Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally made it. The 2018 NFL Draft, over the past three months, has given us more twists and turns than imaginable. But still, here we stand.
Without the top overall pick having been defined all throughout the process, it's led us to one of the most unpredictable first rounds in recent memory. What the Cleveland Browns inevitably do will change the course of the draft for several teams, especially if they go with a player that no one saw coming until this week.
Furthermore, what does that all mean for the Buffalo Bills? What might they need to do to in order to finally land the franchise quarterback to build around? And who might that player wind up being?
This is, bar none, the most intriguing NFL Draft for Bills fans in a long, long time. What unfolds will surely get people talking, and keep them talking based on how the Bills decide to play it.
With that written, it's time for my final look at the 2018 NFL Draft, and what the Bills could do. Here we go, one last projection:
1) - QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
- All of the Baker Mayfield chatter in the 11th hour is surely interesting, and the wave on draft day cannot be ignored. Mayfield will immediately become the identity of the Cleveland Browns, and him getting drafted this early is a wonderful sign that the NFL might actually be evolving from their past misses (Drew Brees, Russell Wilson) on shorter quarterbacks and realize that prototypical heights and weights aren't everything. Kudos to the Browns here, this is a strong pick.
2) - RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
- This is certainly not what I would do, potentially passing on a bevy of picks in order to take a running back. Or heck, not even taking a quarterback at all. However, Dave Gettleman has his own agenda that includes surrounding 37-year-old QB Eli Manning with talent to try and produce a winner in 2018. That's a bold strategy, Cotton.
3) (from IND) - QB Sam Darnold, USC
- Had the Jets actually tanked the season like many expected, Sam Darnold was likely to be in strong consideration for them had they owned the top overall selection. Instead, they trade those three second-round picks and land a guy that can become their franchise quarterback for several years, and more importantly, one that can learn from Josh McCown in the meantime until he is ready.
4) (from HOU) - DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
- Pairing Myles Garrett with Bradley Chubb on rookie contracts for the next three years is a tremendous advantage that the Cleveland Browns would probably jump at the opportunity to do.
5) **TRADE (from DEN) - QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
- While the Bills have the better package of picks this year, including 22nd overall, one thing that could give Arizona a leg up here is the willingness to trade their top future asset in 2019. While it worsens Denver's pick from a potential trade down with Buffalo by three spots, they also would hold a better pick in the second round in a trade with Arizona, and they get next year's first, which has a likelihood of being better than 22nd overall based on Arizona's roster. Not to mention, with Denver uninterested in this year's batch of quarterbacks, it also doubles their ability in 2019 to land one as Case Keenum is on a very short deal in Denver. As for Arizona, Josh Allen would have the ability to sit and learn in 2018 with Sam Bradford at the helm, and working with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy -- the essential head coach of the offense -- would be a strong fit for both sides.
Trade Details: Denver receives 15th overall, 47th overall, 2019 1st-round pick. Arizona receives 5th overall, 160th overall
6) (from NYJ) - LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
- The Indianapolis Colts could trade down, but with the amount of second-round picks that they already have this year, combined with a desperate need at linebacker, and a lack of depth at linebacker in this year's draft, they stay and take a potential high impact player in Roquan Smith, and one that signals the future of the linebacker position in the NFL.
7) **TRADE (from TB) - QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
- Tampa Bay is an underrated trade down partner in tonight's draft. With multiple needs in the secondary, and knowing that they're likely to get a solid player to address that need by moving down five spots. They could also use help along the offensive line at multiple spots, and have only a second round pick to do all that in a year where they're starting to feel some pressure to win. By doing this trade with the Bills, it gives them a total of three picks on Day Two in a draft that's lauded as deeper than it is top heavy. As for the Bills, the motivation is easy. They get a potential franchise quarterback in Josh Rosen, maintain their 22nd overall selection by not trading up the order too much, they keep their 2019 first-round pick -- which will probably be a fairly good one, and they maintain having both a second and third-round selection in this year's draft. The Bills might be getting the fourth quarterback in this draft, but they may well end up getting the best one in Josh Rosen. After all of the analysis at what they could do, and all the linking of Josh Allen to the Bills by multiple people, I come back to one thing... the Bills aren't leaking anything to anyone. You have to go back to traits and what is important to the people making the decision. That main person is Brandon Beane, and above all else, the one thing he believes is necessary for a successful franchise quarterback is the ability to consistently win from the pocket. And in this year's class, there is no player better at that than Josh Rosen. The way he maneuvers the pocket with poise, a calm demeanor, and opens up more windows for big yardage by not evading the pocket is next level stuff. He's extremely accurate, throws with anticipation, and constantly reads the entire field. The lack of mobility and injury history is a concern, but at the end of the day, this guy will continue to win from the pocket. His personality has been called into question, but he's also someone that's incredibly authentic and demands the best out of his teammates, which when he becomes an older player in the league will be absolutely critical. I think the fit of Rosen, and yes, even his personality, with the GM and head coach of the Buffalo Bills is an incredibly strong one.
Trade Details: Tampa Bay receives 12th overall, 53rd overall, 65th overall. Buffalo receives 7th overall, 102nd overall
8) - G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
- They could go linebacker or cornerback here, but with a connection on the coaching staff and the local appeal of adding not only a top-flight protector for Mitchell Trubisky, but one that attends nearby Notre Dame? That's a home run to a lot of people in Chicago.
9) - LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
- Even with Reuben Foster on the roster, the 49ers have a large need for another linebacker -- and especially one that offers as much versatility as Tremaine Edmunds does
10) - OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
11) **TRADE (from MIA) - S Derwin James, Florida State
It's a new era in Green Bay, with GM Brian Gutekunst doing things a lot differently than Ted Thompson ever did -- trading up on draft day being one of them. With the versatile, game-changing Derwin James still on the board and Tampa Bay on deck at 12, the Packers strike and send a third-round pick to secure James on their team.
Trade Details: Miami receives 14th overall, 76th overall. Green Bay receives 11th overall.
12) (from CIN via BUF) - DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
- It's a win-win situation for Tampa Bay, who trades down and picks up more ammo, all the while getting one of two guys they probably would have decided between had they stayed at seven. Fitzpatrick will be a day one starter for them, and can be used at both safety and at nickel corner. Tampa Bay's secondary is desperate for help.
13) - DT Vita Vea, Washington
- Washington needs a nose tackle and Vea is a natural fit here. This has been an obvious pairing... and for a reason.
14) (from GB) - DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
- Missing out on the quarterbacks, Miami drops back and still lands a high quality prospect at a position they need to address. Payne is a bit underrated as an interior pass rusher, and can do a lot of different things for a defense.
15) (from ARI) - CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
- The Broncos move all the way down and land a player they reportedly covet. Not a bad haul for John Elway, even though they punted on the quarterback position this year.
16) - QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
- No matter where Lamar Jackson lands, if it's one of Baltimore or the Los Angeles Chargers, it's truly going to be a fascinating look at the next few years. Joe Flacco isn't the same player as he used to be, that much is clear. With a new GM on the horizon in Eric DeCosta, both he and Ozzie Newsome collaborate to bring Jackson to Baltimore, and to build an offense around him that could be a game-changer for them in the future.
17) - OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
18) **TRADE (from SEA) - LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
- The depth of this linebacker class is not at all that great, specifically when you're trying to look for a middle linebacker. Keeping that in mind, the Bills -- if the board plays out this way -- realize that a third and fourth-round pick shouldn't stand in the way of them getting a potential long-term player at one of the most important positions in Sean McDermott's defense. For Seattle, they have no picks on Day Two, so this at least gets them in the game. For the Bills, they move ahead of the Dallas Cowboys who have reportedly likened Leighton Vander Esch to Brian Urlacher, they maintain a second-round pick, and they'll come away from this draft with three picks in the top 56, with two of those being a franchise quarterback, and a potential long-term starter at middle linebacker. This is a win for the Bills, and I think Brandon Beane is savvy enough to pull it off.
Trade Details: Seattle receives 22nd overall, 96th overall, 102nd overall. Buffalo receives 18th overall, 156th overall.
19) - TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
20) - EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
- With Ziggy Ansah on a franchise year deal, the Lions grab a high-potential edge rusher to take over fully in 2019 and beyond, while chipping in significantly this upcoming season.
21) (from BUF) - C/G Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
22) (from KC) - DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
- The Seahawks move down, add a pick, improve a pick, and take a player in Marcus Davenport that is a perfect fit for their defense.
23) (from LAR) - DT Taven Bryan, Florida
- Taven Bryan is the Josh Allen of defensive tackles, in my mind -- a total boom or bust prospect that shows flashes of outright brilliance. In my notes when I was watching him, I described him as 'O-Town,' with his play being all or nothing. If the Patriots can unearth this potential home run player at a major position of need, this will be one of the steals of the draft.
24) - CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
- Long-limbed cornerback in a system that craves them and with an opening for a starter. Yep, checks all the boxes to me.
25) **TRADE (from TEN) - G Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
- Trades between division rivals don't happen too often in the NFL Draft, but the Titans are extremely motivated to move down and the Colts have ample ammo to move up. In the meantime, the Colts land a protector for Andrew Luck, giving them a heck of a haul in the first round between their first two selections.
Trade Details: Tennessee receives 36th overall, 67th overall. Indianapolis receives 25th overall, 125th overall.
26) - G Will Hernandez, UTEP
27) - TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
28) - LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
- They would have liked to see Vander Esch here, but Rashaan Evans will certainly be a fit to slot in and be an opening day starter at linebacker in 2018.
29) - CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
30) - G/C James Daniels, Iowa
31) - T/G Connor Williams, Texas
32) **TRADE (from PHI) - WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
- The Bears need a wide receiver, and without a single one taken so far in the draft they sense an opportunity to move up and get their top guy at two different positions on the offense in this year's draft.
Trade Details: Philadelphia receives 39th overall, 105th overall. Chicago receives 32nd overall.
33) - RB Derrius Guice, LSU
34) - G Austin Corbett, Nevada
35) (from HOU) - WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
36) (from IND) - C Billy Price, Ohio State
37) (from NYJ) - CB Carlton Davis, Auburn
38) - CB Mike Hughes, Central Florida
39) - WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
40) - OT Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh
41) - RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
42) - QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
- Mason Rudolph is an insurance policy here. They'll see if he can develop with Adam Gase, while also having someone in place to take over in the event that Ryan Tannehill just can't become a similar player to what he was. It also doesn't take them out of the market to draft a quarterback in the first round in 2019, either.
43) (from SF) - TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State
44) - RB Sony Michel, Georgia
45) - EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
46) - S Justin Reid, Stanford
47) (from ARI) - RB Ronald Jones, USC
48) - DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
49) (from SEA via NYJ) - WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
50) - S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
51) - DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
52) - OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
53) (from BUF) - G Braden Smith, Auburn
54) - EDGE Josh Sweat, Florida State
55) - WR D.J. Chark, LSU
56) (via LAR) - CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
- This pick will not come down to a need position, in my mind. The Bills will go best player available as to how they best fit their roster. Had Maurice Hurst been on the board, I think that very well could have been the pick because a contingency plan for 2019 at three-technique defensive tackle is sorely needed. However, having a prospect like Josh Jackson on the board at this point in the draft is too tempting to pass up. Yes, the Bills took a cornerback early in last year's draft. Yes, the Bills signed Vontae Davis to start this season... but it isn't permanent. The Bills still lack in depth at that position, and it's clear they prioritize that spot in the defense because of the style of four-man rush, zone-based defense they play. Jackson, a long-limbed, playmaking cornerback is not a fit for every scheme which is why he has a bit of a fall in the draft, but he's a precise fit for the Bills. If the Bills are still picking in the second round, and Jackson is on the board, this is a potential very strong pairing which could even move Davis to nickel corner if Jackson plays well enough early on. If not, he'll sit back, learn, and take over in 2019 at a high profile defensive position.