ORCHARD PARK – From the moment back in August when Brandon Beane began trading away starting players like Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby to bulk up his 2018 NFL Draft pick war chest, everyone knew what his end game was.
The Buffalo Bills general manager was maneuvering to make sure he was in position to do exactly what he did Thursday night: Draft a franchise quarterback. Now the question becomes, is Josh Allen the right man for the job?
After trading up to the No. 7 spot in a deal with Tampa Bay, Beane selected the Wyoming quarterback, a move that will either be looked upon down the road as the one that helped turn the franchise around, or a move that set it back another two or three years, and possibly more.
Fair or not, that is the pressure that now sits squarely on Allen’s shoulders.
“This kid is Buffalo,” Beane said of Allen. “For his size, you look at all the testing numbers, look at the film, very good athlete, makes plays in the pocket and on the run.”
Because of how the first six picks played out, the Bills were able to hold off on making their quarterback move and thus did not have to relinquish the second of their first-round picks, No. 22 overall. This wasn’t a deal-breaker, Beane said, but he admitted he was thrilled that he was able to retain No. 22, and because he was, it enabled him to make another trade up in the first round.
He went from 22 to Baltimore’s spot at 16 and selected linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, thus filling an obvious need on defense.
The first trade cost Buffalo its No. 12 pick in the first round, and both second-rounders at 53 and 56, while bringing back No. 7 (Allen) and Tampa Bay’s seventh-rounder, No. 255. The Edmunds trade was a swap of the first-rounders, while the Ravens got pick No. 65 (the first in the third round) and the Bills got a fifth-rounder, No. 154.
Despite all the denials and all the smoke screens in the months leading up to the draft, there was never really any doubt that trading up was always Beane’s intention.
It couldn’t have taken Beane very long last season to realize that Tyrod Taylor wasn’t going to be Buffalo’s quarterback of the future and that he wouldn’t be on the team in 2018. And Beane hadn’t picked Nathan Peterman in the fifth round of the 2017 draft – remember, he didn’t join the Bills until after that draft – so there was no attachment to him.
Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott talk to the media after the Buffalo Bills made two big trades to select QB Josh Allen and LB Tremaine Edmunds in the first round of the NFL Draft.
If Beane ever entertained a thought that Peterman could someday be the starter, watching him throw those five picks in Los Angeles, on the day coach Sean McDermott – probably with some input from Beane – benched Taylor, likely solidified Beane’s belief that he needed a quarterback in this draft.
The signing of A.J. McCarron? A necessity because Peterman was the only QB on the team after the trade of Taylor to Cleveland, but also because Beane was making sure he had someone who could function as the starter in 2018 if whichever rookie he drafted wasn’t ready for Week 1.
Once Beane came to these conclusions, and had accrued his draft capital, so began the process that culminated with the selection of Allen. Just before the start of free agency he traded Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati, a deal that enabled the Bills to move from 21st to 12th in the first round. That put Beane in a better position to make the final move on Thursday to get up to No. 7.
Allen was perhaps the most polarizing of the quarterbacks, and the picture only became fuzzier Thursday morning when tweets surfaced from his high school days which could be construed as racist. He issued an apology for the tweets.
When asked about the tweets, Allen said, “I’m looking forward to getting in with my teammates and making sure they understand and see the real me. There’s not an ounce of hate in my body. I love all my teammates; my former teammates can vouch for me there.”
Beane and coach Sean McDermott admitted to being caught off guard by that news because it never came up in any of their research and background checks. They’re pretty sure no one in the NFL had the information.
“We don’t condone anything,” said Beane. “We did our due diligence. We talked to him today, we spoke to his coach again, at least one of his teammates. This is a 14-15-year-old; I’m not making excuses, but I know there’s probably things I would have been disappointed with in myself when I was 14 or 15. He has to come in here and own it, that’s all he can do. Earn the trust of his teammates, the fan base, the organization.”
McDermott is high on character, but he seems fine with what he heard from Allen Thursday and is ready to move on.
“It was very serious when we got word of it last night, this morning,” said McDermott. “It’s something we went back and drilled down further on, digging back on some of the conversations we had up until today. It’s not something we tolerate around here. Our hope is that he will learn from this and we’ll move forward from here. We also spoke to Josh himself at length. We take it very seriously.”
As a quarterback, McDermott recognizes the obvious skill set that Allen has.
“As a player, what you see on tape is size, athleticism, we know how important it is playing in our conditions, throwing the ball and gripping the ball,” he said. “He can make all the throws. No one is perfect. If you take the right approach, the right attitude and work at what you do, you have a chance to improve some of those other areas.”
Beane said the key for Allen will be the coaching he’ll get from the Bills’ staff, led by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
“They all had a knock on them,” Beane said of the top four quarterbacks. “You just have to pick what you’re willing to deal with and work with. His makeup will help him work on his flaws. We like a lot of his strengths and that’ll be part of our job, to accentuate his strengths and work on his fundamentals.”
Among the top four prospects during the 2017 season, Allen finished last in several key categories with a 56.3 completion percentage, 6.7 yards per attempt, 16 touchdowns, and a QB rating (which is calculated differently than the NFL) of 127.8.
By comparison, the Heisman Trophy-winning Baker Mayfield, who went No. 1 overall to the Browns, was tops in all the categories with a 70.5 completion percentage, 11.5 yards per attempt, 43 TDs, just six picks, and a whopping NCAA-record 198.92 rating, which broke the previous record of 196.39 set in 2016 by, yes, Mayfield. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold were almost interchangeable across the board, sitting between Mayfield and Allen.
In the simplest of terms, Mayfield was No. 1 in the country in QB rating, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph was third, Darnold was 26th, Rosen was 28th, Lamar Jackson of Louisville was 29th, and Allen was 73rd.
But the Bills clearly fell in love with Allen’s potential, centered around his arm which is considered the strongest in the class. While he might not be ready to play in Week 1, they believe he can be molded into the quarterback they need him to be.
“They’ve got A.J. McCarron and Nate Peterman there and, hopefully, I can step into that room and mesh with them right away,” said Allen. “I’m going to go compete and go try to earn a spot.”