The Bills have plenty of Smurfs in their WR room. Beasley, Brown, McKenzie, Roberts and practice-squadder Nick Easley are all sub-six on the measuring stick. Only 6-3 Duke Williams and 2019 afterthought Robert Foster at 6-2 can see what’s coming in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here are the “anti-Smurfs” who are eligible. The number to the left of each player is their current position on my own Big Board. You can see DraftTek’s posiitonal rankings here, Smurfs included.
#21-30. Tee Higgins, Clemson (6-4, 200, 4.47)
’18AP= 15.2 (yards per catch vs AP-ranked teams only in 2018)
’19Rec=59 (number of receptions)
’19YPC= 22.1 (yards per catch vs all teams played in 2019)
[Watch This — Post Route with YAC]
Teams value this size with that athleticism and YPC vs AP teams. The Draft Network says Higgins “can beat you in so many ways. He can cook you with his feet on a good route, he can beat you down the field with long speed, and he can make tough catches and get his feet down at the sideline”. That cued-up post route is pretty, with some “made-ya-miss” after the catch.
Scouted in SEC Championship and National Championship.
#9-10. Laviska Shenault Jr. Colorado (6-2, 220, 4.49)
[Watch This–See if the play looks familiar]
We call him Sammy Watkins with more aggression. Fourth in the country in yards per game in 2018, The Draft Network called him “big, strong, fast, and surly”. We may not have that four-part combo in our WR room. One concern is the small-chunk yardage; Shenault has the lowest YPC vs AP-ranked teams of my top 38 WRs at 8.7 ypc. However, he’s PFF’s highest–graded WR at 91.9, and led the Pac-12 in receptions and receiving yards per game as a true sophomore. He did it in only 9 games.
Scouted 4x, including Beane and Schoen, plus possible home visit.
#51-86. Omar Bayless Arkansas State (6-3, 207, —)
[Watch This red-zone candy]
When I wrote my notes, Bayless was leading the country with 137.8 receiving yards per game. He has been a one-man show, even logging two blocked punts this season on special teams. Add to it at least 132 receiving yards in five of six games. Only 9 WRs have a catch rate of 68% or higher in 2019, and Bayless leads them in YPC (19.2) leading 2nd-place Sage Surratt by almost 4 yards. That’s efficiency and explosiveness. Bayless is #51 on my board (and nobody else has him that high). I have the Bills drafting at RD2#50. Beane and Josh won’t have to hurdle anybody to take him.
#137-142; Me #54 Justin Jefferson LSU (6-3, 192, 4.4)
[Watch This Focus]
Jefferson vaulted up my board after he caught six passes for 108 yards in a 36-16 upset win over Georgia, and the more I learned about his work ethic, the more I saw the fit with the Bills. The Bills need someone with size to compete with Beasley, and JJ leads the country with 3.82 yards per route run out of the slot. He’s shown the ability to develop chemistry with Joe Burrow, and has the size-speed-quickness combo plate to qualify as an Anti-Smurf.
Scouted in Conference Championship and National Championship only.
#132-198; Me=#86. Chase Claypool Notre Dame (6-4, 227, 4.48)
Claypool was on my Day Two radar last year, but he returned. He uses his length, strength, and cunning so well, I have him higher than you’ll see on some lists. He seems to be what the Bills’ front office says they want, including getting separation, athleticism, and physical domination. Don’t wait until RD5-6 to pick him up. Grab him at RD3#86.
Scouted 2x in September.
92 Donovan Peoples-Jones Michigan (6-2, 208, 4.4)
Peoples-Jones got a look from Beane and Schoen against Iowa. He’s a fiery, athletic basketball player who plays football. While he’s not 6-4 like many of these anti-Smurfs, Peoples-Jones’ extra-wide wingspan gives him an ultra-wide catch radius, and his vertical jump at the Combine will make him 6-4! Add in patient, athletic punt-return skills and some good-old YAC magic. Maybe, just maybe, he makes it to RD3#86.
Scouted 1x against Iowa, Brandon Beane and Joe Schoen present.
UDFA Marquez Callaway Tennessee (6-2, 200, 4.52)
Another excellent kick returner in the same RD3-4 area is Callaway. Not as tall or flashy as some on my list, Callaway is doing his 1/11 on a 5th-place team, demonstrating a “my ball” mentality when he goes up for the pigskin. Callaway’s strength at the catch point is what really pops.
Not Scouted in 2018 or 2019.
105 Binjimen Victor Ohio St (6-4, 199, 4.53)
Described by the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy as “Long, elastic, and springy”, BV is an athlete to be sure, but he needs to be sharper out of his breaks. Like Collin Johnson, he relies too much on physical superiority and not enough on precise route-running. Still, you see see strong use of downfield blockers and strong hands at the catch point. Victor had chemistry with Haskins, so a reunion in Washington wouldn’t surprise me. This interview sounds like BV is channeling Sean McDermott.
Scouted 4x, GM Beane present.
110 Collin Johnson Texas (6-6, 220, 4.58)
My notes on CJ are concise: “Routes and forty bad, size and catch skills good”. When you’re big in college and can fend off tackles with long arms, you get YAC galore, and may experience difficulty in the NFL, at least early. Johnson’s YPC vs AP teams is among the best of the big boys (Only Pittman’s average is higher). Still, there’s some ceiling here. Johnson has shown a willingness to work on his craft, but Maddy Glab should watch out for CJ stealing her thunder with his docu-series, “Call In Johnson”. One of his v-log episodes is entitled, “Love The Process“: “Another day to get better”.
Dan Morgan at Game, 11/29/2019
54 Michael Pittman Jr. USC (6-4, 215, 4.52)
[Watch This Knox-like stiff-arm]
Pittman was Sam Darnold’s target du jour in 2018, so watch the Jets take him. Before 2018, Pittman was a no-name. In 2016, he only did special teams. In 2017, he languished on the bench behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, and Deontay Burnett, nursing a sore ankle. His father (who had played a short time with Cardinals) got involved in a tweetstorm, threatening to transfer his son, an ill-advised strategy which actually worked: Pittman Jr had 2 receptions, then 3, then 4 the following week. By 2018, Pittman was 2nd in YPC vs AP teams. While his YPC has now settled down to severely-average, his yards per catch was second to Jeudy among draftable WRs earlier this season. Pittman ran into the doldrums of inconsistency vs ND (4 catches for 29 yards). He demonstrates toughness (played 2nd half with thumb injury) and fierce “my ball” attitude at the catch point. But he still has the same father.
GM Beane watched both Pittman and Shenault on 10/25/2019.
123 Stephen Guidry Mississippi State (6-4, 190, 4.38)
My notes read, “Spindly, but toe-drag swag“. Moreover, the speed will make Guidry a post-Combine darling. But remember, speed doesn’t matter if you’re caught from behind. Guidry had the highest YPC vs AP teams in my top 20 in 2018, but juggling catches won’t cut it in the NFL.
125 Hasise Dubois Virginia (6-3, 215, —)
DuBois has size, hands, and athleticism, 15.9 YPC vs AP. Catches like this => and catches in traffic like this made McBeane take notice. His refusal to go down easily like this might earn Dubois a visit to One Bills Drive.
167 Isaiah Hodgins Oregon State (6-4, 209, 4.57)
Hodgins is tall and lanky, but has great athleticism, and precise route running. He showed he’s for real with a reach-behind TD vs Stanford, going 10-162-TD on the day. Scouts likely came to see his shorter teammate Tylan Wallace, but it’s Hodgins that led the country with 27 first-down receptions after 5 games. Hodgins is greener than Wallace, but keeping the chains moving is a Daboll priority.
179 Bryan Edwards South Carolina (6-3, 220, 4.52)
[Watch These Two]
Edwards has a thick frame, mature attitude, and work ethic to offer the WR room. He’s got zigs. He’s got zags. Edwards is known to “sell a route” extremely well, leading to separation or allowing another receiver to get open. Muschamp had this to say about Edwards: “Bryan is a very mature young man. He gets it. He has a real good work ethic. He pushes himself through adversity….We’ve got some other freshman receivers that can’t, quite frankly…The intangible qualities you look for in any player, Bryan has.” While he doesn’t have the blinding speed, Edwards always has that one big play per game. And he’s had a whopping 47 college games. That’s a resume.
Scouted 1x as of 11/2/2019 , GM Beane present.
185 Damonte Coxie Memphis (6-3, 200, 4.55)
Missed Tackles Forced is something you hear Beane say, especially when talking about playmakers on offense. Coxie has moxie: the focus and ferocity to win contested catches and force missed tackles. His 72 catches and 1184 receiving yardage last year (16.4 ypc), with the second-most contested catches among returning WRs was impressive, but his 2019 could even be better, with 20 missed tackles forced in only his first 5 games. No one has hauled in more first-down catches on third down, so my comp is our own Smokey Brown. Scouted 1x.
Editor’s babble: This is a great list to keep on file while watching college football the rest of the season. Thanks, as always, to Dean Kindig for his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.