After massive payday, Bills QB Josh Allen fine-tuning mindset during offseason


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Can I apologize in advance for something? I go to all these training camps, and before I arrive, I think of the biggest story of camp. Here, in the land of the table-crashers and the home of the Bills, that story is certainly, Has GM Brandon Beane done enough for the pass-rush to put salve on the team’s only real major negative? In the last two drafts, the Bills have had a total of three picks in the first two round, and each has been used on a pass-rusher—A.J. Epenesa last year (then limited by Covid), Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham this year.

FMIA Quiz: Who led the Bills in sacks last year?

I’ll give you a clue: Unless you’re a Bills Mafioso, you’ll never get it. Mario Addison and A.J. Klein tied for the lead, with five. They’re 33 and 30 this year, by the way.

Last year, in two meetings against the kingpins of the AFC, Kansas City, the Bills sacked Patrick Mahomes twice for minus-four yards. He threw five TDs with no picks. He was comfortable, passing for a combined 128.0 rating and winning by 14 and nine points. KC’s the Mount Olympus of the conference, built to last.

The Bills have built a very good team, the best here in a quarter-century, and optimism here is ridiculously high. But . . . there is a but. “We gotta be able to rush the passer better, and we knew that,” coach Sean McDermott said to me here. “Will we? I don’t think we know yet.”

That is the priority in camp. While Rousseau is still getting his feet wet in only his second season as a pass-rusher, I heard good things about Basham (57 tackles behind the line in four Wake Forest seasons) in camp. “His inside-outside versatility’s been impressive,” Beane said. We shall see.

So a few sentences ago I apologized, and here’s the reason. It’d have been good and understandable to write everything here about the pass-rush, and to dissect what I saw from the three kids and from the 33-year-old vet, Jerry Hughes, who the team hopes to get another good season out of. But there’s something else that interested me a bit more, and I apologized because I’ve been over-writing the quarterback. It seems to be a story in almost every camp I’ve attended.

The fans are euphoric, and rightfully so, about Josh Allen. No one’s begrudging him or the Bills for the biggest contract by far in franchise history, a deal that will pay him $2.56 million, on average, for each game the Bills play over the next six seasons. I like the contract, and I like the timing. Quarterback deals do not go in reverse. Great quarterbacks play contract-hopscotch, with Matt Ryan using Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson using Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott using Deshaun Watson, and now Josh Allen using Dak Prescott. (Mahomes’ deal is a bit of an outlier because of its 12-year length, but I digress.)

Allen is the justifiable heir to Jim Kelly as the greatest Buffalo has ever had, a 25-year-old with all the tools to be an all-timer. I would have done exactly what Beane did—lock up a guy who’s truly all about winning, who has shown he can come back late to win some big games (Rams, Pats last year), and who got much better throwing the ball to spots last year, completing 69.2 percent in an offense that relies on smart decisions by a strong-armed quarterback.

There is one thing he’s got to get better doing. He’s got to be better in the biggest spots for the Bills to win Super Bowls.

In the two meetings between Buffalo and Kansas City last year, Mahomes was a 78 percent passer, Allen 56 percent. The Bills were down by three at the half in the regular-season meeting and went punt, punt, TD pass, interception in the second half; KC won 26-17. In the AFC title game, the Bills trailed 21-12 at the half and went field goal, interception, TD pass, field goal in the second half. Good, but 19 points in two second halves against KC is not good enough. Buffalo didn’t lead in the second half of either game.

The day Allen was drafted seventh overall in 2018, New England was the AFC king. But Tom Brady’s gone, and now the king is in Missouri. Now the Bills have to figure a way to beat Kansas City, and Allen has to figure a way to go toe-to-toe with Mahomes. You might say it’s unfair to measure him against Mahomes, solely. But it’s not. Mahomes is the standard in the AFC; he’s won a Super Bowl, an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes is 25. Allen is 25. It’s not all on Allen. But the quarterback has to win in the NFL these days, somehow, some way. And it is fair to judge Allen against the best—because he has a good chance to be the best.

In part, that was a focus of Allen’s this offseason, working with his quarterback tutor, Jordan Palmer, in southern California. Palmer stressed with Allen to play with a quieter mind, and to be calmer. In the past, mistakes were too mentally taxing for Allen, who told me: “Back in the day I tried to play pissed off on the field and I found myself not playing very well, tensed up. Now, whether it be small things like listening to calming music pregame, to not be so hyped and anxious for the game.”

The goal, in particular, is to play a more level game. It’s hard to blame Allen, after being The Man at mid-major Wyoming and coming to Buffalo and having to be the same for the Bills to have a chance, for thinking he had to be Favrian late in games for his team to win. Of course he has to be great, but he also has to make the plays he can make and not stretch beyond. “Just trying not to be a hero,” Allen said. “Trust in the guys on the field with me, trust in the playcalls, and not try to do too much and I think that’s something that I kind of had in my rookie year was trying to play hero-ball and it’s something I’ve been working on. I’ve got an extreme amount of trust in the guys on the field with me, with coach Dabs [offensive coordinator Brian Daboll] and the relationship we have with calling plays and us going out and executing. So I’m in a really good spot mentally with that and I feel like I’m getting better every day with that.”

(Palmer also stressed something else cliché-y with Allen: Finish. Like, finish everything you do. That includes, for instance, not taking the gimmes on the golf course. Your approach shot lands six inches from the pin? Don’t pick it up. Putt it.)

The good thing about Allen’s contract is now the Bills know they’re going to be contenders every season for the foreseeable future. They’ve got a quarterback who can play at the highest level of the sport. Now he’s got to take the next step. He’s got to win the biggest games.

Read more in Peter King’s Football Morning in America

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft CB Rankings: Devon Witherspoon highlights loaded draft class


The 2023 NFL Draft is growing nearer, with just weeks remaining until teams make selections that could alter the future of their franchise forever.

A solid secondary is crucial to any team’s defensive prowess, and for the teams looking to tighten up in coverage, this year’s draft is the one to do so.

The 2023 NFL Draft cornerback class is an incredibly deep one, but which corner will be first off the board? Chris Simms unveiled his 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback rankings this week on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast, posting Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon at the top of his list of corners in this year’s crop.

But trailing Witherspoon very closely are four other potential NFL superstars, with Simms ranking Michigan’s DJ Turner at No. 2, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez at No. 3, Maryland’s Deonte Banks at No. 4 and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo at No. 5.

The 2023 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 27, and end on Saturday, April 29. The first round will take place on Thursday with rounds two and three airing on Friday and rounds four through seven on Saturday. Click here for Simms’ quarterback rankings,and here for his list of top wide receivers.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms’ Top Five CB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Tier One

1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

2. DJ Turner, Michigan

3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Tier Two

4. Deonte Banks, Maryland

Tier Three

5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

RELATED: 2023 NFL Draft order: Complete list of every pick from Round 1 through Round 7

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft CB Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ CB draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1: Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

What Simms said: “This guy is must-see TV. He’s up there with one of the most twitchy, sudden people I’ve ever seen in my life to the point where when he takes off, you’re like, ‘Wait, is that real? Did he really get to full speed in half a step?’ … Bump or off, both are phenomenol —  it’s rare to have that. He’s got very good play strength for a guy that’s 5’11” and a half at 181 lbs. He doesn’t know that, he thinks he’s 220 … It’s efficient and easy. He’s sudden and can see the ability to accelerate whether it’s downhill or sticking the foot in the ground and changing direction. As compared to my No. 2 and No. 3 guy, he might be a hair tighter in his hips, but his twitchiness and explosion and acceleration … you just start to go, ‘What does this guy not have, besides the fact that he’s not 6’2” or over 200 lbs.’ He’s phenomenol.”

No. 2: DJ Turner, Michigan

What Simms said: “To me, (DJ Turner is) the most technically sound corner in the draft. There’s nobody better at technique. Like Witherspoon, the ability to mirror receivers at the line of scrimmage, the quick feet, it’s phenomenol. His hips are better than Witherspoon … His ability to flip those hips, turn and break on the ball, it’s right up there. It’s actually more smooth hip-wise than it is for Devon Witherspoon … What more can you say about the guy? Start-stop ability, amazing. Make-up speed, amazing. Other than Witherspoon, I think he’s put in the second-most tough spots out of anybody I’ve watched in this. He plays man-to-man, in your face a ton against big-time receivers. He’s awesome defending double moves. He could be the best nickel or outside guy, and he’s also the fastest guy in the draft. He’s got it all.”

No. 3: Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

What Simms said: “There’s not much to pick apart here … He’s got a little more size and meat on his bones. The Tee Higgins of the world, the bigger receivers of the world, they’re gonna have a harder time pushing him around and doing that stuff. He’s got incredible ball skills … He looks prototype. He looks Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey-ish in his uniform …  He just wasn’t as edgy as the other guys … He’s gonna match up better with DeAndre Hopkins than the other two. But I don’t know if he’ll match up better with Jaylen Waddle or Ja’Marr Chase than the other two … But his technique is real. He’s a top-20 pick. You talk size, technique and straight speed, of course this guy is one of the top corners in the draft.” 

No. 4: Deonte Banks, Maryland

What Simms said: “He has more measurables like Gonzalez. 6 foot, 197 lbs., there’s a thickness to him and a power and strength element that certainly jumps out. Let alone, speed is Real Deal Holyfield … man-to-man, great legs, runs easy … He’s comfortable in his speed. He’s never panicked. He’s comfortable in going, ‘You have a step on me? That’s fine, I’m good,’ … But he’s also incredible, like Witherspoon and Turner, at getting on top of people when they try to run a go-route. No one can ever really get around him for the most part … He’s sticky as hell, he’s got very good feet, but he doesn’t know how to use his hands at all yet. So he’s not really that great at jamming people at the line of scrimmage, but he’s never not there … I thought his ability to play the ball and create PBUs in those 50/50 situations where the quarterback tries to throw the ball back shoulder and all that, he’s got a great feel and vision to be able to cover and see the throw at the same time that I was very impressed with.”

No. 5: Kelee Ringo, Georgia

What Simms said: “When you turn on the film, you go, ‘What? This guy’s a corner, he’s not a safety?’ Because he has a prototype safety vibe … Against the bigger, straight-liner guys, nobody’s gonna push this dude around. That’s certainly not going to be an issue, that along with the straight speed. Hey, the change of direction stuff is not beautiful. He’s a little heavy-footed because he’s a bigger guy … but it’s not bad … When he opens up, he can really go; obviously with a 4.36 second 40 time … He’s very smooth as far as an athlete overall.” 

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback Rankings

  1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
  2. DJ Turner, Michigan
  3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
  4. Deonte Banks, Maryland
  5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!