State of the Bills: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Photo of WR John Brown from baltimoreravens.com.

The Bills pass catching unit was amongst the worst in the NFL last year. At 3,082 total receiving yards on the season, Buffalo only outpaced the abysmal Arizona Cardinals. Clearly, this is an area that needs to be upgraded in 2019 if the Josh Allen led offense is going to take the next step forward.

Brandon Beane wasted no time adding to the wide receiver room this offseason. The Bills have already signed the Canadian Football League’s leading wide receiver, Duke Williams to a reserve-future contract. This week, Brandon Beane confirmed that the Bills were working out a trade to acquire Antonio Brown before the player himself shut it down. Clearly, the team is going to be aggressive as they try and surround Josh Allen with some talent next season.

Photo of WR Robert Foster from buffalonews.com.

Returners

WR: Zay Jones, Isaiah McKenzie, Robert Foster, Cam Phillips

TE: Jason Croom

Draft Pulse

Photo of TE T.J. Hockenson from CBSsports.com.

WR: High priority, possibly more than one

TE: Medium-High priority, a possibility in the first round if they are able to trade back

Photo of TE Jesse James from PennLive.com.

Free Agent Tracker

WR: Tyrell Williams, Golden Tate, John Brown, Adam Humphries, Donte Moncrief, Devin Funchess, Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Hogan, Randall Cobb, Breshad Perriman

TE: Jared Cook, Jesse James, Maxx Williams, Tyler Eifert

The 2018 season, in terms of pass catchers, was defined by disappointing underachievers. There was some optimism surrounding two key veterans who offered a glimmer of hope for Bills fans.

Photo of WR Kelvin Benjamin from ESPN.com.

Kelvin Benjamin, who at times during his tenure in Carolina looked the part of a game-changing number one receiver, was one of the more frustrating players to watch in 2018. He amassed 354 receiving yards in his 12 games with the Bills before being released.

Charles Clay was a shell of who he used to be. There was also the crucial drop on Buffalo’s last offensive play in week 13 at Miami that could have given them a win. Neither player provided Josh Allen with the safety blanket he desperately needed. Neither player will be back in 2019.

That said, there was some promise late in the season. Robert Foster, who was released and then brought back earlier in the year, came on strong in the second half of the year. The 6’2″ wideout from Alabama averaged 73 receiving yards per game over the last seven games of the season. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark on three different occasions over that span, and finished with 94 yards on another.

Photo of WR Zay Jones from sportingnews.com.

Zay Jones struggled with consistency throughout most of the year, but strung together a decent sophomore season overall. He ended the year with 652 yards and 7 touchdowns.

The improvement from those two players offers a glimmer of hope, but there is no question that this position group needs help this offseason. Antonio Brown could have provided a huge lift to the offense. Brown is known to have one of the bigger personalities in the league and did not seem to be a culture fit in Buffalo, yet Beane was willing to take a chance.

If nothing else, this shows that the team is committed to getting Josh Allen help, and the trade market is very much still in play for this team. AJ Green, Odell Beckham Jr., and Nelson Agholor are some other names to watch as potential trade candidates.

As far as the draft is concerned, D.K. Metcalf is going to be mocked to Buffalo from now until draft day. He is an absolute freak of nature. The combine confirmed his elite athleticism while also raising some other concerns. Metcalf’s numbers rival those of Calvin Johnson, but his agility drills were staggeringly poor. This will be a major red flag for some people, but that doesn’t mean it will take him off Beane and McDermott’s board.

Photo of AZ State WR K’neal Harry from KDOW.biz.

There will be another of intriguing options in the first three rounds of the draft if Buffalo looks to address their needs there. A.J. Brown, N’Keal Harry, Hakeem Butler, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are just a few names to watch as the draft approaches.

At tight end, Buffalo is rumored to have an interest in signing Jesse James to a big deal this offseason. James was a steady option during his time in Pittsburgh. He may not be the flashiest signing at the position, but he offers versatility as a blocker and pass catcher.

Don’t count out T.J. Hockenson in round one of the draft, especially if Buffalo can trade down a few spots. He is another versatile tight end out of Iowa who possesses big time play maker ability. Buffalo needs a game changing weapon for Josh Allen and Hockenson could be that guy.

Buffalo is going to add at least one pass catcher in the NFL draft, probably very early on. Additionally, they are going to have to bring in some veteran leadership. Look for them to be shopping around the bargain bin for guys like Chris Hogan and Adam Humphries rather than big names like Golden Tate. Disagree? Tweet me (@joegeniti) and tell me what you think.

Editor’s babble: I could easily see the Bills drafting a tight end as well as sign another (or two) from free agency. Daboll loves two-tight end sets and with his creativity with the playbook, a couple of really good TEs would give him a lot of flexibility. Thanks to Joe Geniti for his terrific contributions to our blog.