The 2018 NFL Draft is less than a month away. The draft is always the most highly publicized and anticipated event of the offseason, but maybe never as much as it is this year for the Buffalo Bills.
It's the second season for Head Coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane. And this year's draft presents them an opportunity to leave their mark on the future of the franchise. Here are the top six reasons this year's draft is so important for the Bills:
1. THE QUARTERBACK
The Bills appear to have been thinking about re-stocking themselves at the game's most important position for a year now. The 2017 draft day move down from the 10th pick to the 27th was clearly a signal of Buffalo's high regard for this year's class of quarterback draft picks and the Bills intention to snag one of them.
Trading Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland was another signal. Taylor, who's started 44 games for Buffalo in the last three years, was traded away for more draft ammunition and to clear the way for a new starter under center.
A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman are the only two QBs on the roster right now, and they're both candidates to start under center when the season begins. But there's little doubt that the Bills are in position to add a rookie QB to the roster on draft weekend.
2. THE QUARTERBACKS
It's not just the open roster spot at quarterback that has the Bills and their fans engaged — it's who might fill that spot. NFL Network Analyst Daniel Jeremiah has four of this year's draft eligible QBs ranked in the top six of his QB prospects in the last three drafts.
There's quarterback talent available early in the draft this year; potential game changers according to Bills coach Sean McDermott.
"I'm still going through the work involved at all the different positions," McDermott said last week at the NFL Owners meeting in Orlando. "But I can tell you that there are some game-changing players that are going be at or high in the first round right there."
3. THE NUMBER OF BILLS PICKS
McDermott and Beane have stockpiled draft picks this year, a smart move given the team's salary cap constraints and the value provided by rookie salaries on the roster.
As of now, the Bills have a total of nine picks. Six of them are in the first three rounds of the draft; among the top 100 players.
It's the first time since 1994 Buffalo has six picks among the top 100. Bills history shows that when the team selects five or more in the top 100 they typically wind up with several major contributors.
In 2001, with five picks in the first three rounds, the Bills wound up with the likes of Nate Clements, Aaron Schobel and Travis Henry. In 1987, with five picks in the top three rounds, they got Shane Conlan and Nate Odomes. In 1985, it was Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Derrick Burroughs and Frank Reich who came in the top 86 picks of the draft.
It's a good place to be in—going into a draft with your pockets full of picks, whether you plan on using them all on selections or bundling them up to move up in the draft.
4. BILLS TRADES TO STOCKPILE DRAFT PICKS
The Bills didn't get all those picks by accident. They started stacking them up last year, when they got the Chiefs first rounder this year (22nd overall) by moving down on draft day.
Buffalo picked up an extra pick in the second round from the Rams last August, in the Sammy Watkins trade. They sent Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland this year for a third rounder, and sent Ron Darby to the Eagles last year for another third rounder.
Brandon Beane has made it his mission to amass draft picks this April while the Bills deal with dead money on their salary cap.
5. BUILDING THROUGH THE DRAFT IS THE KEY
Even in years when they don't have as much draft capital, look for Beane and McDermott to focus on the draft as the preferred way to build out their roster.
"We're going to build this thing through the draft step-by-step," Beane told the NFL Network at the Owners Meetings. "We've tried to fill some holes through free agency. But we're by no means there. We're excited about where we're headed."
6. DRAFT PICKS PAID OFF LAST YEAR
It's understandable that Beane and McDermott would have faith in the draft to provide players who can step in and contribute right away. Last year, all six Bills draft picks made the 53-man roster and they combined to make 46 starts on a nine-win, Wild Card playoff team.
As far as GM Brandon Beane is concerned, this year's draft is just another building block on the foundation for Buffalo's success in years ahead.
"Sean and I are still laying the foundation here," he said this week in Orlando.
"We have not 'arrived.' We're not headed for the Super Bowl or anything. We are not making any proclamations. We're still building this one step at a time. We're excited about the draft capital we have acquired starting last August and now where we're at."