31 May 2018
The Buffalo Bills moved up in the 2018 NFL Draft to acquire their quarterback of the future, selecting Josh Allen out of Wyoming. The 21-year-old was a riser in the off-season, impressing teams with the power of his arm at the Combine and at his Pro Day. Buffalo had the opportunity to move up, boasting enough capital to make the shift to number seven where they acquired the quarterback.
The Bills ended their playoff drought last season with Tyrod Taylor as their starter. Buffalo reached the post-season for the first time since 2000, winning nine matches under first-year head coach Sean McDermott. They finished second in the AFC East, although the club were still way off the pace of the New England Patriots. Buffalo were defeated by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wildcard Round, scoring only three points in the contest.
Taylor’s performance in the game proved that he was not the quarterback to take the Bills into the latter stages of the playoffs. As a result, McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane opted to trade the 28-year-old to the Cleveland Browns for a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The move has left Buffalo short of experience at signal-caller for the next campaign, which has seen their Betway-predicted odds, drift to 12/1 to win the AFC East as of May 31, highlighting the challenge ahead for McDermott and his staff to guide the team back to the playoffs in the next campaign.
Taylor was a safe quarterback, but was rather uninspiring in his play. The 28-year-old did not make many mistakes, but at times he was too cautious with the ball to the detriment of the offense. In his three years as the Bills’ starter, Taylor threw 51 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. The ratio itself is outstanding compared to other quarterbacks in the NFL, but the lack of plays from his arm may be the sole reason why he was able to limit his errors.
He relied on the fine rushing ability of LeSean McCoy from the backfield to open up space in the passing game. When McCoy struggled, the Bills’ offense followed suit, with Taylor being unable to carry the team on his own. This was the case in their defeat to the Jaguars when they amassed only three points. McCoy was limited to 79 yards at an average of 3.9 yards per carry after feeling the effects of an ankle injury sustained in the final game of the regular term.
That result, more than any other, highlighted that Buffalo would have issues moving forward. The Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings proved that stellar quarterback play is not essential for Super Bowl success or even a deep run in the post-season. However, in the eyes of McDermott and Beane, it was clear that they deemed that Taylor was not of the calibre of Nick Foles or Case Keenum.
The Bills signed AJ McCarron in free agency after trading away Taylor to the Browns. Nathan Peterman remained on the roster, although his one start resulted in a five-interception game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Having used a first-round pick on Allen it puts pressure on the club to thrust the 21-year-old into the starting position especially after the success of players such as Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson. Wentz proved that that rookies can light up the league, while Watson was on the same path before his injury. His development in his second season will be intriguing to watch as he looks to avoid a sophomore slump.
The Eagles and the Houston Texans were bold enough to put both players into the starting line-up and their gamble yielded dividends. Although Allen was selected seventh overall in the 2018 Draft, he was considered a project player by analysts due to his raw attributes. Whether he could make the instant impact that Wentz and Watson enjoyed is doubtful considering his displays at Wyoming last term and the difference in standard between the NFL and the Mountain West Conference. Whether he could benefit from a year of sitting behind McCarron or Peterman and learn the rigours of the NFL from a safe environment, which may see an easier path to the post-season in the future in the AFC East.