Ranking The Bills-Scouted Receivers

Photo from thegamehaus.com.

Since the last week in August, credentialed scouts for the Bills have seen a plethora of WRs in live games. Eighteen of them declared for the draft, and are listed below. Here, I’ve attempted to rank order the WRs’ relative performances vs the given opponent in the Bills’ scouted games, and link you to cued-up video of the player in most of those contests. Remember that GM Beane gets access to full game film of every game, but the weight of the scouts’ opinions may bear on the selection of a new wide receiver –or two– for the Bills in April. I’ve boldly and foolishly added the round and pick he’d be available to the Bills (my pre-Combine guess, I’ll update them mid-March).

My Five-Tier Ranking of the WRs’ performances

First-Tier:

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP/Shutterstock (9877208bj) Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown (5) carries during an NCAA college football game between UCLA and Oklahoma in Norman, Okla UCLA Oklahoma Football, Norman, USA – 08 Sep 2018
  1. Marquise Brown vs UCLA=4 for 88; then vs WVU= 11 receptions for 243 yards and 2 TD. Before the game, Hollywood was seen sporting an Antonio Brown Steelers jersey. Maybe Hollywood got it from Brandon Beane! (RD1-2)
  2. Gary Jennings vs Oklahoma=7 for 225, 2 TD; then 1 TD in Senior Bowl (RD3), 4.49 speed, and a 73.17% catch rate spells value if he reaches the third round. Jennings, Renfrow, Godwin, and Trenton Irwin have the most game experience among those WRs who’ll be drafted. (RD3)
  3. David Sills vs Oklahoma=8 for 131, 2 TD; then 1 TD in Senior Bowl. Big but not overly fast, and a lower catch rate than I’d want, but his 18 receiving TD made Sills the 2017 FBS leader (tied). He becomes a DC’s nightmare close to the end zone. Our comp for Sills is Adam Thielen. Yep. (RD3-4A)
  4. Terry Godwin vs Missouri=caught 4 of 4 for 80; then caught 2 TDs in East-West Shrine Game . Godwin has the 4.4 speed and the “games played in college” (51) that McBeane like, and the games they saw might cause them to take a look. His catch rate over the entire 2018 season was a coin-flip 46.67%, however. (RD5A)

Second-Tier:

Photo of WR Kelvin Harmon from 247sports.com.
  1. Kelvin Harmon vs Wake Forest =15-134 (RD1 tradedown) Harmon is a very real possibility should the Bills trade their #9 pick. The Jersey native has the size and speed (6-3, 213, 4.44) to create mismatches downfield. He was great in 2017 with a 18.2 ypc average against AP-ranked teams, but he and Emanuel Hall had the draft class’s most precipitous drop-offs this year (6.5 ypc). He’d be a #2 receiver, and for some teams, that’d be fine.
  2. Dillon Mitchell vs Washington 8 for 119 1 TD (RD4B) Unlike Harmon (above), Mitchell’s average against AP-ranked teams went up in his last year. The 6-2, 189-lb wideout has 4.49 speed, although 2018’s 54.24% catch rate leaves McBeane with some digging to do. Mitchell’s games were scouted twice, where Harmon’s were scouted only once.

Third-Tier:

Photo of WR Anthony Johnson from chatsports.com.
  1. Anthony Johnson vs Rutgers=2 for 101, TD (RD3) Johnson, from our own Buffalo Bulls, had no games against AP-ranked teams, which will drop him, but turn on the tape and just watch. You’ll see Wow catches, surer hands than the Second-Tier players, downfield throws that he high-points, and precise routes. McBeane will notice that he gave Tyree Jackson a 124.2 passer rating when targeted, with corner routes (146.6) and hitches (136.1) even higher. Those are routes Daboll likes to run, and QBR that he’d like to give to Josh. Johnson’s 17.8 yards per reception was tops in the MAC, but …it’s the MAC. RD3 or 4A is the time to grab him.
  2. Riley Ridley=vs Mizzou 5 for 87 1 TD; then 3 for 37 vs Kentucky (RD2) Hollywood, Harmon, Ridley, and Ratliff isn’t the name of the law firm for the Buffalo Bills; it’s my short list of names at Pick #40 that could be called. The Bills have scouted 3 games in which Ridley did pretty well, and his 6-2, 200 measuring tape, NFL bloodlines, 4.4 forty time, and game tape all match up. He’s among the most sure-handed receivers in the draft class (67.57% catch rate this year). This is one player I could easily cheer for.
  3. Miles Boykin vs Pitt=4 for 84 (RD3) A second RD3 possibility is Miles Boykin. He stood out in the Pitt game with some sure hands and silky-smooth routes. He’s faster than he makes it look. Again, do you take Boykin in RD3, or see which of this tier makes it to Pick 4A?
  4. Stanley Morgan Jr. vs Michigan=3 for 61 (RD3) Maybe the Bills have their small speedy slot guys already. Morgan could last until RD4B or RD5, but his insane YPC vs AP-ranked teams might convince a team (like the Pats, who had a 4x Pro Bowler by the same name –no relation). Morgan displayed elite traits in the short game and some deep-ball production for the Huskers. He came up big in big games for them, and 23.6 ypc against AP-ranked teams. You know Bill Belichick will be interested.
  5. Jakobi Myers vs Wake Forest = 10 for 117 (RD5A) When the Bills are rounding out their draft class on Day 3, Jakobi’s name ought to get discussed. He leads the entire draft class in catch rate at 80%. He wowed in practice at the Senior Bowl with crisp and fluid footwork..He drops to Day 3 because he’s a one-year wonder, but eighty percent is insane.

Fourth-Tier:

Photo of Anthony Ratliff-Williams from GoHeels.com.
  1. Anthony Ratliff-Williams vs Miami =2 for 33 (RD4B) Guys in the fourth tier of scouted guys are going to be drafted, but they didn’t have a great day in front of Bills scouts. This is where review of game film over several games from more than one season comes into play. Ratliff-Williams is the quintessential example. He could go in RD2 or fall to the point that the Bills have to take him. He was a teammate of Austin Proehl, so you know the Bills have seen him for more than a year. He’s a dervish in practice, always asking for extra reps. He’s a locker-room favorite. First-Team All-ACC as KR (26.3 yards/return, 2 TDs), and has 2 passing TDs. Ratliff-Williams has the best YPC of anybody that should go on the third day.
  2. Darius Slayton vs LSU=3 for 33 (RD7A) Slayton had a decent game against LSU when the Bills’ scout was watching, but I doubt the Bills will still be looking for WRs when Slayton’s name is called. Or isn’t called. I’d take every WR on this list first. He’s slighter and not consistent as a receiver. His 45.24% catch rate should have been better.
  3. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vs ASU =7 for 91, 1 TD (RD3) Arcega-Whiteside is a contradiction left and right. He may the underachiever of the group. On the minus side, he was a Combine snub. But that’ll just make him work harder. On the plus side, 14.9% of Arcega-Whiteside’s 94 targets went for a TD in 2018. He’s not fastest one on the list, and his 58% catch rate is average at best. I doubt he’ll see 4.5 at his Pro Day. However, he has an almost-elite ability to win contested catches and box out defenders on jump balls, and his deep-ball receiving yards were near the top of the charts this year. How does a bumblebee fly? It’s because nobody told him he can’t.

Fifth-Tier:

Photo of N’Keal Harry from msn.com.
  1. N’Keal Harry vs Stanford =8 for 91, threw INT on trick play (RD2) This will irritate certain draftniks, but don’t shoot the messenger. The Bills scout saw N’Keal look merely human in his game against Stanford. Harry, Metcalf, and the unscouted Butler and Lil’ Jordan are the big boys that will see Day One and Day Two selections. He’s best at crossers (152.9) and go routes (134.5), which Daboll likes to run (and will run more with better OL protection). Harry is probably the best contested-catch WR in the draft, but he also can run the Patriots slant impressively. He singlehandedly was the ASU offense, with the FBS’s third-highest market share (over 41% of plays ran through Harry). I’ve heard comparisons to a less-quick JuJu Smith-Schuster. He seems to know how to be physical to gain separation without getting the OPI flags. I’d be okay with the pick; I just wouldn’t buy a jersey.
  2. Trenton Irwin vs ASU =7 for 79 (RD6) Now, this would be a huge value pick. Scouts saw Harry vs Trenton’s game, and at RD6, Irwin is the steal. He’s big 6-2, 205), fast (4.4), and sure-handed (77.14% catch rate). Per his coach, Irwin “works harder than anybody on that field. He will never take a play off, and he’s going to be a pain to cover”. The Bills had two hard-blocking Wrs leavethe team (Woods and Hogan), and Irwin is one of best downfield blockers in this class. He falls to Day 3 because he suffered a grade three MCL tear during the final game of the regular season, He’ll resume workouts in April and likely do everything at his Pro Day.
  3. Nyquan Murray vs Clemson 5 for 49 (RD7B) – Diminutive (5-11, 185) but sure-handed (78% catch rate in 2018), “Noonie” Murray is one of those guys everybody passes on 7 times, then he goes to the Super Bowl with Tom Brady. Please let me be wrong. Murray was impressive in 2017 despite a slight meniscus tear in March. He came back to lead a poor passing team with 40 catches for 604 yards and 4 receiving TDs. This isn’t a WR1 or even a WR2, but a nice complement to a strong WR corps.
  4. Hunter Renfrow vs Florida State 4 for 28 (RD2-3) – Similar in size to Noonie (5-10, 181), Renfrow kind of bombed his audition in front of Bills scouts, but he’s still in my Top 10. Why? 78.9% of catches this year, can kick return, punt, and win over a fanbase. I’m rooting for this guy …unless he’s a Patriot.

Editor’s babble: Crossing fingers our homegrown WR Anthony Johnson finds his way into a Bills uniform. He would be a perfect target for Josh Allen because he’s used to having a QB w/a cannon arm tossing bombs his way. Thanks, as always to Dean Kindig for his incredible work providing us with his draft wisdom. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.