There are a lot of different directions the Buffalo Bills could go with the tenth overall pick in the NFL Draft. There are Day 1 starters and potential All Pro players to be found at wide receiver, defensive back, tight end, and linebacker. Those are all positions that the Bills could use some help at next season.
One position they should be fine at for 2017 is quarterback, but that hasn’t stopped some from thinking they may use their first pick to acquire Tyrod Taylor’s primary backup for 2017. Specifically, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller seems to believe that general manager Doug Whaley is keen on Clemson product Deshaun Watson.
Let me get right out in front of this: the Buffalo Bills should not draft a quarterback with the tenth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Allow me to explain why below.
The Bills have noticeable needs going into the Draft
This is really my biggest reason for being opposed to such a move. The positions I listed above all have top-tier talent, and at least one of those potential All Pros should be available when the Bills pick at ten.
It’s highly likely that at least one of the top two wide receivers, Clemson’s Mike Williams and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, will be available at ten. I prefer Davis and his after-the-catch ability, but both should be immediate contributors. There’s also Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, who may or may not be around at ten but is definitely worthy of the pick. Instead of finding Tyrod’s successor, they could make an effort to improve his supporting cast to help him improve.
How about the other side of the ball? There are quite a few highly-regarded defensive backs, including two from Ohio State in safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Marshon Lattimore. While both players could be gone, they could also go for LSU safety Jamal Adams. If they want to move inside a bit, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster could easily be an immediate starter in Sean McDermott’s defense as well.
Trading down is also a possibility, depending on how the first nine picks fall. In fact, as Josh Rawdin mentioned in the piece above, it’s entirely possible (likely, even?) that the Whaley/Watson talk is an attempt to convince some lower-positioned team in need of a quarterback to make a trade up. The later part of the round should be flush with potential fits, such as Washington receiver John Ross or Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu.
The quarterbacks in this draft aren’t “can’t miss” guys
The NFL Draft is a crapshoot, from the first pick to the last. There are always going to be high picks who flame out and low picks who blow up, so I hesitate to even bring this point up.
That said, while most of the other positions have near-historic levels of quality depth and high-end talent, the same can’t be said for the group under center. The top quarterback on most draft boards is one of two players: Watson, who carries many of the same question marks that plague Tyrod, or North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, who only started one year and hardly set the world on fire.
While there are a few other potential starters out there, there’s not a guy out there that every team with a need at quarterback has to have. While it’s not quite 2013-level bad, many mocks out there have teams with needs at the position picking other players. That’s not something you see when potential franchise quarterbacks are on the board.
Some quarterback taken in the draft this year could turn out to be the next big thing, but I wouldn’t put my money on it. I’d actually bet on the opposite.
Drafting a quarterback high is not a key to success
Every time I see or hear someone refer to the NFL as a “quarterback-driven league” I want to do something like this:
Yes, I’m aware that quarterback is the most important position on an NFL team. Yes, I know that modern rules favor passing offenses over rushing attacks.
What that phrase always seems to imply to me, though, is that a highly-drafted quarterback is necessary to succeed, and teams with great quarterbacking are more likely to be successful than those without.
That holds true, to a point.
Last season, 13 teams had a quarterback on their roster that they drafted in the top 11 picks*. Two (Atlanta and Pittsburgh) won their division. Three more (Miami, the Giants, and Detroit) earned Wild Card spots.
The other eight missed the playoffs. All of them drafted their quarterback in the top four picks. That includes the Colts, Panthers, and Buccaneers, all of whom were led by a quarterback they drafted first overall. It also includes the Rams, who drafted a quarterback first overall but were led in passing by a UDFA who isn’t on their roster anymore.
My point? A playoff team needs a lot more than a highly-drafted quarterback. They need players like some of the guys I listed above...players the Bills should be picking in the first round. Whether they pick at ten or trade down, they really need to focus on roster building.
If they don’t, the quarterback they do pick is going to have a lot of trouble living up to expectations.
*For the purposes of this piece, I’m ignoring draft day trade semantics and saying that Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were drafted by the teams they’ve spent their whole careers on.