For most of the 2015 season size was noticeably absent from Buffalo's receiving corps. Of the players who got regular playing time on offense last season, the tallest wideouts were Chris Hogan and Sammy Watkins at 6-1. The Bills made concerted efforts down the stretch to add size receivers to win more jump ball battles and make plays on contested throws. Some were even signed as reserve/future free agents earlier this month. But it's clear the Bills are looking to add a size receiver with starter level talent if possible this offseason.
"We need to get someone opposite Sammy to be a real threat to that defense," said Bills Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos. "I think that's a big key to our offense to take another step."
Both Monos and GM Doug Whaley have confirmed that they are still waiting to see what Percy Harvin decides regarding his future playing career, with being fully healthy the first hurdle that the receiver has to clear. The Bills front office knows they need to be proactive, not only because of Harvin's situation, but the other parts of their receiving corps that remain undefined. That's why they'll have some measure of focus on the receiver prospects at this week's Senior Bowl practices.
"I think first of all you've got to look at the uncertainty that we have," said Whaley in a recent appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550. "Robert Woods has had some medical issues and ended the season on I-R. Chris Hogan is going to be a restricted free agent. Percy Harvin has got an automatic opt out, a void in his contract. So just by sheer numbers it's a position we're going to have to entertain."
Buffalo signed Greg Salas, Jarrett Boykin and Greg Little in an attempt to bolster the size quotient on the roster.
At this week's Senior Bowl there is top half of the draft talent, but finding the size to go with it might prove more difficult. Instead of lamenting the fact that size is lacking at the receiver position in this year's draft class, Whaley and his college scouting staff will be out to find the wideout prospects who they think can help them as soon as next season.
"You're just going to go with the best guy," Whaley said. "Obviously you'd love to have the 6-5, 4.4 speed guy like Calvin Johnson. But along with all other positions we're going to seriously look into that and if there's a guy there that we think can help us, there's nothing that would preclude us from taking that guy."
Here's a look at some of the top end receiver talent at this week's Senior Bowl, with some size prospects that are flying under the radar.
Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard is probably the most highly touted prospect in Mobile this week. He's coming off an ultra-productive 2015 campaign that included 86 catches for almost 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. Shepard is considered more quick than fast, but knows how to create separation to make himself available to his quarterback. The only question is how he'll handle the far more physical cornerbacks in the NFL at just 5-10 and 191 pounds. He's been projected as high as a second-round pick.
Rutgers WR Leonte Caroo,though only 6-1, 215, had quality production in the Big 10 with 94 catches for almost 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns his last two seasons. He's great at setting up defensive backs, but has some off the field concerns that need to be ironed out after an arrest for assault. He's forecast as a second or third-round pick.
Ohio State WR Braxton Millerhas the same height and weight of Caroo, but is put together more like a tailback. He made the transition to receiver from quarterback in 2015, and NFL scouts will want to see further development in practices this week. His lack of experience makes him a raw route runner as he does not yet understand all the nuances of the position. That's why despite his athletic gifts he's seen as a third-round prospect.
SE Missouri St. WR Paul McRobertswas one of the most productive receivers at the FCS level with 175 receptions for 2,435 yards and a school record 29 touchdowns as a three-year starter. McRoberts knows how to use his body to shield defenders and make plays. He has big hands and possesses good sideline awareness with his feet. He could use some refinement as a route runner, which is what scouts will be looking for in Mobile this week. One of the few players with legit size and length in the draft has McRoberts viewed as a third-round prospect.
Other optionsAmong some of the other players at the Senior Bowl with the kind of size teams are looking to add to their receiving corps include Baylor WR Jay Lee (6-3, 220). He's a strider, wall-off type of receiver. He's good on back shoulder throws, but he lacks suddenness and is not a separation guy.
Cincinnati WR Chris Mooreis put together well at 6-2 and 195 pounds. He's really good in traffic and not only wins jump balls, but adjusts to throws that aren't on the money. Moore delivered some clutch plays for the Bearcats with 24 touchdowns over his final three seasons.