The heat is on

Brandon Beane knows what he needs, but can he get it?

Howard Simon
April 18, 2018 - 3:32 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

"You’ve got to have a franchise quarterback. That’s one of the main jobs of a GM is to find a franchise quarterback, it’s a quarterback league, I’ll say it every single time. You have to have one.”

Those words were spoken by Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane during a pre-draft press conference on Monday of this week in response to a question about how important it was to get a franchise quarterback in this draft.

"It's a quarterback league, and until you know you have the guy that you're definitely going to build this team around and the offense around, you're constantly searching. The teams that make the runs in the playoffs consistently have a franchise guy that they lean on year in and year out. We're still in the process of getting that accomplished.”

Those words were spoken by Beane during an interview on WGR back in January.

Sensing a theme here? The pressure is on Beane as he prepares for his first draft as a NFL general manager. Or perhaps I should say the expectation is on. I’m sure Beane would agree, based on those two quotes you just read, that the pressure is always on a general manager until they find a successful quarterback to lead their franchise. But the expectation among Bills fans is that Beane has identified that player and will select him in next week’s draft.

The Bills are in the market for a long-term answer at the most critical position on the field. Of course they've been in that market for the last 20 years. Even though Beane has yet to complete a full year on the job, the heat is on due to a number of factors. The Bills traded away the player who had been the starting quarterback the last three years and, whether you liked Tyrod Taylor or not, he was the guy on the job when the 17-season playoff drought thankfully came to an end.

Actually, most Bills fans have probably been thinking about drafting a quarterback in Round 1 since the first round of last year’s draft when the Bills traded out of the 10th pick and went down 17 spots while acquiring Kansas City’s first round selection this year. Last summer, the Bills picked up an additional second round pick in the Sammy Watkins trade and a third rounder in the Ronald Darby deal. Buffalo traded away its third round selection in this draft to get Kelvin Benjamin, but the Bills added the top pick in the third round when they shipped Taylor to Cleveland. After all of that, Beane moved up from 21 to 12 for the first of his two first round choices as part of the Cordy Glenn deal. 

Draft capital, indeed. The Bills are scheduled to pick at 12, 21, 53, 56, 65 and 96. According to our own Sal Capaccio, only one other team has made six picks in the first 96 selections of the draft over the last 10 years, St. Louis in 2012. 

The expectation is that draft capital will allow Beane to move up, if need be, to get the quarterback he desires. This is where it gets tricky though. The question is which quarterback, or quarterbacks, does Beane cherish the most and how high up would he have to go to get one? We don’t know who sits atop the Bills' quarterback board so it's hard to answer. Beane also has competition around the league, including two teams that are division rivals.

When the New York Jets moved up from six to three, they sent a clear message that they will be picking a quarterback. The Miami Dolphins are ahead of the Bills at 11, and they could be looking for an upgrade from Ryan Tannehill. In addition to the Jets at three, Cleveland is expected to draft a quarterback with the first overall selection. So two quarterbacks will be off the board through the first three picks.

Wait, there’s more to stress out about.

What about the New York Giants at pick No. 2? They are a huge wild card. Quarterbacks could go 1-2-3 if the Giants are looking for the successor to Eli Manning. But the speculation in New York has the Giants looking to win now with Manning by drafting either running back Saquon Barkley or by bolstering their defense with Bradley Chubb. That would be good news from the Bills' perspective because one more quarterback would still be on the board. 

Life would be easier if Beane wase able to consummate a trade with Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, his good friend and old boss in Carolina, which would allow him to jump in front of the Jets and take the second quarterback off the board. If I’m the Giants, I’d take a quarterback. If I’m not doing that, I’m sure as heck not trading down 10 spots, so Beane has his work cut out for him.

Let's not forget about the Denver Broncos, who have the fifth overall pick. Sure, they signed Case Keenum in free agency, but does anybody think he is the long-term answer? John Elway could take a quarterback when the Broncos are on the board, or perhaps Chubb if he is still available, or he might be willing to trade down. Isn’t this fun?  

I fully expect Beane to trade up. I think he can get into the top-10 with Indianapolis at six being a prime trade down candidate. But I’m not sure he can crack the top-five whether its Denver, Cleveland at four or the Giants. It all depends on how the board is falling. Staying at 12 and waiting it out seems too risky for me. There’s a good chance four quarterbacks will be off the board by then with Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph being the two still available out of the supposed “top-six”. Of course, if Beane loves one of those two guys, then problem solved. In theory, the Bills can get the guy they wanted with one of their first two choices and still have all of their remaining picks to fill the numerous holes/needs on the roster.

It's been a very active off season, in terms of trades, but I don’t expect anything else will happen involving picks in the top-10 until the night of the draft. Whichever quarterback the Browns take at No. 1 could trigger the first deal when the Giants are on the clock. It should make for an extremely nerve-wracking day and night for Bills fans and fans of other quarterback needy teams not named the Browns, but it also makes for one of the most fascinating drafts ever.

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