Buffalo Bills Training Camp Sleepers: WR Kevin Elliott

This upcoming 2014 NFL season is an extremely important one for the Buffalo Bills. Following Ralph Wilson’s death, questions surrounding the team’s future have been non-stop. The Bills’ roster finally has come together with enough talent to make quite a few analysts believe that the team could finally get over the hump into the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

While the talent and potential of the players on the roster exists, a large number of unheralded sophomore and third-year players will be taking on large roles for the team.

In the coming days, I’ll be taking a look at a few young players that could see a bigger role than most expect with the 2014 Buffalo Bills.

WR Kevin Elliott

Most of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been ringing the bells for Kevin Elliott, ever since the Bills claimed the 6’3” 220 pound wideout from the Jacksonville Jaguars at the end of the 2012 season.

Elliott was a standout for Florida A&M in the MEAC, generating 2,472 yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with 27 special teams tackles in his collegiate career. Despite coming from a small school and having to adjust to the speed and talent level in the National Football League, Elliott possesses all of the physical traits, quickness, strength and route running ability, that you look for in a bigger wide receiver.

Elliott was picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent, but played 10 games in 2012, primarily on special teams. In limited action, he caught 10 passes for 108 yards, when he got a chance to get on the field over Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon.

One of the biggest roster deficiencies heading into the offseason was a lack of a “size” receiver—one that could out-muscle defensive backs and win 50-50 jump balls in the redzone. The team brought in Mike Williams, a 6’2” 215 pound possession receiver who’s game is basically that of a stronger Stevie Johnson, while adding Sammy Watkins, arguably the most explosive playmaker in the 2014 NFL Draft.

However, the “size” role is still up for grabs, with the primary candidates for the final receiver spot looking like it will come down to Chris Hogan, who’s primarily a slot specialist, Ramses Barden, a 6’6” former third round pick, and Elliott.

Kevin Elliott is an intriguing player for the Bills' 2014 Training Camp
Kevin Elliott is an intriguing player for the Bills’ 2014 Training Camp

Elliott was generating steam during last year’s training camp, before he suffered a torn ACL during a preseason game, putting an end to his season. I asked Elliott how that affected him and what he was able to learn while being away from the team.

“My injury was definitely a blessing in disguise. Even though it was hard not being able to play for a whole season, I took the time to get to know my body. I got the chance to rebuild both my legs, which I will allow me to come back ever faster and even stronger than before. I’ve got a ton of different emotions built up that I just can’t wait to pour out on the field this year.”

Elliott’s primary issue during his time with the Jaguars were inconsistent hands, which showed up in a 2012 game against the New York Jets, in which he dropped three passes, leading to his release the following week.

Drops are a widely debated trait of receivers that some can improve on, while others can’t. Stevie Johnson, who was the best Bills’ wide receiver over the past few seasons, was just as notorious among Buffalo fans for his untimely drops as he was for his uncanny route running ability, so Elliott won’t receive the benefit of the doubt as a bottom of the roster player.

In order for Elliott to earn a role on the 53-man roster, or even the game day roster of 46, he’ll absolutely have to prove that he provides value on special teams. At Florida A&M, Elliott led his team in special teams tackles in three of his four seasons, finishing his career with 27.

Final Words When compared against his primary competition, Chris Hogan and Ramses Barden, Kevin Elliott probably has the most upside, athletically and systematically. Hogan is penciled in the slot role, where Robert Woods is expected to see extensive time, and the coaching staff has even brought up Marquise “Flash” Goodwin as a possible suitor there as well.

Barden certainly stands out on a screenshot, standing 6’6”, but hasn’t even showed flashes of potential throughout his five-year career.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Elliott makes it out of training camp, but the fact that Coach Marrone has brought his name up multiple times in offseason interviews, combined with his ability to play both outside and in the slot, Elliott may have the upper hand when it comes to formulating the 53-man roster.