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How the New Wide Receiver Core Shapes the Rest of the Offseason



(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

The Current Players

With the recent additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley, and an earlier addition of Duke Williams, the Bills wide receiver depth chart has drastically changed. Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, and Ray-Ray McCloud III round out the remainder of the seven players projected to compete for the opening day roster. With the exception of Duke Williams, none of the receivers are taller than 6’1″, but they all have significant speed to compensate. Out of this group, it seems Brown and Foster will be the ones stretching the field for Josh Allen. Zay Jones and Beasley will look to hold down the slot by running precise intermediary routes over the middle of the field and to the sideline. McKenzie and Williams provide positional depth and utility, as well as some untapped potential. The entirety of the position group is extremely deep and quite fitting to the type of receiver Allen prefers, but blatantly lacks a primary playmaker. All of the receivers on the team appear to be second and third receivers, and are ones who benefit greatly when they are not the go-to option. This does not mean they will be unproductive, but expect the front office to make further tweaks to the group in the future.

The Implications

(Photo by Ken Murray/Getty)
  • The Draft. These additions can be interpreted to impact the draft in the variety of ways. Thus far, the Bills have provided tremendous depth to the rest of roster, and have completed moves to that allow the front office to take the best player available at pick #9. Barring a trade back in the draft, it’s likely to assume a defensive player will be selected considering this is one of the best defensive drafts in a decade. An offensive linemen to shore up the right side of the line would also suffice at #9. But don’t count out the Bills selecting the best wide receiver available either. A freakish athlete like D.K. Metcalf, Hakeem Butler, or N’Keal Harry would complement the rest of the group perfectly, and would ideally serve to take attention off of the speed guys. They also would give Brian Daboll far more flexibility with the offense, as a physical receiver would change the dimensions of the offense. Relying on on Allen launching the ball a million miles off of a play action pass to Foster and Brown will only work so many times a game. Giving him a true game changer on the boundary, and one who is physical enough to make contested catches in many areas of the field would transform the offense. Don’t count out a receiver in the first round.
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
  • The Roster. Even if they Bills do not take a receiver in the first round, they have been noted to have scouted a variety of wide receivers thus far in the draft process. At the very least, look for them to take one in the middle rounds. If this happens, one or more of the core seven receivers previously mentioned are likely to end up on the chopping block. Brown and Beasley are near locks to make the roster given their freshly minted contracts, and Foster’s strong rapport with Allen most likely makes him safe too. McKenzie’s versatility within the offense, and his return ability will probably reserve himself a roster spot, despite having his a lot spot taken by Beasley. This might come as a surprise, but Zay Jones very well could be on the roster bubble, particularly if the Bills take a receiver in the first three rounds. His development has been slow, especially considering the production he had in college. Furthermore, the type of game he plays differs strongly from the type of throws that Allen typically make last season. Zay was constantly running routes over the middle and to the sidelines, usually to no avail. That may be because Allen didn’t have the vision or the time in the pocket, but it’s clear he is constantly trying to push the ball down field the majority of the time. Zay’s game just doesn’t seem to mesh well with Allen. Williams and McCloud are already on the bubble. Williams is a complete flier and could end up just being a camp body. McCloud is most likely on his way out too, given his lack of production both as a return man and a receiver. If the Bills invest a relatively high draft pick in a wide receiver, Zay could be the odd man out.