Todd McShay has the same question that's on the mind of most Buffalo Bills fans: What’s the team going to do at quarterback in 2018?
The ESPN NFL Draft analyst published his third mock draft of the offseason Wednesday, but had the Bills taking a pair of defensive players with the 21st and 22nd picks – Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan and Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.
There’s a reason for that, though. McShay did not project trades in his mock draft, and as his explanation of the Bryan pick shows, quarterback is still the focus.
“The big question for the Bills is: What's the plan at QB? Will Buffalo package these two picks to go up to get a QB? Will the Bills sign one in free agency?” McShay writes.
By the time the Bills were “on the clock” in McShay’s mock draft, four quarterbacks had been chosen – Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold No. 1 by Cleveland, Wyoming’s Josh Allen No. 6 by the Jets, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield No. 11 by Miami and UCLA’s Josh Rosen No. 15 by Arizona.
(Sidebar: It’s hard to imagine a worse-case situation than that for the Bills, who miss out on the top four quarterbacks but see two of them land in the AFC East.)
Speaking on a conference call Wednesday, McShay broke down the performances of the top quarterbacks at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine.
McShay wasn’t overly impressed with Rosen’s on-field performance, saying he “didn't have his best day throwing the ball.”
“From the varying people in the league I talked to, he didn't get any negative reports about his interviews,” McShay said. “I got a lot of reports that said he was really good, but it's a 15-minute interview. It's tough to glean a lot from that. I got some that said he was OK. Nothing really negative there.”
Mayfield, McShay said, was “really consistent throwing the football,” and also impressed in the meeting rooms, while Allen “seemed to surprise some people with how good he was on the board.”
“There's some people who kind of came around on him," he said, "and were impressed by what he did at night when the cameras weren't on."
McShay has sensed a separation of the quarterbacks among some teams, with Darnold and Allen establishing themselves as the top two at the position.
“That doesn't mean it's for all teams, and certainly there are varying views on this year's quarterback class,” he said.
Although Darnold did not throw at the combine, he still is viewed by McShay as a potential No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland.
“He has no durability issues. He is as clean as he can be in terms of his character,” McShay said of Darnold, responding to a question about the Browns debating between a quarterback or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the first pick. “His mental makeup is perfect in terms of his competitiveness. He’s humble. He gets along with all his teammates, but he pushes them. He’s a leader. I think he would be the right decision there at No. 1, with the caveat of what are they going to do in free agency at the quarterback position?”
If the Browns were to sign Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron in free agency, McShay left open the possibility of Cleveland drafting Barkley at No. 1 and taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick – provided they like at least a few of the quarterbacks in the class.
McShay also explained why he liked the pairing of Allen with the Jets.
With new offensive coordinator “Jeremy Bates, you have someone … who I think could help Allen in terms of the consistency in his footwork, which should improve the consistency of his accuracy,” he said. He "has experience throwing in bad weather, coming from Wyoming. He's had the shoulder injuries. Otherwise, he's been durable. He's gotten bigger. He's gotten stronger. I can't speak for the Jets right now, but I think he would fit the climate that they're going to have to play in for a portion of the year.”
McShay’s most extensive critique came at the end of his call, and was saved for Rosen, the polarizing Bruins prospect. McShay was asked about the idea some teams might consider Rosen “too smart.”
(Sidebar II: Imagine being considered “too smart” for a job).
“I think that's one of his strengths is that he's highly intelligent,” McShay said. “I think what you've got to sift through, and some teams seem to be a little bit more concerned than others, but what you need to sift through is how does he treat his teammates? Can he be a good teammate?
“There's been some talk that he can be condescending when a receiver doesn’t run the right route or if they're not at the right place at the right time. And that he's a ‘why’ guy, too — which, again, depending on how he handles that, can be a good thing or a bad thing. And by 'why guy,' I mean if you tell him to adjust his footwork on this seven-step drop, he's going to ask 'Why?' and 'What's the benefit of it?' If they put in a new install and run some different plays, he's going to want to know ‘why’ and what the purpose is. ... For some coaches that's a great thing. For other coaches it becomes daunting. 'Just do your job. Just do what I say.' "
McShay called Rosen the “most polished pocket passer” in the 2018 class, adding that he “can have a lot of NFL success” before again circling back to a common question that has been asked of him.
“Does he want to be an NFL player? Does he want to put in the time and work? If he does, that's great,” he said. “Do you like him enough that you're going to bring him in your building and he's going to make it work from a personality standpoint? That kind of varies from one organization to the next depending on who's in charge and who your leaders are. I think it's going to be really important he goes to a place that's accepting and embraces who he is, rather than fighting to try to put him in a box that doesn't fit him."
McShay has the Bills passing on the other two quarterbacks viewed as possible first-round picks – Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Jackson goes to the New Orleans Saints at pick No. 27, while he doesn’t have Rudolph being selected in the first round.