Have you ever drooled over a draft prospect thinking they would be a perfect fit, only to watch McBeane and Co. inexplicably skip right over your crush when their next pick came up? Maybe it was because that player didn’t fit what the Buffalo Bills were looking for in terms of measurables, those NFL Draft numbers we all salivate over like the 40 Yard Dash.
Measurables are nowhere close to the full picture when it comes to evaluating a prospect, but there are simply certain physical realities to playing a game versus other large and fast humans that can’t be ignored, and that’s where baseline measurements come into play. This week, we will look at the Bills’ baseline measurements for the WR and TE positions.
Why Would the Buffalo Bills Draft a Pass Catcher?
The Bills don’t appear to have any immediate needs at WR. Stefon Diggs got his huge, well-deserved extension. Isaiah McKenzie is back, and his role may even expand a little. Bills fans get a dirty little grin imaging what Gabriel Davis might do as WR2, and Jamison Crowder is expected to take over the slot WR role from the departed Cole Beasley. All of those hopes and dreams have a valid foundation, but before scratching WR off the Bills’ list of needs, consider the reality…
- McKenzie had his lowest yardage total since his rookie year.
- Gabriel Davis has never had more than 35 receptions.
- Beasley averaged 77 reception over his three years with the Bills, and even if he matches that production, Crowder is only on a one year deal.
There are no guarantees the Bills only get best-case scenario outcomes.
TE has even less long-term certainty. Quintin Morris is the only TE on the roster with a contract past 2022. Read that again. OJ Howard, Dawson Knox, and even Tommy Sweeney all have deals that make them unrestricted free agents after the 2022 season. While most of Bills Mafia hopes Knox will get a new contract, when the likes of Ian Thomas can get $5.65M, the Bills might not be able to afford him.
The chart below is the average combine-style measurements for each rostered WR and TE during the McBeane Era (2017-2021). Most of this data comes from Relative Athletic Scores, operated by Kent Lee Platte at RAS.football (@Mathbomb on Twitter), some comes from Mockdraftable, and the rest comes from searching various pro day results. The bottom line is these are the measurements from the players the Bills have put on the roster, and that should give us some indication of the players Beane would look to acquire.
The blue line is the average of all 5 years of the McBeane Era. The red line is the range; meaning, of all the measurables available throughout that time, these are the extreme ends in either direction.
We could start examining the top available WRs and TEs in this year’s draft against the range. Let’s see what that looks like.
Examining the WR & TE Prospects
According to Dane Brugler of The Athletic, these are the top 10 WR and TE prospects available in the 2022 NFL Draft:
1. GARRETT WILSON – Ohio State
2. JAMESON WILLIAMS – Alabama
3. DRAKE LONDON – USC
4. CHRIS OLAVE – Ohio State
5. TREYLON BURKS – Arkansas
6. JAHAN DOTSON – Penn State
7. SKYY MOORE – Western Michigan
8. GEORGE PICKENS – Georgia
9. JALEN TOLBERT – South Alabama
10. CHRISTIAN WATSON – North Dakota State
1. TREY MCBRIDE – Colorado State
2. GREG DULCICH – UCLA
3. JEREMY RUCKERT – Ohio State
4. CADE OTTON – Washington
5. JELANI WOODS – Virginia
6. CHARLIE KOLAR – Iowa State
7. DANIEL BELLINGER – San Diego State
8. ISAIAH LIKELY – Coastal Carolina
9. JAMES MITCHELL – Virginia Tech
10. JAKE FERGUSON – Wisconsin
Here’s how they compare to the Buffalo Bills’ range:
- Yellow highlights indicate a result that falls within the Bills’ range.
- Green highlights indicate a result better than the Bills’ range.
- Red highlights indicate a result worse than the Bills’ range.
Note: “Worse” and “better” don’t have the ring of highly technical accuracy, but those terms are more applicable than simply “higher” or “lower” because the desirable end of each metric is relative. A “lower” 40 time is better, but a “lower” bench press is worse. This allows for visual consistency in the chart.
At first glance, most everybody falls within range for every measurement. That’s not really handy for focusing our draft research or getting to sound super smart on draft night. What went wrong? Range. Range takes in those far extremes. See that 240 on the high side of range in WR weight? Yup, that’s ol’ Popeye himself, Kelvin Benjamin. He’s the player that pushes the Range that high. No other Bills WR was over 229, and that was seldom used Duke Williams. The heaviest WR getting regular snaps? Davis at 210. So range is too all-encompassing a metric. Enter standard deviation.
(For a quick explainer on standard deviation, check here.)
Using Standard Deviation
Looking at one standard deviation in either direction from the Bills’ overall average (mean) generates results that encompass about 68% of all the players the Bills have rostered at WR and TE in the McBeane Era.
(Take a minute to appreciate the athlete that is Jelani Woods. He might not be a nuanced route runner yet, but he is a unicorn wrapped up in a pterodactyl who took the super soldier syrum.)
The next charts look at 2 standard deviations from the average (mean). Ultimately, that just means we are now looking at 95% of all the players the Buffalo Bills have rostered in the McBeane Era. It eliminates the extreme outliers, like Benjamin’s weight, while not being as narrow as the 68% chart.
You might notice that Height has been removed. That’s because I’ve gone back and forth on how I’ve formatted it between simple inches, feet/inches, or the draft style so many times the data has become pretty useless. That’s something I’ll have to straighten out for next year.
Introducing B.R.A. Size
Say what now?
Bills Relative Athletic Size
Looking at the top 10 prospects is fun, but which mid to late-round draftees are the type of athletes the Bills are looking for? BRA Size is a word play on RAS because of this dream scenario:
BRA Size assigns points to all the available prospects based on their scores compared to the 1 standard deviation measurements.
- Yellow = within 1 SD, 1 point
- Green = better than 1 SD, 1.5 points
The next two charts show the top 20 of this year’s draftees with the biggest BRA Size. (I am a 12 year old boy.)
If you’re interested in another prospect’s BRA Size, tag or DM @LowBuffa on Twitter and I’ll post it for you. But only you, because you’re special.
Can We Predict Who the Buffalo Bills Draft?
What do these charts tells us about whom the Bills might draft? Nothing, really. They might still draft a WR like Tre Turner from VA Tech, who’s BRA Size is only 3. Then why even bother with all of this if the Bills ignore their own parameters? If the Bills draft Turner, it tells us they like the other parts of his evaluation so much that they are willing to set aside their statistical norms, and that would be an intriguing piece of information.
Most importantly, the numbers in the orange columns will let you compare other WR/TE prospects you’re considering or evaluating. It won’t tell you who the Bills will or will not draft because of the multifaceted aspects of prospect evaluation, but we now have a better idea of what measurables Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott believe can typically operate within their system.
Between now and the first night of the draft, I’ll try to get the Bills’ measurables out for RB. You’ll be able to find them on Twitter by following @LowBuffa, or searching #BillsMeasurables on Twitter.
It’s draft week! Get out there and run way too many mocks. Imagine insane trade scenarios. Pretend you know the mind of Beane and…