Jerry Sullivan: Bills move down, Whaley moves closer to the door - The Buffalo News

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Jerry Sullivan: Bills move down, Whaley moves closer to the door

Here's a snap analysis of the first night of the NFL draft: The Bills moved down in the first round, and Doug Whaley moved closer to the door.

If there was any doubt that a new sheriff was in charge, it was erased at around 9:15 p.m., when the Bills swapped the 10th pick of the draft to the Chiefs. In return, they got Kansas City's first- and third-rounders in this year's draft, plus the Chiefs' first-rounder in 2018.

This move confirms my suspicion that new head coach Sean McDermott, the singular voice and and the only member of the organization allowed to speak about the draft beforehand, has indeed been given an unprecedented level of power over the personnel side by the Pegulas.

The draft is always a crap shoot. Instant impressions often turn out to be dead wrong, like most of those mock drafts. But after two decades of bumbling and miscalculation, what happened Thursday night was a refreshing sign, a puff of competence emanating from One Bills Drive.

A franchise that had made too many decisions for the wrong reasons over the years made a bold but sensible move. It's a low bar, I'll admit, but the Bills did the smart thing, the sort of maneuver the good franchises make, instead of trying to make an immediate splash to dazzle the masses.

That's not the kind of play that has distinguished Whaley's dubious tenure as GM. He's known for the short-sighted reach, the foolish gamble.  Evidently, the owners have grown weary. One day before the draft, an unnamed Bills scout told ProFootballTalk that "We are all getting fired next week."

After the quote went public, there was concern that some of the doomed men in personnel might sabotage the draft to get back at ownership. But with this bunch, how would you know the difference?

Well, trading out of the 10th pick had McDermott's fingerprints all over it. You get the sense of a man who feels secure in his job and has a long-term vision for his team. It's only a matter of time before Whaley walks the plank and McDermott overhauls the entire operation with his own people.

Time will also tell if Thursday's trade justifies the instant chorus of approval. But McDermott realized that he needed extra picks to build more depth into a depleted roster and contend down the road. He got a pick by not matching the offer for Mike Gillislee and two more in this deal.

That will give the Bills currency to move up in next year's draft, which is supposed to be stronger at quarterback. By moving out of the 10th spot, the Bills made it clear that they didn't believe Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes was a drop-dead cinch as a franchise quarterback.

More picks are seldom a bad idea in today's NFL. The Bills have a lot of holes. They lost a starting cornerback, two starting safeties, their second and third wide receivers, a starting defensive tackle, the best backup running back in the league, and their backup quarterback.

They filled one of those holes by using the 27th pick of the first round on Tre'Davious White, a cornerback from LSU. It was no surprise from McDermott, a defensive coach by trade. Every new Bills head coach since Marv Levy has used his first-ever draft pick on this side of the ball.

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But they still need a franchise QB. You can stockpile all the picks you want, but if you're not set at the most important position, you're nowhere. The Bills clearly felt they were better off looking to next year's draft.

The extra first-round pick gives them currency to move up next year, or to trade for a quarterback. Tyrod Taylor might blossom into a superstar, but the Bills didn't show much faith by giving him another contract with a one-year out. They're looking toward next year's QB class.

Let's see how this plays out. The Bills played the game right, but that doesn't mean it'll turn out well. Years of experience have taught me to be skeptical about this team. I'm not about to anoint McDermott as some budding personnel genius after one day, and before he coaches his first game in Buffalo.

Bills fans are famous for seeing things from their own perspective, but there are two sides to every trade. KC coach Andy Reid is 12th on the all-time list of NFL coaching wins. His Chiefs have gone 22-4 in their last 26 regular-season games. He knows a little about this football thing.

So if Reid and his KC people felt it was worth giving up such a bounty to get Mahomes, let's not be so quick to assume the Bills fleeced him. Reid has 173 coaching wins. McDermott, who worked for him in Philadelphia, has zero.

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Reid sees greatness in Mahomes, who is seen as a fabulous athlete but a project. McDermott was asked if it concerned him that Reid might know something that the Bills' personnel people did not.

"Does it worry me?" McDermott said. "You look at things and say, 'What's in the best interest of this organization.' Andy has his situation. We have our situation here. That's the nature of the draft. You stick by what's important and right for us, and that's what we did."

It was right and aggressive. Whether it helps the Bills break their playoff drought remains to be seen. They'd better get that franchise quarterback, or the maneuvering on draft night won't amount to much.

Meanwhile, if Mahomes or Deshaun Watson turn into elite quarterbacks -- and things don't fall right for them next year -- we might look back on this as yet another draft where the Bills lost ground in their eternal quest for their franchise quarterback.

At least the Bills had a coherent plan on draft night, and stuck to it. If this means the end of the Whaley era, it's a positive step forward. But it's also a very low standard. It's the Bills. Let's wait and see.

2017 NFL Draft tracker and first round selections – Bills trade down, take CB Tre'Davious White

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