On day one of the NFL draft the Bills chose upside over NFL readiness in EJ Manuel. On day two of the NFL draft Buffalo stands a good chance of choosing the latter when it comes to addressing their receiver position.
Bills GM Buddy Nix has made it clear he wants a big target on the outside, who in his words “is open even when he’s not.” Size and speed are important as Nix and his staff want to give Buffalo’s offense a vertical threat that can also win jump balls in the end zone.
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“We're talking about the wide receiver position being deep,” said Nix. “It's going to always be deep the way colleges are going. They're playing with four and five wides, so there's more of them. There's always going to be good players and there are three or four that would fit that outside receiver job that could challenge deep and be a vertical guy.”
But there is one additional quality the Bills would prefer to have in the receiver prospect they choose and that is a polished wideout that is ready to legitimately contribute as an NFL rookie this fall.
Armed with a pair of second round picks it’s widely believed the Bills will strongly consider the receiver position with either pick 41 or 46. With just three receivers coming off the board in round one Thursday night and a few teams in need of a quarterback picking ahead of Buffalo there should be some NFL ready talent at wideout.
Among the better prospects still on the board at receiver include Tennessee’s Justin Hunter and Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers, who both made pre-draft visits to One Bills Drive, Cal’s Keenan Allen, Baylor’s Terrance Williams and USC’s Robert Woods.
Buffalo’s scouts see all four as polished receivers.
“Justin Hunter has the size and length and speed that you’re looking for,” said Bills National Scout Darrell Moody. “A little inconsistent catching over the middle. It’s not his hands, it’s concentration. He’s a guy that you’d probably draft as a number two receiver that has the ability that could develop into a number one receiver. He’s very interesting.”
Bills scout Tom Roth was very impressed with Rogers, who finished his at Tech after starting at Tennessee.
“He’s the most polished of those three Tennessee receivers in my opinion in terms of route running and all that,” said Roth of Rogers while referencing Cordarrelle Patterson and Hunter.
Rogers has some off the field concerns after getting kicked off the Volunteers team. Bills Director of College Scouting assures they’ve done their homework on the receiver.
“We’ve been tracking him and doing our due diligence with his intangibles and we’ve come to a decision and we stack him on the board the way he fits in our wide receiver group,” Cook said.
Bills scout Brad Forsyth, who scouts out west for Buffalo, had a similar personal opinion on the maturity of Woods’ game.
“He is as refined a receiver as I’ve seen in a while,” said Forsyth. “He really understands how to play the game. He’s faster than I think a lot of people give him credit for. He knows how to use his speed. He knows how to separate. A really, really good route runner. He just knows how to set things up, set DBs up, work the coverages and he’s got great hands and ball skills. Once he gets it he knows what to do with it too.”
Though Woods isn’t a giant Forsyth thinks he’s effective in a crowd competing for the ball.
Allen doesn’t win with pure speed, but the Bears receiver uses route savvy and his 6’3” frame to make plays, but Bills scout Matt Hand didn’t see him get chased down all that often on runs after the catch. A PCL knee injury is partially blamed for 40 times in the 4.7s.
“There are obvious speed concerns with Keenan Allen, but the thing that he does is he runs such crisp routes that he creates separation off of that,” said Bills scout Matt Hand. “So he plays faster than he’s running. What’s deceptive about him too is when he gets in the open field he doesn’t really get caught. His play speed is probably faster than what he’s going to run. Obviously with the injury he’s trying to recover from it did slow him down.”
Baylor’s Williams had ridiculous production in the Bears wide open offense with 97 catches for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bills scout Theo Young was most encouraged by Williams improvement as a senior.
“He’s got great skills. It’s not even comparable to what he did as a junior,” said Young. “He’s got great speed, good hands, can get off press and everything. He’s a smart young man that will work in any offense. Taller, leaner kid. I thought he was going to have a great year, but I didn’t expect that and they use everybody in the offense.”
Marshall’s Aaron Dobson and West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey could be considerations later in round two or early in round three. They were productive receivers in college, but their games might need to be refined a bit more.
“He’s a guy that’s a very good outside the numbers, a vertical threat,” said Bills scout Brian Fisher of Dobson. “He’s a long strider, but he can really eat up ground with those long strides. He’s got a second and third gear and consistently gets down the field. He has an excellent catching radius. He does a good job of tracking the ball down the field and adjusting his body on 50-50 balls and making the difficult catches.”
All Bailey did was put up 114 receptions and 1,622 receiving yards along with an incomprehensible 25 touchdowns for the Mountaineers, coming off a 1,279-yard season with 12 TDs the year before.
How the board falls in front of their pick at 41 will be the ultimate factor in determining whether a receiver is taken. But knowing Buffalo’s receiving corps beyond