Buffalo Bills Free Agency: WRs Damiere Byrd & Breshad Perriman

One is a name most fans are probably familiar with, Breshad Perriman. The other is Damiere Byrd, a player who is a relative unknown in the league but after watching his tape I believe he is a starting NFL wide receiver. These two players are very different in terms of physical stature, but both can provide a lot of the same things the Bills are looking for. 

Damiere Byrd

Who is Damiere Byrd?

Byrd is a 5th year WR who has started 6 of 28 career games since entering the league as an Undrafted Free agent in 2015, including 3 of 11 in 2019. He was most recently featured in the Spread system under HC Kliff Kingsbury and was lined up at the X, was tasked with providing speed and explosiveness on the outside at all three levels of the field. He missed weeks 4 and 5 with an injury and was a healthy scratch in weeks 9, 10, and 11. But he finished the year strong with 14 Receptions, 171 yards, and 1 TD on 15 targets with a catch% of 95.8% in weeks 15-17.

He spent the 2015 season on the practice squad and played 2016 and 2017 in the Erhardt-Perkins system under OC Mike Shula. In 2018, he played in the Erhardt-Perkins system first under OC Norv Turner, but his most productive season was 2019, his first year in the spread system under HC Kliff Kingsbury. 

Body Type/Athletic Ability

He has measurements (5’9″, 180 lbs.) that are sure to turn off some members of Bills Mafia who dead set on a big wide receiver, but his athletic ability is bordering on elite as evidenced by his #RAS score below:

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He has marginal height and weight but good hand size and very good arm length. He has a solid muscular build, shows very good AA with elite acceleration and explosiveness and very good balance, agility, quickness, and COD. 

What CAN he do?

His elite speed, explosiveness, and acceleration get him a free release most of the time due to defenders playing off coverage against him. When a defender does press him, he shows very good competitive toughness and good play strength and hand usage to fight through the jam quickly. He has very good balance on display when the defender uses a punch at the line and is able to keep his weight centered.

Elite speed and acceleration are on display as he shows elite explosiveness in and through the second level. He can quickly put defenders in conflict even if they were playing off coverage and shows competitive toughness and good play strength in the stem and doesn’t allow the defender to knock him off his line or get rerouted. His go-to move on Dig and Out routes against man coverage are speed cuts, which he executes very well showing great play speed and separation quickness.

He shows good hands and body control on balls located outside his strike zone and can twist his body and extend his arms above his head or to the side on balls thrown too high or behind him.  In contested-catch situations, his competitive toughness is on display, as he is willing to fight through contact and make the catch. He excels near the sideline and does an excellent job keeping his body under control and his feet inbounds.

On Slant routes, he does a nice job of sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the breakpoint. He has good concentration on deep balls, tracking the ball well and is willing to come back to underthrown balls and fight through coverage to make the catch. Therefore, he has the speed, acceleration, agility, and explosiveness for big gains after the catch as he quickly turns upfield and is willing to fight through tacklers for extra yardage. Overall, he shows good mental processing against zone coverage and can find the soft spot, making himself available to the quarterback. He doesn’t shy away from contact when blocking and actively seeks out his assignment in run blocking and shows a lot of toughness. Basically, he plays the way you would expect someone 4 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier to play. 

What he CANNOT do

He doesn’t have a lot of reps against press or soft man. You would like to see him vary his speed in the stem and become more nuanced and refined when it comes to exploiting leverage and manipulating a defender’s hips. He is too reliant on his top-end speed, and this works against him at the breakpoint where he seems to be running too fast to use anything but a speed cut. This can result in reps where he runs himself out of bounds before he can make the catch. I would like to see more consistent YAC for a player with his athletic profile. 

Projection

He could be a starting X WR who can run the whole route tree. He has very good speed, AA, hands, and competitive toughness that allow him to excel at all three levels. He is at his best in the intermediate area on Out routes and Dig routes where he can explode quickly through the break with speed cuts, but he needs to get better using head and shoulder fakes to manipulate defenders.

Breshad Perriman

Who is Breshad Perriman?

Perriman is a 5th year WR who has started 10 of 51 career games since entering the league as a 1st round pick in 2016, including 4 of 14 in 2019. He was most recently featured in the Air Coryell system under HC Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich and was called upon to provide vertical speed, attacking 20+ yards downfield mostly on Go and Post routes, lining up at all the WR positions.

He was thrust into the starting line up in week 15, 16, and 17 due to Mike Evans suffering a season-ending hamstring injury in week 13. In these three games, he totaled 17 Receptions, 349 Yards and 4 Td’s with a catch% of 68.3 on 26 Targets. He played 2016 and 2017 in a West Coast system first under Marc Trestman and then Marty Mornhinweg and played 2018 in the Erhardt-Perkins system under OC Freddie Kitchens. His most productive season was 2019, his first year in the Air Coryell system run by HC Arians and OC Leftwich.

Body Type/Athletic Ability

Perriman is one of those bigger (6’2″, 220 lbs.) wide receivers who should satiate your appetite for a big down the field, contested catch guy. He is also an Elite athlete as evidenced by his #RAS score below:

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(Personal note: All credit for the RAS goes to Kent Platte (@mathbomb). He’s a very nice guy and has helped me out quite a bit, so I encourage you to seek him out on Twitter or his website.)

Perriman possesses good height and weight, solid hand size and arm length, and has a solid muscular build. He shows very good AA with balance, acceleration, explosiveness, and Speed, and shows good agility and solid quickness.

What CAN he do?

He shows good release vs. press and soft man. Against Press coverage, he takes advantage of his play strength and mostly uses a speed release with either a chop or a swipe to get free of the defenders’ hands. When playing against Off/Zone coverage, his natural speed is evident. This holds true during the stem as well where he shows an explosive burst through the second level.

Very good play strength, competitive toughness, and balance coupled with a nice swipe move allow him to win in the stem against defenders who try to get physical with him. On short slants and flat routes, he shows good explosiveness, agility and solid quickness at the breakpoint. Separation quickness and play speed at the top of deep routes vs Man coverage is generated by his good play strength, acceleration, and explosiveness. On shorter routes vs. Man coverage, he does a good job of using head fakes to manipulate the defender’s hips and gain leverage.

Perriman shows solid concentration and mental awareness to track the ball when it’s in the air, and his body control and hands give him the ability to reach up above his head to extend to make catches or to reach back and outside his strike zone to make the catch. He excels near the sideline on contested catches due to his toughness, balance, body control, and play strength. His competitive nature was on display in the 4th quarter catching the game-winning touchdown for his team week 14 against the Colts. He has a nice ability to pick up YAC and has the agility to make defenders miss in open space, and his acceleration and explosion allow him to run away from defenders.

What he CANNOT do

Perriman doesn’t accelerate or explode off the line vs Off/Zone as quickly as you’d expect for someone with his athleticism. This is due to his long strides and inability to shorten his stride into more frequent explosive steps at the release point. In the stem on vertical routes, he doesn’t try to manipulate the DB’s hips or take advantage of leverage but shows adequate mental processing against zone coverage. He struggles to find the soft spots in the zone and doesn’t sit down in the zone, as he tends to drift towards defensive players. On inbreaking 90-degree routes or 180-degree cuts, he doesn’t sink his hips well and needs to learn to give a consistent effort on all the routes he runs, even if the play isn’t designed for him. Despite his size, he is not a great run blocker. A lack of consistent effort shows up here in addition to adequate COD, balance, and agility in terms of blocking specifically.

Projection

He has a high ceiling as a starter in a vertical passing attack if allowed to use his athleticism on deeper vertical routes. He is strong in the stem and at the catch point due to his body control, hands, ball-tracking skills, play strength, and competitive toughness. He isn’t ideally suited to an offense that runs a lot of comebacks or digs.

Conclusion

These two players have many similarities. Both are elite athletes. They possess top-level speed (4.27 and 4.26 40 times), explosiveness, balance, and agility. They both have good hands, fight through contact well, and are strong at the catch point. So why are they free agents? Injuries.

Perriman has had a torn ACL, PCL and hamstring injury while Byrd has broken his left arm twice and spent some time on Carolina’s practice squad. For those of you worried about Damiere Byrd’s small stature, I say this: he’s one of those guys who plays like he’s 6’2″ 220 instead of 5’9″ 180. Oh, for you “Carolina North” conspiracy theorists, Byrd was on the Panthers in 2015 and 2016 when Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane were there. I believe Byrd can run a more complete route tree than Perriman while Perriman is certainly bigger in stature. I personally would be happy with either player. However, Byrd would be much cheaper. In any case, I don’t think the Bills could go wrong with either player. 

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