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By Chris Losey
The Buffalo Bills now have an enormous decision to make regarding a trade up in next month’s draft, after the New York Jets acquired pick three from the Indianapolis Colts, one of Buffalo’s rumored trade partners.
The Bills, in obvious need of a franchise quarterback, gave an indication of their plan when they traded down from pick 10 to the Chiefs in last year’s draft, passing on the likes of Patrick Mahomes, who was selected with that pick, and Deshaun Watson, who went at 12 to the Texans.
Buffalo presumably valued the 2018 quarterback class more than last year’s, thus began the stockpiling of assets that would be used in a trade up to the top-five, enabling them to finally select their quarterback of the future.
Tyrod Taylor, their starter of three seasons, struggled to string together successful drives and had difficulty moving the ball downfield. Limited as a passer, he had trouble reading the field and throwing receivers open, something teams want from their franchise quarterback.
Taylor mustered an average of 186.6 passing yards per game in 2017, only topping 200 yards six times in 15 games played, and never reaching more than 285 yards through the air.
In two particularly poor performances, Taylor wasn’t able to top 65 passing yards in both games. In a week nine loss to the New Orleans Saints, he completed only nine of 18 passes for 56 yards and an interception, which saw him being benched the next week, much to the outrage of the national sports media. A few weeks later in an important home game agains the New England Patriots, Taylor once again went 9-for-18 for 65 yards and an interception, as the Bills lost 23-3.
While the Bills managed to make the playoffs, breaking a 17-year drought, they never were able to get the ball rolling on offense and had one of the worst passing attacks in the league every year Taylor was their starter. In 2017 alone, the Bills were 2-5 against playoff teams, with Taylor only accounting for two touchdowns in those seven games.
The Bills shipped Taylor to the Browns last week, netting the 65th pick (third round) in next month’s draft, a surprisingly good return. Many saw this as another indication of the Bills mortgaging the farm to get their chosen quarterback.
Buffalo also made an effort to fill as many holes through free agency as possible, with signees like defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, edge rusher Trent Murphy, cornerback Vontae Davis, and running back Chris Ivory.
The stars seemed to be aligned that the Bills were definitely going to trade up, as they had not signed any big-name free agent quarterbacks, only veteran backup A.J. McCarron, who will be given a chance to start but at the end of the day doesn’t have the arm strength to be a franchise signal caller.
Many saw either the Colts at pick three, or the Giants at pick two, as potential trade partners for the Bills, especially since the price would be steep and the Colts already had their franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck.
The Jets then dashed the Bills hopes for number three, as they paid a premium (the sixth overall pick, and three 2nd rounders) to move up to ensure they’d get one of the top signal callers in the draft.
Due to the price, it is now unknown whether the Bills will be able, or willing, to trade up even higher to be able to select one of the prized QBs.
Does Brandon Beane really love the guys at the top of the draft? Does he value them all similarly, or is there just one prospect? Will he be able to use his relationship with Giants GM Dave Gettleman to his advantage? Or will he look at a guy like Lamar Jackson at pick 12, where they currently sit with their first pick?
Time will tell, but the rosy attitude and excitement of Bills fans has now turned into crippling anxiety for the next six weeks. Stay tuned!