more surprising move, considering how Beane had previously spoken about the value he placed on the team’s picks and how they put the Bills in a position to address several holes in the roster. In moving up for Edmunds, however, Buffalo acquired one of the draft’s most athletic defenders, who could eventually rank among the best linebackers in the league. Last season saw Edmunds record 5.5 sacks, 109 total tackles, and 14 tackles for loss. As Edmunds is more likely to start from day one than Allen, the Bills will be hoping that he improves their chances of winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Of course, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will make that as tough a feat as ever, which is, as usual, reflected in the odds. The bookmaker Betway gives Bills the least chance of winning the division, at 12/1, with the Patriots the 1/7 favorite as of May 4. Bills Mafia are a loyal bunch, however, and may just take those odds. Either way, fans will be hoping that Edmunds drastically improves the Bills’ shaky run defense.
Round 3, Pick No. 96: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Phillips was among the highest-rated players remaining on the board: Scouts Inc. had him ranked 43rd in the entire draft after he recorded 144 tackles and 14.5 sacks in his last two seasons with Stanford. The pick may have seemed too obvious due to his high school wrestling background (a past shared with Coach McDermott). Phillips was the Junior National heavyweight champion in 2013 at Nebraska’s Millard West High School, while McDermott was a national prep champion on two separate occasions. McDermott preached the lessons he learned from his wrestling days, and he clearly views Phillips as a younger version of himself who can take what he himself has learned into a career in the NFL.
Of these three players, only Edmunds is likely to start the 2018 season. Beane has said that Allen will be listed as the third-string QB, with AJ McCarron the day one starter. Phillips will sit behind Kyle Williams and new Bill, Star Lotulelei.
Bills fans may need to be patient and prepare themselves for a step backwards in 2018. Of course, the Bills may surprise everybody and reach the playoffs, much like last year. The reality, however, is that Beane and co are seriously overhauling the roster and, for the team to become a perennial playoff contender, they will likely have to play the waiting game.