No position group on the Buffalo Bills is considered top-tier outside of western New York, but dissected, dismantled, and, for some, despised as much as the wide receiver corp. Buffalo has a top-five WR in Stefon Diggs and a top-five No. 22 WR in Gabe Davis; however, many still want an upgrade at the position. This is fair when you know your Super Bowl window exists as long as Josh Allen does, and you are battling the Chiefs and Bengals for the AFC year in and year out.
To move forward with this group, let’s first look back at 2022 with Diggs and Davis. Diggs with third in yards per game (89.3) for guys with at least 10 games played and Davis (55.7) was 29th. As for touchdowns, Diggs’ 11 were tied for second-most and Davis’ seven were tied for 12th. Lastly for counting stats, Diggs finished third in receptions with 108 while Davis’ 45 were 56th. A quick look at some analytics and these two are loved as well. Diggs is second in Football Outsiders’ DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and Davis is #27. In their DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) Diggs is third and Davis ranks 28th.
This offseason Brandon Beane has attacked the WR3 space with a pair of signings in Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield from the Saints and Dolphins, respectively. They will join sophomore Khalil Shakir in a battle for touches from the slot and behind Diggs and Davis in the pecking order.
Harty joined the Bills on a two-year deal that reportedly has a max value of $13.5M. He will not only battle for touches in the Bills’ receiver room but should be a dangerous addition in the return game. In his four NFL seasons, the Assumption product has nearly 800 receiving yards on 64 receptions and four touchdowns. Harty is joined in the room by another new addition in Sherfield. The former Dolphin, 49er, and Cardinal brings solid speed and size to Buffalo. The 6’1″ 219lb WR has 67 receipts for almost 900 yards and four touchdowns in his five-year career. What might be the most fun about Sherfield are tweets from rival Bills’ WR and his former teammate Tyreek Hill.
Life can come at you faster than a cheetah pic.twitter.com/NOmmUrv7HZ— Greg Vorse TV (@GregVorse) March 20, 2023
The biggest loss for the Bills felt a Lil’ Dirty for many fans when Isaiah McKenzie signed with the Colts. The hype from Bills Mafia for McKenzie often dwarfed his production. During his seven-year career, the Georgia Bulldog has 141 catches for 1,345 yards and 11 touchdowns. I do believe McKenzie’s charm and charisma will be missed in the locker room and his absence will certainly be noticed by fans. Outside of McKenzie, the Bills also appear to have moved on from Jake Kumerow and Cole Beasley, as well as Jamison Crowder, who signed with the Giants.
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The Dolphins combo of Hill and Jaylen Waddle is arguably the best duo in the league and that is obviously hard to beat no matter what team you are. The Bills’ combo of Diggs and Davis is also fantastic as is Garrett Wilson and whoever the Jets call No. 2 alongside him. As for the Patriots… YIKES!
My AFC East WR Rankings go as followed:
If the Bills decide to address the slot early in the draft and/or Davis takes another step there is no reason they can’t contend with Miami for the top spot and hold off a young Jets crew.
As mentioned above, Miami has a better WR room than Buffalo, and I think there are a few other teams that clearly have a nicer core of pass-catchers. Those teams are the Bengals, Eagles, Chargers, Bucs, 49ers, and Raiders. The Seahawks are also top 10, and if former University at Buffalo star KJ Osborn can step up for Minnesota, they deserve to be in any conversation with Justin Jefferson on the roster. After that, the Broncos should get some consideration if they are healthy, and both Dallas and Detroit have a legit No. 1, but we need to see what else develops. Even with all the teams I threw out here, the Bills are still top ten and could very well battle for top five in 2023.
I believe we all agree that snagging an elite slot WR would be a great get for Brandon Beane and the Bills. The No. 1 guy for that in the 2023 draft is Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who had 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021 before injuries derailed his 2022 campaign. I don’t foresee him on the board when Buffalo picks at No. 27 and assuming they don’t trade up, I’d turn my attention to 5’9″ 171lb Josh Downs of North Carolina in round two. I won’t steal all the good stuff that Chris Chous adds at the bottom of this article, but my favorite part of Down’s game is his free-flowing knack for getting open. You want a guy who creates separation and catches everything? You want UNC’s Josh Downs.
“Rankings for Puka Nacua are all over the map, but he is a physical WR who will fight for contested catches and offers run-after-catch ability too. According to PFF, he’s elite versus any scheme with outstanding Yards Per Route Run numbers against Man or Zone. Coming from BYU, opponent strength needs to be considered when you hear those stats, but at anywhere from pick 130+ he has the potential to be excellent value. Other players who had YPRR numbers in the same ballpark are Rd 1 or 2 picks Quentin Johnson and Jalin Hyatt. TDN noted that he “blocks his ass off too,” and that type of high effort could win Sean McDermott over,” @LowBuffa.
“What happens before the Bills select at Pick No. 27 will be critical to who they select at that spot (obviously). However, if either Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Zay Flowers are sitting there, Buffalo would be hard-pressed to pass on either. Throughout the entirety of the 2022 season, the Bills were looking for a security blanket that could fill in for the departed Cole Beasley. Their solution to this was to bring in…Cole Beasley. That’s likely not happening in 2023 but Smith-Njigba and Flowers could both fill that role. In fact, I’m fairly confident that both would not only be able to fill that role but excel at it, unlocking an even more dangerous version of the Bills’ already elite pass offense,” @UberHansen.
“It’s not every day a talent like Josh Downs is available in the second round of drafts. Being gifted with solid speed and glue-like hands, Downs also excels in awareness, route run ability, and separation! Adding true playmakers to a Super Bowl-caliber roster should be a priority for the Bills, and snagging Downs in the second round would provide Josh Allen an Amon Ra St. Brown type of player – with more speed, slot & outside ability, with a much higher ceiling!” @Chris_Chous.