Going into the offseason with the starting quarterback set, many Buffalo Bills fans didn’t even look at the quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft. With Josh Allen established as the top guy and a veteran backup and mentor in Matt Barkley, the room seemed set with Davis Webb as the shot-in-the-dark third QB. Buffalo has only kept two QBs on the active roster for the vast majority of head coach Sean McDermott’s time with the team, so with the top two guys pretty set, no need to add another, right?
In the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bills selected Jake Fromm, the former Georgia Bulldogs starter. So can Fromm, who is coming off a pretty successful collegiate career, unseat Barkley as the only backup or crack the 53-man roster as a developmental QB? Buffalo’s general manager Brandon Beane thinks so.
“Obviously Josh is our starter. Matt has been a great backup for us. I don’t know if he’ll be able to knock Matt off. We’ll see about that,” said Beane following the draft. “We could definitely go with two quarterbacks, we could go with three quarterbacks.”
Having two quarterbacks on the roster has been McDermott’s standard. In 2017, it was Tyrod Taylor and rookie Nathan Peterman as the two quarterbacks with Joe Webb playing receiver and special teams while serving as the emergency QB. In Allen’s rookie season of 2018, Buffalo went with the inexperienced Peterman as the starter and traded the veteran option, AJ McCarron, leaving them without a safety net. It wasn’t until several weeks into the season that they added Derek Anderson to steady the ship. When Anderson and Allen were hurt, they added Barkley and had two healthy QBs. In 2019, it was Allen and Barkley the whole way.
McDermott didn’t answer the question of where Fromm might fit on the team, instead choosing to say, “There’s a long runway for all these rookies.”
While discussing Fromm, Beane mentioned that the QB unseated Jacob Eason in 2017. Eason was drafted in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts, but before transferring to Washington, he was the Georgia QB ahead of Fromm. When Eason went out with a hurt knee, Fromm played well enough to keep him off the field. Fromm also started the 2018 season in Athens, keeping Justin Fields on the bench. Fields finished third in the Heisman voting in 2019 after transferring from Georgia. He played well enough to keep other incredibly talented quarterbacks on the bench, and this isn’t his first QB competition.
Beane explained further why Fromm was the pick, noting the positional value but also Fromm was sticking out on their draft board.
“Simple as the board,” said Beane following the draft. “I wouldn’t have told you going into [the draft] that he was on our radar, but we had him in a spot that you just can’t ignore and we gave him his due.”
Fromm was never considered a top prospect because of physical limitations. He doesn’t have a strong arm, he’s not a prototypical size, but he has the smarts and the college experience that could translate to the NFL.
“This guy, he’s a winner at the highest level of college. You look at all the guys that come out of the SEC,” said Beane. “He’s got all the intangibles. He’s smart. When I went down to that school to watch him practice, at that point they didn’t know if he would come out... They said this guy would be there 11, 12 at night with the coaches walking out the door at the same times the offensive coaches are. Just a guy who loves everything about the game, the full process, the preparation, and that matters. Listen if he had a big time cannon arm, or he was 6-5, those types of things, he would have gone day one. He’s got all the other things.”
The preparation and the process led the Bills to him. It’s something McDermott and Beane have preached since they entered the building. It’s something Josh Allen has exuded since he became the Bills’ starting QB, too. Now the decision-makers are saying it about the guy drafted to be his backup.
“He’s a country boy, loves ball, breathes ball, eats balls, sleeps ball, whatever it is,” continue Beane. “That’s who he is and he’s very smart. They bragged, this guy is a coach on the field, he understands things. Obviously this offseason, it’s not gonna be the easiest for a quarterback to pick up a pro-style offense. I don’t know how quick that’s going to happen for him depending on when guys are allowed in the building. He’s going to be doing a remote here until the rules change, things open up, but he’ll definitely fit in. He’s a good guy, good character, a very high character person. I’m sure he’s going to come in, humble, as he did when he got to Georgia.”
McDermott has preached “iron sharpens iron” in his time as coach, adding that competition in each positional room raises the bar for every player. Beane seems confident that will be the case in Buffalo, with three guys fighting for one or two spots behind Allen.
“I know Josh, Matt, and Davis, those guys will welcome him. Competition brings the best in all of us and I know those guys will welcome him in the room,” said Beane.