A popular question from many Buffalo Bills fans before the NFL Draft each year is whether or not the team would be willing to trade down in the first round. As early-round draft picks come at a premium each year, the thought of adding more picks in the draft is obviously an enticing option for many. While the following is a bit of a hypothetical situation, you will see why the Bills could be in a prime position to trade down in the first round later this month.
In short, the premise of this trade-down discussion revolves around the quarterbacks available in the draft. While some may argue that the Bills do not need to draft a quarterback early, the team's recent actions contradict that thinking. According to Ian Rapoport (NFL Network) and Tyler Dunne (The Buffalo News), the Bills are spending an awful lot of time with the top quarterbacks this spring.
#Bills ate dinner with Paxton Lynch, will visit with Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, did extensive work on Jared Goff… they are in the QB market— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 6, 2016
The Bills also visited the North Dakota State campus last year more than any other team to check out Carson Wentz. https://t.co/u3TqK7BR23— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) April 6, 2016
Wentz, Goff, and Lynch are all expected to go in the first round, while Cook isn't far behind. Jones is projected to be a mid-round pick.
The question I keep asking myself is whether the Bills are seriously considering taking a quarterback in the first round, or if Doug Whaley is simply looking to give that impression to his fellow general managers across the league. Tyrod Taylor is under contract for one more season, and had a relatively successful season in 2015 in being named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate. For the sake of this conversation, I am making the assumption that the recent actions by the Bills are nothing more than a smokescreen, and Whaley is putting the team in position to trade down with a quarterback-needy team in the draft.
To date, there are six teams that most will agree are in the market for a quarterback in the first two rounds later this month:
- Cleveland Browns: Recently signed Robert Griffin III to a two-year, $15 million contract. The Browns currently hold the second pick in the first round.
- Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo is 35 years old and coming off a broken collarbone injury that ended his 2015 season prematurely. The Cowboys currently hold the fourth pick in the first round.
- San Francisco 49ers: Currently have Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick competing for the starting role under new coach Chip Kelly. Kaepernick has been included in multiple trade discussions with Denver, and the 49ers currently hold the seventh pick in the first round.
- Los Angeles Rams: Head coach Jeff Fisher has indicated that Case Keenum is his starter, with Nick Foles as the primary backup. The Rams currently hold the No. 15 overall pick in the first round.
- New York Jets: As everyone is aware, the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick appear to be nowhere near a new contract. Even if Fitzpatrick does sign an extension, it is likely to be a short-term contract, leaving the door open for the Jets to select a quarterback early. The Jets own the No. 20 pick in the first round, selecting immediately after the Bills.
- Denver Broncos: As mentioned earlier, Denver is looking to trade for Kaepernick after losing Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler this offseason. The Broncos own the No. 31 overall selection in the first round.
Wentz and Goff will be picked early, in all likelihood by two of those teams. That would leave the other four teams in the mix to select a quarterback early, with Lynch and Cook left on the board. The key to this situation is that the Bills are selecting one spot in front of the Jets, who have been linked to Lynch and currently appear to be nowhere close to re-signing Fitzpatrick. Smokescreen or not, the remaining teams in the quarterback market would need to trade up in front of the Jets to draft Lynch.
The following situations could be viable options for the Bills to trade down from the current spot at No. 19 in the first round.
Cowboys trade the Bills pick Nos. 34, 67, and a mid-round pick in 2017 for No. 19. The Cowboys can argue that they don't need to select a quarterback fourth overall with the return of Romo, but they currently lack a viable option that can be groomed to take over after his retirement. Trading up to select Lynch would give him a year or two to learn behind Romo, and the Cowboys can address other needs with the first round selection. While the Bills would fall out of the first round, they would add selections early in the second and third round, while adding a future pick.
Rams trade the Bills pick Nos. 43, 45, and a mid-round pick in 2017 in exchange for No. 19. The Rams are expected to pass on a quarterback with the No. 15 selection, but it is safe to say that Keenum and Foles are not the long-term answer. The Rams could package their two second-round picks to the Bills for the chance to draft Lynch. While the Bills would again fall out of the first round, they would own three picks in the second round, plus have the extra pick next year.
Broncos trade the Bills pick Nos. 31 and 63 in exchange for No. 19. Mark Sanchez is currently penciled in as the starting quarterback for Denver, which clearly isn't a long-term solution. Should the Broncos fail to trade for Kaepernick, they will need to find a quarterback early. By packaging the last pick of the first and second rounds, Denver could move up to select Lynch as the team's quarterback of the future.
With the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft set to begin in three weeks, rumors and speculation continue to circle around all NFL clubs. As a Bills fan, I would be happy to see any of these scenarios play out later this month, allowing the Bills to add more picks in this year's draft. Do you like one of these scenarios better than the others? Do you prefer to see the Bills stay pat at No. 19? Are you in favor of the Bills taking a quarterback in the first round? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.