Brandon Beane attacked the offensive side of the ball in this year’s draft despite his team having arguably a top-two offense in 2022. The Buffalo Bills finished last year second in the NFL in points per game at 28.4, and yards per game at 397.6. Beyond the box score, they also ranked second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) with a 19% score.
Looking specifically at the passing game, Buffalo’s 258.1 yards per game was seventh. The Bills’ 35 passing touchdowns came in second overall. Buffalo was also seventh in yards per attempt with 7.5 yards per pass.
Even with all that, Beane and the Bills were not satisfied and proved that to us by trading up in the first round to draft pass-catching weapon Dalton Kincaid. Buffalo moved up from 27th overall to 25th to select the tight end out of Utah.
The impact Kincaid can have to take the Bills’ offense over the top and open up the middle of the field is why he was voted as the ninth most important player not named Josh Allen. The 6’3″ 236lb big slot receiver earned 18 out of a possible 60 points with @LowBuffa ranking him the highest of the Cover 1 team at fourth overall.
Kincaid started his career at San Diego before transferring to Utah and becoming arguably the most dominant tight end for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. In 2021, Kincaid started 13 of 14 games, where he racked up 36 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns. Putting those numbers versus the competition, he was eighth in endzone visits, 20th in yards, and 30th in receptions.
Those numbers went up across the board in 2022. He led Utah with 70 receptions, 890 receiving yards, and once again caught eight touchdowns. Those numbers ranked second, first, and second in the country, respectively. Kincaid’s ability to stuff the stat sheet brought him accolades, earning First-Team All-Pac-12, and he was a semifinalist for the John Mackie Award going to the nation’s top tight end.
“A rookie as the fifth most important player on the Bills? Yes. As soon as Cole Beasley left Buffalo in early 2022, the Bills had a big problem in the intermediate passing game. They tried to remedy that issue through players like Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder last season, and desperately need Kincaid to be the solution in that area this season.,” @UberHansen.
To attack these stats on a wider variety, @Pro_Ant had a great tweet about Kincaid versus the field.
Dalton Kincaid amongst the 77 players (WRs, TEs, anybody) in 2022 with at least 50 targets in the slot:— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) May 3, 2023
-3rd in EPA per target
-10th in total EPA
-1st in positive play %
-5th in yards per route run
-5th in yards per target
-4th in first down %
-9th in broken tackles + missed…
When the Bills drafted Kincaid, my immediate reaction was that they selected the best player in the draft when it comes to hands and stretching the field over the middle. His numbers back that up. Kincaid’s 75.3% reception rate ranks him second among TEs with at least 50 targets. He was only behind Georgia’s Brock Bowers, who could be a top-10 pick in 2024. The 12.7 yards per reception place the Ute at seventh overall.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the analytics by utilizing the numbers from Pro Football Focus (PFF). They give him a 91.8 grade on a per route run basis which was the best in the NCAA FBS a year ago. His overall grade of 90.2 knocks him to second, behind only Michael Mayer. Going back to his silky hands, Kincaid earned an 88.3 in PFF’s drop score, which was fourth best in the nation out of 69 qualified tight ends.
“It’s entirely unfair to place this level of importance on a rookie TE, but if – if, mind you – he can be a weapon in the middle of the field, the Bills’ offense could get even better. For EPA at 5-15 air yds to the Left Middle, Middle, and Right Middle, Allen was second in 2020. In 2023, he was 22nd,” – @LowBuffa.
A few other numbers that will showcase what makes him so valuable to the Bills are his 16 missed tackles forced, third amongst tight ends, and his nine contested catches placed him ninth overall. It’s the combination of plus hands and the ability to make plays after the catch which put Kincaid safely inside our top 10 list.
The most important factor for the Bills and Dalton Kincaid is his usage. We can glean a little more about that by examining how he was deployed at Utah. In 2022, the Utes utilized Kincaid mostly as a route runner and not often as a pass blocker. That may be his only knock when breaking down his game. Kincaid saw his in-line snaps vs. slot snaps go from a 50/50 split in 2021 to 221 slot snaps and 142 in-line snaps in 2022. Of his 682 plays, Kincaid only stayed in to block on a pass 16 times. If he was in the game and the play call was a pass, he was running a route.
My initial reaction to the Kincaid selection was that Beane and McDermott saw a weakness in an otherwise amazing offense and attacked it. My feelings grew even stronger as I wrote this article. I think fans may be upset early on with his usage as they work him into the offense, but by the end of the season and into the playoffs, I expect the rookie to be producing like a top-five tight end. I know I am setting lofty expectations for a rookie at a position that doesn’t usually transition quickly, but I believe Buffalo with utilize him more as “Swole Beasley,” aka a huge slot receiver and not your typical player who has a niche role in 12 personnel. If the 23-year-old can unlock the offense and come close to the above goals, he will be higher than ninth in my post-season important Bills write-ups.