With the 2013 NFL draft over, we have a better vision of what the Buffalo Bills are looking to do on both offense and defense. However, while we have an idea of what the coaching staff has in place, there are several positions that are up for grabs. Over the next week or so, we’ll be previewing each and every position that will have a competition.
With this edition, we’ll be covering the wide receiver position.
Note: Players listed in alphabetical order, not by depth chart
Dorin Dickerson made an interesting announcement once the offseason began, as he switched positions from his tight end/full back role to wide receiver. At 6’2” 230 pounds, Dickerson is a big, strong player that hasn’t really been given an opportunity to utilize his skill set since being a seventh round draft pick in 2010.
While Dickerson’s role in the offense won’t fully be clear until training camp and preseason, his versatility and athleticism could prove to be a valuable asset for the new “innovative” and “multiple” offense that head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are installing.
(Note: Be sure to check out our Q&A with Dorin from last month.)
A fan favorite, Marcus Easley has only played four career offensive snaps since being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. From a height-weight-speed perspective, Easley is exactly what you look for in a wide receiver, and general manager Buddy Nix noted this in the team’s pre-draft luncheon.
At 6’2” and 217 pounds, Easley has bounced back and forth between the practice squad and the 53 man roster, but former head coach Chan Gailey only utilized him in a limited special teams role last season.
Easley certainly isn’t guaranteed anything at this point, but it will be nice to see if the new coaching staff can get something out of him this year.
The Bills signed former Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Kevin Elliott after claiming him in mid-December. Elliot is a big, physical possession receiver that carries his 6’3” 220 pound frame well. He caught 10 passes for 108 yards in limited action with the Jaguars last year and is definitely a player to keep an eye on in training camp.
(Note: Be sure to check out our Q&A with Kevin from last month.)
The Bills used their third round pick in the draft to select former Texas speedster Marquise Goodwin, also an Olympic track star. Raw as a route runner, Goodwin can blow the top off of defenses in addition to providing special teams ability.
In the voluntary mini-camp prior to the draft, Coach Marrone stressed the terms “tempo” and “speed” on numerous occasions. Goodwin brings that to the table and should be a contributor early.
The Bills’ 2012 third round pick, T.J. Graham had an up and down rookie campaign, catching 31 passes for 322 yards and one score. Due to limitations in the offensive scheme, Graham’s deep speed wasn’t fully utilized which led to him being used mainly on bubble screens.
With a full year under his belt and an offseason to hone his craft, Graham should make a much bigger impact with the Bills in his sophomore season.
(Note: Be sure to check out our Q&A with T.J. from last May, following the 2012 draft.)
Chris Hogan was an undrafted free agent out of Monmouth and is most famous for being given the nickname “7-11” on HBO’s Hard Knocks during his time with the Miami Dolphins, due to the fact that he was seemingly always open. Hogan is a quick receiver that gains separation with crisp routes.
Hogan was promoted from the Bills’ practice squad in December, but didn’t see any time on the active roster.
Stevie Johnson is a clear lock as a starter, after being the first wideout in Buffalo Bills’ history to record three straight 1,000 yard seasons. Johnson’s role will likely change this year, as Buddy Nix stated that he’d like to see him utilized in the slot more often, where his exceptional route running and ability to gain separation will be put to better use. Johnson has really emerged into a leader on the team and should put up big numbers in 2013.
Brandon Kaufman signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent after setting an FCS NCAA record by gaining 1,850 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Bills scout Brad Forsyth had this to say about Kaufman:
“Big, strong and deceptive speed where he gets on top of people and gets downfield. He uses his height, length and strong hands to make a lot of plays downfield for them. He dominated that level of competition. A junior coming out early so he’s still young, but he’s got a legit chance.”
Another undrafted free agent, Kevin Norrell was a two-year starter for Stony Brook after transferring from Washington State due to off the field issues.
“He began his career at Washington State and had an issue there and ended up at Stony Brook,” said Harris. “He’s a shorter kid, but he’s got good hands and is probably a little bit better in the slot. He played outside there and he was their number one receiver. Good hands and competitive. He has 4.6 speed, but finds a way to get separation with his quickness. Norrell has some shiftiness to him. He’s had some spectacular catches.”
An undrafted free agent, Da’Rick Rogers is a first round talent at the wide receiver position. Rogers wasn’t drafted due to numerous off-the-field issues and terrible character reports. Nonetheless, the Bills took a flier on the 2011 SEC receiving leader as an undrafted free agent. If Rogers can keep his head on the straight and narrow, the 6’2”, 217 pound receiver could easily be the biggest steal of the 2013 NFL draft.
Brad Smith was signed prior to the 2011 season to a moderately priced contract, but the team failed to utilize him since he became a member of the Bills. Smith is a versatile weapon, having the ability to serve as a wildcat quarterback, a wide receiver and a kick returner.
Smith is set to make just above $7 million over the two years remaining on his contract.
The Bills selected the perfect complement to Stevie Johnson in USC’s Robert Woods. The all-time Trojans leader in receptions won’t wow you with size or speed, but Woods is an exceptional route runner with sure hands that has the ability to gain significant yards after the catch.
Woods can play both X and Z receiver positions, but hasn’t had any experience in the slot. With the new “multiple” west coast offense Coach Doug Marrone is installing, Woods is the perfect fit.
Projected Depth: Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Da’Rick Rogers, Marquise Goodwin, Kevin Elliott, Dorin Dickerson, Brad Smith, Marcus Easley, Brandon Kaufman, Kevin Norrell, Chris Hogan