The NFL Draft is just over two weeks ago, and there is little doubt that the Buffalo Bills are in need of additional help at wide receiver.
Past Sammy Watkins, the Bills have a collection of a lot of depth players, but no clear-cut favorite to be the starter along with Watkins. Many fans and analysts have pegged the Bills to get a wide receiver in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
But with so many needs, and a deeper-than-top-heavy class of receivers available in this year’s draft, there is a clear possibility that they’ll pass on the position in the opening round.
So, who are some names to know if the Bills do end up passing on a wide receiver? Five of my favorites in this year’s class past Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross:
(Note, these are my favorite second-tier wide receivers… not who I have ranked in order after the top three.)
1) Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
- I’ll start this off by saying my first post-season exposure to Josh Reynolds, before digging into his work at A&M, was the Senior Bowl. To put it lightly, I was not impressed. Drops plagued his week of practice, and on a bigger stage like that, that’s not something you’d like to say. When I went to watch him, needless to say, I was skeptical heading in. However, that skepticism melted away almost instantly. Josh Reynolds crosses off all the boxes that you’d want out of a receiver. First, his size is hard to ignore as a 6-foot-3, 194-pound player — though you’d want him to get stronger once he gets to the NFL. He’s got a noticeable wingspan that gives him an advantage in 50-50 opportunities. Usually, for a player that size, the initial first step is a bit slower than you’d want — but that simply is not the case for Reynolds. He explodes out of his stance and accelerates quickly. He gets in and out of his breaks with pace and is an above average route runner. He has a great vertical (37-inches) to go up and get the jump ball and has shown the ability to make the contested catches. You could just envision him dominating in a red zone situation. He might even be the most aggressive blocking wide receiver in this year’s class, too. The potential to turn into a starting player — and maybe even a number one wideout down the line — is there. Just to caution you, he will have some concentration drops that, quite simply, should have been caught. He needs to get a little bigger and will have to work on how to beat press coverage. However, there are so many positive traits that it far outweighs the anguish of a drop here and there. If I’m the Bills, and they haven’t taken a wide receiver at 10th overall and want to take one at 44th overall, I’m running up to the table with the name ‘Josh Reynolds’ on a card.
2) Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
- Odds are by now, you’ve heard of Cooper Kupp. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Division-FCS star wide receiver tore up the Senior Bowl with his route running through the practice week. He made some cornerbacks look silly, which has been something those at Eastern Washington have grown accustomed to. His route running, in lieu of his timed speed (4.62 40-yard dash), is where he gains his separation from defenders. He knows how to set up a defender before his break, and sometimes even turn them around before continuing out of the break and into the rest of his route. Though his acceleration lacks, he knows how to relocate to a soft-spot of the field with a throwing lane for his quarterback, which is what helped lead to such astounding numbers throughout his college career. He’s also a solid run blocker, which would give him a good handle on potentially become a number-two wide receiver in the NFL sooner rather than later. To get Kupp, a team will likely have to take him in the second round. The early third round is also a possibility.
3) Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
- It’s hard not to love Taywan Taylor’s ability, even if he might be more of a projection than the other players on this list. Taylor doesn’t possess the same type of size as the others on this list (5-foot-11, 203-pounds), but it’s hard to ignore how explosive a player he could be at the next level. Some will point to his timed speed (4.5 40-yard dash) and dismiss him, but his speed on the first step off the line of scrimmage is hypocritical of that timed speed. He shows an elusiveness to his game, he can get yards after the catch, and the suddenness to stop and start and make defenders miss. Now, in the Western Kentucky offense, they didn’t ask him to do a ton in terms of variance on his routes. However, I think with the right coaching, he’s the type of player that can eventually work in both the slot and as an outside receiver.
4) Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
- Next up is Virginia Tech’s Isaiah Ford, who has a similar skill-set to Reynolds, but isn’t as explosive after the catch. Like Reynolds, Ford is more of a thinly built wide receiver. At 6-foot-1 and 194-pounds, he has to make up for the fact that he may struggle against more physical coverage. However, Ford excels in a lot of similar areas: he’s got great body control on jump ball opportunities, his route running deceives the defensive back, he can make the highlight reel grab, and he plays much faster than his timed speed (4.61 40-yard dash) would seem to indicate. His footwork stands out more than anything, which is a trait that can earn him some early playing time. Ford will need to get bigger, become a better run blocker, and prove that he can be successful against the more physical corners. However, there is a lot to like from Ford, and he could be a solid target sometime on Day Two, depending on how quick the receivers go in the beginning part of the second round.
5) Amara Darboh, Michigan
- The first thing that stands out quite a bit about Amara Darboh is his size. At 6-foot-2 and 214-pounds, it’s clear that Darboh has an NFL frame before even setting foot into the league. It stands up to the physicality of defenders, too. He fights through press coverage, fights for catches, and even showed the ability to make the reception with defenders draped all over him. Plus, he’s shown the ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls and still make the catch. The problem, though, is despite his solid timed speed (4.45 40-yard dash), there isn’t a ton of explosiveness that shows up in his game. He certainly can get yards after the catch, but it didn’t show up a lot. Most times it was a catch, maybe a few yards, and then down he went. That said, if you’re looking for a player in (probably) the third round that can come in and win the No. 2 job right away, Darboh is tough to beat with those qualifications. He’s ready to play right away. But (warning: scouting jargon is coming), the ceiling for Darboh doesn’t appear to be nearly as high as some other players at the position.
Other names to know: JuJu Smith Schuster - USC, Chris Godwin - Penn State, Curtis Samuel - Ohio State, Zay Jones - East Carolina, Carlos Henderson - Louisiana Tech