A couple of weeks prior to the draft, Bills GM Brandon Beane was asked if he was more likely to trade down and out of round one, instead of up. He indicated that moving back to round two was more likely, and there were moments on night one of the draft where he believed trading back was inevitable. But seeing the top tight end on the board slide down within striking distance after the Giants traded up to 24 to take a cornerback, it left Buffalo's personnel boss with an opportunity he could not let pass.
"Well, I lied, we traded up," said Beane after moving up two spots to select Utah TE Dalton Kincaid with the 25th overall pick. "You guys probably knew I was going to do it anyway."
This was the fourth time in five drafts under Beane in which the Bills had a first-round pick and traded up. Much like last year's draft when he saw his pool of players with first-round grades on the Bills board dwindling quickly and moved up two spots to select CB Kaiir Elam, Beane moved the same distance to land one of the best pass-catching weapons in the class.
"If Dalton was not there, we would have traded back," said Beane. "We had a good feeling that Dallas would take him (at 26), and we just really liked him and just felt he would be a great fit in our offense."
Beane called the Giants and good friend, GM Joe Schoen, about moving up to their spot at 25, but the Giants were trading up themselves one spot to pick 24 to take Maryland CB Deonte Banks.
"As soon as I heard that, I called Jacksonville," said Beane, knowing the Jaguars were now holding the 25th pick. "Right away, they weren't sure, they waited until they got on the clock, talked it through and got it done."
The Bills gave up their fourth-round pick at 130 overall to switch spots with the Jaguars in round one and land the tight end from Utah who led the FBS in receiving yards and catches per game last year despite a back injury that cut his season short after just 12 games.
Kincaid's versatile skillset stands out
Kincaid has been enormously productive throughout his college career, which began at UC San Diego before he transferred to Utah for his final three collegiate seasons. The Las Vegas native's basketball background helped provide him with some of the most dependable pair of 10 ¼-inch hands you'll find in a tight end prospect.
"Elite hands," said Beane about what stands out most about Kincaid's skill set. "Really good route runner, good feel setting up guys inside. There's always the card telling you as a player what to do, eight yards here or there, but sometimes the defense changes. This guy has got a great feel, great instinct. You guys saw it from a different position, Cole Beasley, great feel. This guy with a different body type does that. But I would say the number one thing about him, elite hands, good route runner, separation ability at the top of the route."
Evidence of that came in his four career drops in college. His receiving average of 15 yards per catch was also a very high figure for a tight end. Only Georgia TE Brock Bowers, who is expected to be a top 10 pick next year, had more receptions and receiving yards than Kincaid last season, and it was due in part to Bowers playing more games.
Another rare skill that Kincaid provides at the tight end position is his run-after-catch ability. The Utah product forced 16 missed tackles in his final collegiate season, one of only three FBS tight ends to do so. He also had eight receptions of 25 yards or more.
Scroll to view photos from the first round of the Buffalo Bills 2023 Draft Room.
What Bills can expect from new TE
A converted high school receiver, Kincaid is also a touchdown maker with an eye-popping 35 in his college career.
"I feel like I'm just kind of diverse in what I can do," said Kincaid. "I feel like you can line me up in the slot, in-line, you can spread me out. So I feel like one of my strengths is being able to do all that. And then, with that comes having to learn all that. So I like to pride myself on being smart. So I feel like that kind of ties in with what I do well on the field."
For Buffalo's offense it's a welcome weapon in an AFC conference that is in a full-throttle arms race. Kincaid's diversity as a pass catching option may not only re-establish the safety valve option in the pass game to defeat blitzes, but he can stretch the field, and perhaps most important force defenses to limit their personnel changes and declare their intentions pre-snap.
"Generally when you're in 12 (personnel – one back, two TEs), if you've got two 'Y' (in line) tight ends you're going to get base defense," Beane said. "When he's in the game, we're going to get nickel (defense) as if we're in 11 (personnel – one back, one TE). So it's just a different style player. He's 6-3, just under 250. He's not a receiver, but he's more of a receiver. We're not going to be having him block a lot of six-techs (defensive ends)."
Kincaid was not able to take part in any of the pre-draft testing either at the NFL combine or the Utah pro day due to a small compression fracture suffered last November when a defender fell on him awkwardly at the end of a play. His personal doctors cleared him on April 12th for full football activity.
"Our doctors cleared him, checked all that through and we compare grades around the league as well," said Beane. "He was definitely cleared."
Kincaid also cleared all of the Bills' necessary requirements of being a playmaking option in their offense. And while there might be other options later in the draft to augment their offensive firepower, Beane was not going to let this touchdown maker slip from his grasp.
"It's not like we had to do it (on night one), but we felt strongly about Dalton and his skill set and what he would add to this offense," said Beane, who even hinted at a few common traits to Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce. "Anytime you can add a weapon for your quarterback and your offense, you don't pass that up unless there's just someone clearly better."
For the Bills on night one of the draft, there wasn't.
Check out the best photos of Bills first round pick tight end Dalton Kincaid's career at Utah. This gallery is presented by Ticketmaster.