Barring sudden and considerable improvement in his work, football fans won’t stop reminding the Chicago Bears that they drafted Mitch Trubisky when they could have had Patrick Mahomes. The Buffalo Bills have always been second on the critics’ list because they handed the Kansas City Chiefs the opportunity to grab Mahomes.
But it’s time to reconsider. Yes, the Buffalo Bills are among the 29 (at least) other NFL teams who wish they had Mahomes as their quarterback. After further review, however, the trade no longer rates as DeAndre Hopkins-to-the-Cardinals bad.
The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs made a straightforward deal
The Buffalo Bills went into the 2017 NFL draft with more problems than solutions. They had fired Rex Ryan during his second season and had Tyrod Taylor at quarterback on a team that finished 7-9. In the offseason, owners Terry and Kim Pegula hired Sean McDermott as the coach before the draft and Brandon Beane as the general manager after it.
With Beane not yet there, president Russ Brandon and GM Doug Whaley, who was fired the week after the draft, were making the calls on personnel. With Buffalo holding the No. 10 pick but the roster riddled with problems, the Bills made a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid got that No. 10 selection in return for the Chiefs’ first-rounders in 2017 and ’18 and a third-rounder in 2017.
That part of the deal will always be difficult for Bills fans to swallow since they needed a quarterback, and two picks coming late in the first round aren’t overwhelming compensation for a No. 10 overall pick. The fact that Patrick Mahomes turned out to be a beast of a quarterback made the deal feel even worse for many months.
Josh Allen has come to the rescue
Unlike the Chicago Bears, who took Mitch Trubisky at No. 2 in the 2017 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills appear to have their long-term quarterback – it’s just that Josh Allen arrived a year later. The Bills selected Allen with the seventh pick in 2018.
Allen went through two nondescript seasons but has flourished in 2020. He has thrown for exactly 4,000 yards through 14 games and has 30 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions. He was recently selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time, and the Bills absolutely will exercise his fifth-year option. In short, he looks like the QB that Bills fans have been waiting for since Jim Kelly’s retirement.
Certainly, some of the credit for Allen’s rapid improvement goes to the upgrade of talent around him. Most notably, the Bills sacrificed draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings this past offseason to acquire Stefon Diggs. That addition has given Allen the extra receiving threat that was lacking in the quarterback’s first two seasons.
The Buffalo Bills made the rest of the trade work for them
The same night that Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes, the Bills used the 27th overall pick that they acquired on cornerback Tre’Davious White from LSU. White has started 60 of a possible 62 games entering Week 16 of the current season and earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2019. He has 15 picks in his career.
The third-round pick in 2017 that Buffalo acquired from Kansas City was No. 91 overall. The Bills bundled it and their own second-rounder to the Los Angeles Rams to move up seven spots, which allowed them to draft receiver Zay Jones. Jones turned out to be a bust that they shipped to the Raiders for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft.
As part of the deal with the Rams, Buffalo also acquired LA’s fifth-round selection in 2017. The Bills combined it with their own third- and fifth-rounders in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons that allowed them to move up to late in the second round. Buffalo drafted Temple left tackle Dion Dawkins, who has become a four-year starter.
Finally, there was the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2018, which was No. 22 overall. The Bills packaged that pick and selections in the third and fifth rounds to acquire the Baltimore Ravens’ first-round pick. Buffalo then took Virginia Tech inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds at 16th overall. Edmunds has been a three-year starter and was just selected to his second straight Pro Bowl.
In summary, the Bills missed out on Mahomes and had to invest additional draft picks, but they landed three solid starters and found their own potential franchise quarterback along the way.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.