I wrote last week about what the Bills would need to do to snag a top-of-the-draft quarterback. But they traded Cordy Glenn away early enough they won’t have had an idea whether they can trade into the top 5 or 6. They might not get the value they want, or their quarterback targets might be gone before they can manufacture a trade. All won’t be lost though – this incredibly deep quarterback class could lead to the Bills snagging a signal caller of the future and a top-20 talent in the first round. Who might they go for?
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (pick 12)
We’re all about making assumptions when it comes to where quarterbacks will go. This pick is forecast assuming Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Mayfield are all gone (an eminently believable prospect). Jackson leans towards being the consensus QB5, eliciting Deshaun Watson comparisons. Jackson is very athletic, being a true dual-threat quarterback at college level. Normally that sets alarm bells ringing, but Jackson demonstrated arm strength, touch and reasonable accuracy at Louisville. Jackson throws like a quarterback – I feel daft that I even have to point this out, but here we are. He has a lovely throwing motion, lightning quick release speed. The running ability is just the cherry on top.
He doesn’t feel too much like a Bills pick though. Will McDermott and Beane get the jibblies, see the barely-even-superficial resemblance to Tyrod Taylor and baulk? Will they want to shift to a more traditional NFL offense, that doesn’t seem instantly suited to Jackson? Whatever, I think it’d be a mistake. Sure, the Bills lack playmakers. But Jackson and Shady McCoy in the same offense would be thrilling.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State (pick 22)
Over two pieces, we’ve basically listed all the potential first-round quarterbacks other than Sam Darnold. That reflects the reality the Bills find themselves in, both in the draft and with their current quarterback room. Rudolph is a productive, big-armed quarterback with that NFL team catnip “prototypical size”. Sure enough, it’s his arm strength and deep ball which are his primary assets. But there’s more to Rudolph’s game than that. He’s a good decision-maker who can progress quickly through his reads. He seems to have both a good internal clock and poise under a collapsing pocket. That said, this can lead him to stand in the pocket and take hits, and look more statuesque than you’d like.
The big knock on Rudolph is his inconsistency, which seems to be built on a desire to throw the ball before he’s fully set when he sees an opportunity. That’s a tricky thing to work with – on the one hand it’s great that he sees a pass so eagerly. On the other hand, it’s sometimes better to wait and throw when you’ve got set, even if it’s to a less optimal receiver. And in general, sometimes he’s seeing opportunities that aren’t there, and his accuracy as yet isn’t quite up to hitting those disappearing windows.
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (either pick 12 or 22)
Buffalo have a real problem at tackle, having traded Cordy Glenn away. Dion Dawkins looks like he can get the job done, probably at left or right tackle. Across from him though? I wouldn’t want Marshall Newhouse protecting a rookie quarterback. Ergo, McGlinchey could be in play at 12 or 22, more realistically the latter of the two. McGlinchey is a tough, technically adept blocker. He shows fantastic strength against bull-rushes, good hand placement and balance against spin moves, and only really struggles against elite speed rushers. He plays low and gets leverage. And, as you’d expect, he has lots of fun in the run game, often driving defenders back. Playing alongside Quenton Nelson at Notre Dame was just like leaving a huge, gaping hole. Shady McCoy’s excited just thinking about it.
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His weakness is probably his lateral agility, where if he doesn’t pick up a change of direction coming, he’s going to look a little foolish. And on screen passes, well, what big hulking left tackle does look good on them, if they aren’t agile?
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State (pick 22)
Just can’t get behind the idea of the Bills going defense if they stay pat at 12. But they do have a hole at linebacker. Vander Esch is a physical outlier at linebacker – tall, rangy, quick, strong. Generally, it’s a shame linebacker is a devalued position as you get some fantastic athletes ending up there. Anyway, Vander Esch is a three-down linebacker who plays well against the run and coverage. Against the run he’s often the man making the difference between the hole being there or suddenly stuffed. Against the pass, he has fantastic short-range quickness to cover both lumbering tight end and scampering running back.
Vander Esch’s limitations fairly mimic those a lot of linebackers have – he doesn’t have the longer distance speed to keep up with deeper routes, or if he doesn’t track the receiver straight off the line of scrimmage. He also isn’t going to get out of a run or screen block laid out by a good offensive tackle.
DJ Moore, WR, Maryland (pick 22)
If Buffalo either aren’t satisfied with Kelvin Benjamin, or want load up on big-bodied receivers, Courtland Sutton is the pick here. Whatever happens though, the Bills are yet again dangerously thin at receiver. Probable #2 Zay Jones has had a worrying offseason, to say the least. DJ Moore would be a decent choice at pick 22 – he’s quick, feisty and reliable. Moore has some of the best hands in the class. His speed – as demonstrated with a 4.42 at the combine – saw him open, often. He’s got route-running nous. Put all this together and you’ve got someone who can turn bad throws into easy receptions and then parlay them into yards after catch. And the feistiness? He’s not quite Steve Smith, but you feel determination oozing out of his pores as he plays.
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