Mock drafts at this point in the offseason are equivalent to throwing darts blindfolded.
With Senior Bowl practices getting started Tuesday in Mobile, Ala., the process of formulating draft boards is just beginning. The NFL Scouting Combine is still to come, as is free agency, pro days and team visits with prospects. All of those factor into setting a team's draft board, a process that won't be complete until at least early April.
"We're a long way from where we need to be," General Manager Brandon Beane told reporters Tuesday at the Senior Bowl.
One thing mock drafts can give us, though, is at least an idea of where players generally are being projected. So it was noteworthy when ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft last week, and had Wyoming's Josh Allen going No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns.
Is that guaranteed to happen? Of course not. Allen has long been thought of as a first-round talent, but few, if any, prognosticators have had him going No. 1 overall. What Kiper's projection shows is the inevitable rise quarterbacks go through in the pre-draft process.
Think back to last year at this time. There were mock drafts that had the Bills selecting Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes ... in the second round. Mahomes, of course, went No. 10 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs, who traded up with the Bills from No. 27 to get their quarterback of the future.
The best way to build a consistent winner is to land a franchise quarterback. Look at what’s happened in Philadelphia, where Carson Wentz led the Eagles to the No. 1 seed in the NFC before getting hurt. Or Los Angeles, where Jared Goff led the Rams to a surprising NFC West title.
After the Senior Bowl in 2016, Goff was projected as the No. 7 overall pick by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller. A few months later, he went No. 1 overall.
"You want a franchise quarterback. Everybody does," Beane said at the Bills' season-ending press conference earlier this month. "I said that back when I got here. That’s one of the GM’s main jobs is to have a franchise quarterback. It’s a quarterback league. Where you get it, I really don’t care. If you give me one, whether he’s on the street now, whether he’s a free agent, whether I draft him, I’ll take one anywhere."
The best – and by far most cost efficient — way to find that guy is through the draft. With six quarterbacks thought to be possible first-round picks this year (Southern Cal's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Louisville's Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph joining Allen), it's a good time to be looking. But Beane would be taking a huge gamble if he stands pat with the 21st and 22nd picks in the first round and hopes his franchise quarterback falls to him. As Allen's projection, and Mahomes' rise last year show, the Bills have to be ready to make a bold move up the draft board.
Rosen and Darnold have long been thought to be the top two picks, in no particular order. If Kiper’s projection comes true, that would push one of them down a notch, but there’s almost no chance either of them make it out of the top half dozen picks. Among teams picking in the top six, Cleveland (with the first and fourth picks), the New York Giants (No. 2), Denver (No. 5) and the New York Jets (No. 6) all have big needs at the position.
If the Bills want one of the perceived top four quarterbacks (Rosen, Darnold, Allen or Mayfield), they may need to go all the way up to the No. 3 or No. 4 pick.
"We've got to do a good job with all positions of putting a value on where they belong," Beane said Tuesday. "If you put a quarterback, a guy at the top you think he's a top-five guy, that's one you'd make a move for. But that's any position. That comes with a hefty price to be able to do that from 21 or 22 where we're at. So we're not saying we would do that. To go up there, we'd have to really feel good about it."
Story topics: Brandon Beane