The days of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan and Marquise Goodwin are long gone for Bills receivers, and the team averaged less than 200 receiving yards per game this season. With 2019 on the horizon, the receiving corps has plenty of candidates for the roster, both in-house and from the outside.
NOTE: this article includes only wide receivers, not tight ends
The Locks: Zay Jones, Robert Foster
Zay Jones took a huge step in his second season, developing from an unreliable rookie into Josh Allen’s top target by the end of the year. He recorded six touchdowns in his last seven games and became a frequent red zone read for Allen. His presence on the roster will be crucial for the QB’s development. Robert Foster was huge towards the end of the year. The undrafted rookie didn’t get consistent playing time until Week 10, but recorded a catch of 25+ yards in six consecutive games and had three 100-yard performances. While the notion that he’s a future number one receiver is likely an illusion, Foster can still be a tremendous deep threat for years to come.
The Near Lock: Isaiah McKenzie
Like Foster, Isaiah McKenzie didn’t get much playing time until the Week 10 win over the Jets. McKenzie was picked up by the Bills after spending time with Denver and immediately brought a new, ultra-athletic option to the Bills attack. He didn’t have quite the same production as Jones or Foster, but barring an utter collapse in training camp McKenzie shouldn’t have a problem making the roster.
The Question Marks: Ray-Ray McCloud, Cam Phillips
The Bills spent their sixth round draft pick on Ray-Ray McCloud this past year, and while he played in ten games, there was never a legitimate effort to involve the electric return man/receiver hybrid in the offense. He made five catches for 36 yards on the season, but was often forgotten among other receivers and will need a strong camp showing to make the roster. Cam Phillips is a question mark purely because he didn’t get enough exposure. He was stashed on the practice squad for much of the year, only making three appearances and one catch. However, Phillips was lauded by the coaches and analysts in training camp and is likely to get another shot at the 53-man.
Let Him Walk: Deonte Thompson
The Bills signed Deonte Thompson in Week 12 in hopes that he could spark the offense and give Josh Allen another target down the stretch. Unfortunately, his disappointing start to the season in Dallas continued, and he recorded just three catches over six games. At this point, Thompson is 29 and not worth bringing back onto the roster.
Realistic Free Agency Options: Chris Conley, Chris Hogan, Adam Humphries, Jamison Crowder
In addition to all of the in-house solutions, the Bills will definitely be looking to upgrade the position in free agency. Obviously not every free agent receiver is a legitimate option, but Chris Conley, Chris Hogan, Adam Humphries and Jamison Crowder are four that come to mind. Conley (32 catches, 334 yards, 5 TDs) was an underappreciated option in the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs offense, but in a larger role could thrive. Hogan (35 catches, 532 yards, 3 TDs) could be a candidate to return to Buffalo after his time in New England. Humphries (76 catches, 816 yards, 5 TDs) had a breakout season in Tampa this year, but could be looking to move. He could become a true number one in Buffalo. Crowder (29/338/2) dealt with injuries after three straight seasons of 600+ receiving yards. He could step in as a quality number two behind Jones.
Draft: DaMarkus Lodge, David Sills, Anthony Johnson
It’s becoming more apparent that the Bills are not looking to select a receiver in Round 1, but Rounds 2-4 could be a great spot for a WR selection. DaMarkus Lodge has seen his stock soar from mid-round pick to a possible first-rounder, but it’s realistic to think the Bills could find him there in the second. David Sills is an intriguing prospect from West Virginia, who at 6’3” is a tremendous red zone threat and will likely go in the middle rounds, and Anthony Johnson is a University of Buffalo product who’s a wild card of sorts in the draft. Depending on his pre-draft process, Buffalo may be able to pick him up as a late-round steal.
Featured Image Credit: Brad Penner