The Buffalo Bills have lacked a long-term option at quarterback since the retirement of Jim Kelly in 1996, but seem poised to buck the trend in the upcoming draft. According to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, the Bills are ‘trying like hell’ to trade up for a quarterback. Furthering this notion that they desired an upgrade, the Bills traded three-year starter Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns early in the off-season. UCLA’s Josh Rosen is one player the Bills need to target to fulfill their most pressing need.
Why the Buffalo Bills and Josh Rosen Match Well
It’s evident that Buffalo desires a prototypical pocket passer to build their franchise around as evident by the Taylor trade. The Bills know that in order to have long-term success, stability at quarterback is a must. General manager Brandon Beane wants a quarterback with leadership skills and ability to make plays from the pocket, which describes Rosen perfectly.
At 6’4″ and 218 pounds, Rosen definitely looks the part of what the Bills envision as their guy. He’ll be able to throw with ease in poor weather, with hands measuring just under 10 inches. He will fit in any scheme due to his high football I.Q. and ability to make NFL throws, which is why the Bills and Rosen match so well. This is important considering the Bills hired a first-year offensive coordinator.
The Bills brought in Brian Daboll to be their lead play-caller after a disappointing finish to 2017 under Rick Dennison. Daboll had spent time as an assistant on multiple NFL teams, most notably on all five of Bill Belichick‘s Super Bowl-winning staffs. He showed the ability to mold the offense to the strengths of his personnel as the offensive coordinator of Alabama last season. Employing a run-heavy approach for the majority of the year, Daboll switched to a pass-oriented attack in the second half of the national title game when they made a quarterback change.
Rosen is the most pro-ready pocket passer available, giving Daboll an excellent canvas to work with. He’ll have a lot less pressure creating a viable offense for the Bills without having to worry about quarterback development.
Rosen Possesses the Talent the Bills Need
Rosen is arguably the purest passer in the draft, making him one of the most sought-after prospects. The Manhattan Beach, CA native displays high intelligence on and off the field, as well as maturity beyond his 21 years. As NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks points out, this should be a desirable quality in a team’s star quarterback, as it would presumably help Rosen learn the pro game and dissect defenses at a quicker pace than most prospects.
On film, it is evident that Rosen processes the game like a pro quarterback. He made good decisions on a consistent basis and had command of UCLA’s offense. Rosen routinely was able to throw his receivers open, while fitting his passes into tight windows. He is cool under pressure and shows he can make throws while being hit by pass rushers. When forced out of the pocket, Rosen’s mechanics rarely take a hit. He is a quick decision-maker and has above-average arm strength with a knack for putting plenty of touch on passes.
All of Rosen’s skills were on full display in the first game of 2017 against Texas A&M. Rosen orchestrated a 34-point comeback victory against the Aggies, in what was arguably his best game at UCLA. He was masterful in the second half despite getting battered by the Aggies’ defense. Rosen completed 35 of 59 passes for 491 yards and four touchdowns and showed plenty of drive and resiliency en route to a 45-44 victory.
This game was one of many that Rosen faced adversity and beat it. Teams generally want a player that can overcome the odds and will his team to victory. It was apparent on film that the Bruins weren’t the most talented team overall but were competitive because of Rosen.
In 2016, UCLA was 3-3 in games Rosen started until he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Without him, the Bruins were 1-5, furthering the notion that Rosen routinely elevated the play of his teammates.
Bills Are in Quarterback Purgatory
Buffalo was a poor passing team in 2017, ranking 31st in the NFL in passing attempts and yards. The Bills often struggled to move the ball effectively through the air consistently.
Taylor regressed in each of his three years as the starter for the Bills and had been criticized for missing open targets, taking sacks, and making poor reads. On film, his ball placement is poor at times, and he never really developed as an NFL-level passer.
The Bills were never better than 31st in the league in passing attempts on the season, and never better than 28th in passing yards with Taylor at the helm. Taylor managed an average of 186.6 yards per game in 2017. By comparison, the top-10 in passing yards in 2017 all averaged over 250 yards per game.
Top-end quarterback play was once a trademark of Buffalo, who boasted talents like Jack Kemp, Joe Ferguson, and Kelly in their first four decades of existence. Since then, they have been unable to have a full-time starter for more than three seasons. They took swings at only two quarterbacks in the first round in the 21 seasons since Kelly’s retirement. 2004 first rounder J.P. Losman struggled mightily with accuracy and the weight of being an NFL starter. In 2013, Buffalo reached for a project in EJ Manuel, who looked the part but never took to the pro game.
The Bills missed the playoffs in 17 of those aforementioned 21 seasons, largely due to their reluctance on drafting quarterbacks. They now realize that trend must end to build upon their playoff berth in 2017.
Rosen Offers More Than the Other Top Prospects
Rosen displays the right amount of confidence that teams want to see in their franchise quarterback. He’ll never go overboard with cockiness or on-field antics that would be a detriment to the image of the franchise, unlike Mayfield.
Scouts and analysts have drooled over Allen’s physical tools and size, but his skills as a quarterback pale in comparison to Rosen. Allen struggles with accuracy, mechanics, and footwork, often relying too much on arm strength to complete passes. Although he looks the part, guys like Allen rarely translate to the NFL due to the lack of polished skill.
How the Bills Can Select Rosen
Buffalo will have to trade up to the top-five in the draft, where Rosen is projected to be selected. They currently hold picks 12 and 22 in the first round.
The Bills have the right amount of capital to make the jump, possessing six picks in the first three rounds. Ideally, they’d need to go as high as possible, which would be the number two spot held by the New York Giants.
Beane and Giants general manager Dave Gettleman have a history together, with Beane working as Gettleman’s assistant in Carolina from 2015-16. This may make a trade more plausible between the two franchises.
The Bills could also try to swing a deal with the Browns at four or the Broncos at five, but the likelihood of landing the UCLA product would decrease.
Buffalo’s Best Shot at Success Is With Rosen
The best way Buffalo can return to glory is by selecting Rosen. He is the most pro-ready quarterback available in the draft, and fits the bill of what Buffalo is looking for. He is confident, intelligent, mature, and possesses top-end passing abilities.
While there are flashier prospects, Rosen gives Buffalo a clear path to long-term success. He can step in right away and provide stability under center, something the franchise has lacked.
The Bills and their fans can prepare for a new era at New Era Field with Rosen at the helm. Which is why they should do everything in their power to select him in the upcoming draft.