Bills see path to Darnold

It's the busy season; if there's no chance at the USC quarterback, why make the trip to Los Angeles?

Mike Schopp
April 10, 2018 - 8:13 am

Photo: Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Monday that Buffalo Bills' "top evaluators and coaches" will fly to Los Angeles on Friday to conduct a private workout with USC quarterback Sam Darnold.

If the Bills don't see a path to Darnold -- a likely top-two pick in the NFL Draft later this month -- why bother?

The answer, in my opinion, is they wouldn't. Either the New York Giants, holders of the No. 2 pick, or the Cleveland Browns (!), who draft first, or both, have given the Bills reason to think Darnold, one way or another, could be theirs.

There's no other reason to go.

At the minimum, the Browns and/or Giants have let the Bills know a trade into one of the top two picks is possible. No doubt they've discussed price.

And it could be more than that.

I doubt it's less.

As you remember, the Bills traded Tyrod Taylor to the Browns last month for the first pick of the third round. They've been in touch and were able to consummate a deal. Cleveland's general manager, John Dorsey, made the trade last year with the Bills in Round 1 of the draft that enabled his former team, Kansas City, to draft Patrick Mahomes, and the Bills to grab the Chiefs' number-one pick this year. There's a history that doesn't have to mean anything, but to say the least it's not one to steer us away from another potential trade.

(*Quick aside: Callers sometimes ask Bulldog and me what we'd do in this draft. As a talk-show host, I think of how much the extra #1 this year has meant to our show. We talk about it almost every day. If the Bills went 16-0 and won the Super Bowl, that wouldn't be better for our off-season content than their having an extra first-round pick. So, what do I want? I want two first-round picks next year, every year.)

The Browns also having the fourth overall pick affords them unusual draft power -- and, oh look, it comes in a year where there are four quarterbacks (at least) experts think the best of the bunch. Cleveland has been so bad that, perhaps, Dorsey feels a certain duty to pick the quarterback at No. 1. But, if they have prospects graded fairly evenly, wouldn't it make more sense to take yet another haul of picks and then take their quarterback at No. 4? If they like Wyoming's Josh Allen, as has been widely speculated, and the Giants, Jets, and any team they'd consider trading with prefer someone else, then they absolutely should move out and line up at Allen at fourth overall. (A listener yesterday took this line of thinking a step further, that if the Browns were to send the first pick to the Bills, they could use some of their many picks to the Giants to move up from four to two, guaranteeing them the player they like -- presuming that it isn't Darnold.)

What about the Giants? Professional connections between their general manager, Dave Gettleman, and Bills general manager Brandon Beane are well-known. It's been reported that the only quarterback the Giants would pick at No. 2 is Darnold. If that's accurate, the Bills may think they need Cleveland to get him. It's a given that the Bills and Giants have talked trade, and the LA trip could be another reason to think a deal is possible, if not likely.

For me, this trip doesn't necessarily guarantee that the Bills know they can get to Darnold -- but it does mean to me that they think it's possible. If not, are you really loading up a plane for Los Angeles less than two weeks before the draft? One listener wrote me to say that Friday is the last day where the Bills could take this trip tax-free and, because it's warm there, at the very least enjoy a sunny vacation. Yeah, right.

If you took 10 or a hundred mock drafts and calculated the average mock-draft position of each quarterback (AMDP?), Darnold unquestionably slides in first. His AMDP would be 1.x. Few, if any, mock drafts have him at this point sliding past pick No. 2. In my opinion, the Bills are not flying to L.A. on the off chance that Darnold is available at, say, pick No. 5.

Again, the threshold for me here is that the Bills see picking Darnold as possible, not necessarily likely. Now, if there were a trade, I'd guess the Bills' partner to be the Browns. That's based on conflicting speculation about whether the Browns prefer Darnold to Allen, and reports that the Giants' preference is Darnold. A three-way trade with landing spots being the Bills at No. 1, Browns at No. 2 and Giants at No. 4 could also work for everyone. The Bills have the picks to get to No. 1, the Browns have the picks to get from No. 4 to No. 2, and the Giants can get the best non-quarterback in the draft at fourth overall, just as easily as if they were at No. 2.

Not only is it a fun idea, it's plausible.

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