(WKBW) - As is the annual tradition, the Buffalo Bills met the with the media for the pre-draft press conference — yet this year was different than any other. The reason being that this is the first draft that will involve current Bills general manager Brandon Beane.
This time last year, Beane was still a member of the Carolina Panthers front office which means that the tone of conversation in 2018 is much different. That very tone?
One surrounded by an air of mystery. What should we take away from the Bills pre-draft press conference? Five observations from what Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott had to say:
1) Make no mistake, quarterback is the focal point
- In his first pre-draft press conference, Brandon Beane attacked the questions with one major objective. He tried to say as little as possible so as to not tip his hand by any stretch of the imagination and for the most part, he was successful in his attempt to try to sidestep as many of the queries as he could. There was one moment that he was unable to sidestep the premise because he needed to remain true to himself. And at that moment, came the strongest outward statement of the nearly half-an-hour press conference — a declaration of figuring out the most important position in 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.”
And in doing so, perhaps not intentionally, there was an admission by the Bills GM that such a player has not been identified on the roster as it stands today. This isn’t exactly a revelation, seeing as how the Bills have been linked to the rookie quarterbacks of this year’s draft class basically since the day the season ended. However, that comment is just further proof of the objective that many have thought… that this year and next week is all about finding a quarterback to build around. Now, it’s just a matter of which one or ones strike their fancy the most,.
2) Beane offered next to nothing on specifics, which is further proof
- Throughout the press conference, Beane was as tight-lipped as he could be in regards to the individual players of this draft class at the quarterback position. He was asked only once about a specific player — in this case, it was about Wyoming’s Josh Allen — and his immediate retort was that he was choosing not to speak about the specifics of players and from that point forward, it was mostly all speaking in generalities and some clichés were tossed around as well. However, I believe this was nothing more than a defense mechanism so as to not try and tip his hand in any single direction. With how many teams are lining up to get in the race to land a quarterback in this year’s draft, any turn of phrase said improperly could signal their truest intention in next week’s NFL Draft. So, as to avoid revealing too much in one specific answer on any player in his first one of these pre-draft press conferences, he decided against doing it all together. Perhaps in future years, after they have their quarterback he'll be a little bit more forthcoming on individual prospects ahead of the draft. And while yes, these specific press conferences are one of the most fun of the year in trying to piece everything together to figure out their intentions, one slip could truly undo all the hard work that the front office and scouting staff had been doing over the past year. So Beane, smartly because of the stakes here and the position in question, elected to punt on any and all specifics. However that, in itself, is a perceived admission of how much importance they’re putting on trying to get a quarterback in this year’s draft. While we don’t have words about Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph, and others to try and diagnose which they’ll be after, all signs — even this one, continue to point the Bills toward a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft — if they have their way, of course.
3) On the issue of trading up
- While it’s abundantly clear that the Bills would like to add a quarterback in this year’s draft, likely somewhere in the top five or even the top 10, there is a simple fact that they do not control their own destiny. With so many variables still in play, even still with the top pick in the NFL Draft, the Bills might not have an answer to their intent to trade up until the day of the event itself. That has to be a scary proposition for GM Brandon Beane, who clearly feels strongly about adding a young player to build around at the most important position in sports. The Bills very well could have contingent deals in place with the Giants for second overall, the Browns at fourth overall, or even the Broncos at fifth overall — but none of that matters unless that other team feels compelled enough to do so without a player they love on the board at the time of their selection — which is an issue that was stressed by Beane during Monday’s press conference. He even went as far as to say that he would still consider this year’s draft to be a successful one if they do not come away with a franchise quarterback. While technically he’s right, because they would be getting two players at other positions that could even start right away for the team, that leads to an entirely different discussion. However, landing the quarterback that they truly love and want to build around will likely take a move up the board of some sort, and in turn, a dance partner. After listening to the Bills for the past 12 months, there isn’t any doubt in my mind that they’re going to try to do exactly that next week.
4) Would not getting a QB be a success?
- Considering it’s the statement that generated the most discussion on Twitter at the time of the press conference, I put it to a vote of fans. Would it actually be considered a success if they came away from this year’s draft without a franchise quarterback? The results:
Today, #Bills GM Brandon Beane said they could still have a successful draft even if they don't come away with a franchise quarterback. Do you agree?— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 16, 2018
The majority says ‘no,’ and I’d have to agree with their logic. To me, it’s all about the message behind the moves the team has made dating back to last April. The Bills got the ball moving in the 2017 NFL Draft, by acquiring the first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. That move led to several others, which include the trade frenzy that would ensue. Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, Reggie Ragland, and Cordy Glenn among others… it’s all led us to a point in time where the Bills have an extraordinary amount of picks to put into one sole purpose: coming away with a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. They have stripped down the previously constructed roster, trading away the most precious assets that they had from those years in return for picks — and a shot at solving the future in one fell swoop. If they’re trying to build up their roster, they can’t keep stripping it down of their best assets for draft picks. Certainly, without a quarterback, you can build a solid team that can contend for the playoffs, but to go for those championships on a yearly basis, there is only one position that matters — and even Brandon Beane himself agrees as evidenced by the quote in the first bullet point. If the Bills can’t move up for a quarterback and end up with a couple of impact starters, sure, it would be fine for the time being. However, until the quarterback conundrum gets solved — if it does — the Bills and their fans couldn’t help to think what could have been in a situation with as many picks as they have that doesn’t come around very often.
5) Beane acknowledges the void at MLB
- Outside of quarterback, the second greatest need that still exists on the roster is a vital one to Sean McDermott’s defense — the middle linebacker. As of now, the Bills have a huge void following Preston Brown leaving via free agency, an outcome that was likely considering he isn’t an exact fit for the zone-based scheme. Beane agreed with the premise of the need at middle linebacker, considering the player currently slotted into the spot is either 2017 late-round pick Tanner Vallejo or a practice squad player from late in the year named Xavier Woodson-Luster. However, perhaps in another toss to the ‘Bills want a quarterback’ basket, Beane was quick to point out that rosters don’t matter for real until September, meaning there will be some opportunities to strike as teams release players at potential positions of need. The Bills need something at the position, if not as a long-term fix, just as something to help bridge the gap to when they do find a long-term answer. Should the Bills not be able to move up in the order, I would put Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, and Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch very much on the team’s radar with one of those first two picks in the first round as potential long-term answers to a key position in McDermott’s scheme.