Buffalo Bills: Why the Bills will draft a quarterback for the defense

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Popular opinion is easily skewed by the smoke screens sent by all NFL teams in draft season. The Buffalo Bills have traded into the top 12, but aren’t selecting an offensive quarterback.

The Buffalo Bills are moving up in the draft. The reason the Bills moved up is largely speculated as being for a quarterback. The Bills aren’t taking a quarterback.

The Bills are more likely than not trading up for linebacker Roquan Smith of Georgia.

Bills GM Brandon Beane spoke on why the Bills moved up in the draft:

"“€œListen, I know everybody assumes we’€™re going higher, I don’€™t know that. There are some players that are going to be there at 12, whether it’€™s quarterback or another position, that I know would not have fallen to 21. I€’m excited about that.”"

This offseason the Bills have largely ignored the offense beyond using expendable assets to improve their draft position. While a top-tier quarterback would improve their team, why would they take one?

The Bills are rebuilding on offense. They will have a first-time NFL starter at QB, a new offensive coordinator, and at least three new starting offensive linemen. The offense is multiple years away from being a finished product. Like last season, they will probably have to win in spite of their offense most games.

However, the Bills defense has almost fully transitioned to what McDermott wants to do. They have added multiple young veteran free agents to build around in Star Lotulelei, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. They have also built a young core through the draft anchored by DB Tre’€™Davious White and possibly starting LB Matt Milano.

The defense is really just a long-time LB away from being a finished product that can lead this team into the playoffs and beyond. The Bills let Preston Brown walk. His signing with his hometown team in Cincinnati for one year and $6 million is a sign the Bills were comfortable moving on from him.

By moving on, there is another option for the Bills. That option is through the draft with Roquan Smith. Smith is a high volume tackler, captained the Georgia defense and is faster than Brown (his biggest detriment).

Smith would serve as the Luke Kuechly of this defense. A role that is needed so that the defense is set for the next several years. Smith won’t be in the draft after the top 15. The Bills had to move into the top 12 to have a shot at him, and that’€™s what they did.

The CBS Sports staff scouted Smith and described his play style as a player who “diagnoses rapidly and rarely makes a false step.”

Lotulelei and Kyle Williams‘ role is to eat up offensive linemen to allow linebackers to make the tackles. Right now, the starting linebackers are possibly Matt Milano, maybe Lorenzo Alexander, or Ramon Humber. Not exactly the elite LB to take this defense to the next level. Smith does that. He improves on what Brown offered physically, and once he adjusts to the NFL, there is no reason not to believe he would take this defense to another level.

The only reason for the Bills to pass on Smith would be that he is a junior. Last year the Bills took only collegiate seniors in the draft. While Smith is electric, if the Bills are only seeking seniors again, he may be skipped.

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That scenario is unlikely, as he is a multi-year starter, and has the experience needed to have alleviated any concerns based solely on his age.

The Bills have systemically cleared cap room to be free-agent players next year. It wouldn’€™t make sense to become financially flexible, right when you become draft inflexible.

To move up and take an offensive QB would strip the Bills of their 2019 first-round pick, at a minimum. Adding Smith is the ideal fit for not only the No. 12 overall pick, but even warrants another move higher to secure your defensive QB.

The Bills need an offensive quarterback.

However, the workload isn’€™t that urgent when you consider that they made the playoffs with the 31st best passing attack, and the quarterback’s main job should be to get the ball to LeSean McCoy. AJ McCarron can do that, and improve the passing offense.

The odds of being successful on a QB are slim. Yet, history has shown that elite defenses get you into the Super Bowl, and McDermott knows how to build that. See Baltimore Ravens (with Trent Dilfer), Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers (with rookie Ben Roethlisberger), and the Seattle Seahawks with a young Russell Wilson.

The Bills are one player away from that elite defense, a defense that will carry the offense as they spend the next few years transitioning into their new look. The deal for AJ McCarron is two years, which allows the Bills to scout him for a year. If needed, next year they can still draft his replacement to groom behind him.

Next: Options for adding more offensive linemen to the roster

And if you think QB is the biggest issue for this team. You might be right. However, linebacker is a close second, and Smith can solidify that need and the entire defense with one pick.