Breaking down how selecting Lamar Jackson could impact the Buffalo Bills’ plans in the 2018 NFL Draft.
With the New York Jets trading up to the third overall selection of April’s NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills’ path to landing one of the top quarterbacks got a little tougher.
With the moves Buffalo’s made this offseason – trading Tyrod Taylor and Cordy Glenn for draft capital and signing players like Star Lotulelei and Vontae Davis to fill needs – signs point to the Bills trading up for a quarterback in the first round.
But that was all before the Jets shook everything up. And with the New York Giants now left with a void to fill after trading Jason Pierre-Paul on Thursday, it’s possible that the No. 2 overall selection isn’t available for the highest bidder like previously thought.
So where does that leave the Bills?
It’s not a stretch to layout the top of the first round line this:
Now, of course this doesn’t include trades, which will be very likely and could very well include Buffalo, but if the first 11 selections play out like this, where does it leave the Bills?
The top-4 quarterbacks are gone, it isn’t worth taking Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley at 12 even though wide receiver is one of their biggest needs, the two best linebackers are already off the board and it’s too early to take Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams.
This was the exact conundrum Bleacher Report lead NFL draft analyst Matt Miller found himself in the latest Stick To Football podcast. While Miller and his brother, “Mello,” had their first 11 picks go slightly different, the same players were gone by the time the Bills made their first selection.
With the four quarterbacks and pair of line backers aboard Miller went with the best player available: Florida State safety Derwin James.
"“I’m horribly prepared for what would happen in this scenario,” Miller said on Friday’s show. “I’ll tell you, I looked at the Bills’ needs – what I have for them right now – quarterback and linebacker – so we’ve screwed them there – offensive line, wide receiver and defensive back. So I guess if I were at this spot, I would go – it’s not easy – I would go Derwin James. I know they have good safeties – Micah Hyde is a stud – but I think you just kind of have to go best player available.”"
While the Bills are more than solid at the safety position with Hyde and Jordan Poyer, James is the best player available by a large margin. Could the Bills reach for Ridley, Williams, Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea or Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, but James has a much higher ceiling.
In fact, if you go to his NFL.com Draft Profile, it’s pretty telling what an NFC Scout Director had to say about him:
"“He is going to be the dude in any locker room he ends up in. That’s his makeup. Physically, he’s probably more talented than Jamal Adams but Adams was more consistent as a player. Derwin is still learning so he has a sky-high projection if his play can catch up to the talent.” – NFC Scouting Director"
Not to mention, both Hyde and Poyer have played cornerback in the past. Bills head coach Sean McDermott is probably creative enough to make it work.
So we fast-forward to pick No. 22. That’s where things get interesting.
Buffalo is still without its franchise quarterback and this is where Miller shocks the world – although I don’t think it’s all that shocking of a selection – but he takes Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This could be a home-run pick. On many levels.
Not only do the Bills find their franchise quarterback, but they hold on to all of their coveted picks. This allows Buffalo to fill needs like wide receiver, linebacker and offensive line in the second and third rounds.
There are some doubts to Jackson’s game, but all of these top quarterbacks do.
He’s shown accuracy problems, has some trouble with his reads and had a bit of a turnover problem in college. However, Josh Allen had both accuracy problems and struggled making reads at times and Sam Darnold had a turnover problem this past season as well.
Jackson also didn’t do well “on the board” at the NFL scouting combine, according to Miller, and that is a bit concerning:
"“I like Lamar Jackson. He just has flaws in his game that scare me – same as anyone else in this draft. If his mechanics can get fixed, he can wreck the NFL,” Miller said. “One thing we did here coming out of the combine was that he struggled on the board and I think that’s where a (quarterback coach like) Jordan Palmer (would help). Sam Darnold and Josh Allen aren’t failing at that right now – guaranteed.”"
However, the talent is there and there’s no denying that.
At his floor, Jackson is slightly better than Taylor. But his ceiling could be better than Michael Vick.
Jackson is a perplexing prospect when it concerns the Bills.
He’s familiar with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system, the Erhardt-Perkins. But considering Jackson’s game is similar to Taylor’s, who they just shipped off, would Buffalo want to hitch its wagon to another dual-threat quarterback?
At the end of the day we’ll just have to wait and see. However, this might be too good of a move to pass up.
By drafting Jackson at 22 – or even 12 – Buffalo will get to keep the rest of its five draft picks that span over the first three rounds to select some quality players that could help Jackson succeed down the road.
Who wouldn’t sign up for that?