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NFL Draft

TDN Scouting: Buffalo Bills’ Rebuild Did Have Flaws

  • The Draft Network
  • August 30, 2020
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It seems like the 2020 NFL Draft just happened, but we move fast here at The Draft Network.

Currently going through summer evaluations for the 2021 NFL Draft class, our scouting team of Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino, Jordan Reid, and Drae Harris are meeting up every day to discuss prospects, traits, and concepts. New to TDN is a daily scouting roundtable where we go through and identify the most important points of conversation from that day’s meeting.

Earlier this week, Marino went in-depth and talked about some of the negative aspects of the Buffalo Bills’ rebuild.

Losing Talent

Although the Bills have had an extremely successful rebuild—led by the likes of head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane—Marino does have two (minor) issues with how the process has gone down. The first of which revolves around the team getting rid of talented assets from the past regime.

"The first year McDermott took over, he was hired in January, and (GM) Doug Whaley was basically a lame duck,” Marino stated. “They didn't want to fire him until after the draft so they could keep his staff and the intel that came with that. So, I think the Bills made three mistakes in those months (with Whaley). They did some very good things in shaping that roster to get to where they are now, but they let Stephon Gilmore walk, they let Robert Woods walk, and they let Nickell Robey-Coleman walk. Whether it was tag and trade, or literally anything other than letting them walk—(that) would have been better.”

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Each of those three players has gone on to have terrific careers elsewhere, including the especially successful Gilmore. As the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, it’s tough to see a division rival turn your own draft pick into a star right in front of your eyes. Unfortunately, that’s what the Patriots did to the Bills. Marino, of course, took issue with this, although he did understand why it came to fruition.

"It just came down to McDermott coming into a situation (and wanting to clean house). I mean, the only player that is still around from pre-McDermott is Jerry Hughes. That’s it. So, he wanted to flip his roster and he wanted his own guys,” Marino stated. “I just don’t think enough care was given to being mindful of those guys getting away, or at least doing something to retrieve some assets for their services. They deserve criticism for that. I will say though, that Gilmore was a very good player for the Bills—even an outstanding player—but he wasn’t who he is now (when) he was with Buffalo.”

QB Conundrum

Other than letting Gilmore, Woods, and Robey-Coleman walk in free agency, the other issue Marino had with the Bills’ rebuild—and something that can be applied to virtually every team not named the Houston Texans or Kansas City Chiefs—is that they passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft.

“The other thing with that turnaround was they were completely out on drafting a QB in Round 1 (of the 2016 NFL Draft). It wasn’t even in consideration,” Marino stated. “So you’re sitting there (at pick 10) with Watson and Mahomes on the board and you don’t pull the trigger on either one of them. Now, they still traded back and got Tre’Davious White, so there were definitely some redeeming things in that trade back, but the fact they were picking 10 and didn’t jump at Watson and Mahomes, that hurts.”

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Compounding this quarterback issue was the fact that the Bills finished the next season much better than expected. This, of course, took them out of a high pick and forced them to trade up to get their intended target. It’s hard to blame any team for winning games, but in a sense, it did hinder their plans and made things look worse in hindsight.

“The Bills had no business going to the playoffs in 2017. That shouldn’t have happened. They didn’t have enough talent and didn’t have a good enough football team. So, when the Bills went into that 2018 draft with two first-round picks in the 20s, I don’t think they ever thought that was the position they were going to end up being in,” Marino stated. “When they passed on those guys in 2017, they were probably looking at guys like Sam Darnold thinking that ‘oh yeah, we’ll suck,’ but (with the successful following season) they then had to part with Cordy Glenn and two second-round picks just to be in a position to get one of those QBs. I think it was really cool that they got into the playoffs and ended a 17-year drought, but at the end of the day I just don’t think they expected that to be the case.”

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