Buffalo Bills Roster Preview: Lofton Exercise 2.0 – Wide Receivers


The players are set to start the preparation to the 2020 season and our Buffalo Bills roster preview continues with the Lofton Exercise. After looking at the quarterback group, it’s time to move on to the guys catching passes from them, the wide receivers.

That’s the group that has suffered the biggest overhaul from the last time we did this exercise, after the 2018 season. So, without further ado, here’s how the WRs are ranked in our latest exercise:

Can Win Games for You

Stefon Diggs

The former Viking is the Bills’ “1st round pick” in 2020, as described by GM Brandon Beane. After the previous efforts to give Josh Allen a true number one receiver failed (I’m looking at you, Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin), the GM didn’t want to risk it again with an unproven rookie and struck a deal to bring the star pass catcher from Minnesota.

The move gives Josh Allen a true number one receiver for the first time in his NFL career. Diggs is a complete wide receiver who excels with deceptive route running skills and winning contested-catch situations. He threatens opposing defenses downfield but can be very efficient on short and intermediate areas, too, creating separation with ease against press-man coverages, one of the issues for Allen and the Bills’ offense last season.

He’s coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and scored at least six TDs in each of the last three years. His presence should allow Allen and the team’s offense to continue their development, from poor in 2018 to average in 2019, to at least above average in 2020. On paper, Beane is making sure that everything goes right. Now it’s on the coaches and players to keep producing. No doubt about one thing: Diggs surely can win some games for the Bills.

John Brown

The process to help Allen started last season, when Beane added Brown and Cole Beasley to the team’s wide receiver room. The former Cardinal and Raven never had been trusted to hold down a #1 role, until last season, and he made the most of his opportunity.

As the most dangerous outside threat on the team, “Smoke” faced opposing teams’ best corners week-in and week-out, and he more than held his own. In fact, Brown produced like a good WR1, putting up career-best numbers in receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,060), and scored six TDs.

Brown quickly established himself as Allen’s favorite target, with his speed and separation skills becoming a nightmare even for the most capable corners in the league. He consistently exceeded on 3rd-and-long situations, where the Bills’ signal caller always looked for #15 to get a new set of downs.

With Diggs in the mix, Brown should be even more dangerous. Opponents will need to pick their poison and Smoke should have even more room to produce.

Cole Beasley

Another veteran who came in and instantly helped Josh Allen’s development, Beasley is another WR who can win games for you. He isn’t the biggest or fastest guy, but oh boy, you line him up in the slot and you know he’s going to get open. His suddenness in his route running skills makes him un-guardable in this role.

Just like Brown, B-Easy enjoyed a great first year in Buffalo. He became Allen’s go-to guy in the red zone, scoring a career-high six TDs, and added 67 receptions for 778 yards, both ranked 2nd in his career. He will continue to be a key cog in the offense in 2020.

Need Better

Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Andre Roberts, Ray-Ray McCloud, Nick Easley

I think Foster, McKenzie, and Duke are all near the “can win with” status, but they’re not there yet. Foster’s 2019 was a step back from 2018, McKenzie is more of a gadget guy, and Duke got the first true playing time of his career with mixed results.

The last three guys clearly aren’t good enough. Roberts surely is in the top tier as a returner, but he’s far from it as a receiver. McCloud and Easley are unproven and need to show more.

Rookie Watch

Gabriel Davis

The Bills selected Davis in the 4th round of this year’s draft. He comes in as another potential deep threat for Josh Allen with his speed and size.

At 6’2″ and 210 pounds, and with a 35″ vertical and 4.5 speed, he offers a combination that isn’t really abundant on the team’s roster. He’s expected to fight for the WR4 role and be able to contribute early, on a limited basis.

Isaiah Hodgins

I have a good feeling about this 6th-round pick. It wouldn’t be fair to tab a Stevie Johnson kind of feeling on the guy, but I definitely can see him becoming a ‘rich man’s David Nelson’ for Buffalo.

He’s big and lanky (6’4″ and 210 pounds) and possesses some of the best hands in this year’s WR class. He isn’t a guy who can separate with ease, but given his different skill set and reliable hands, I can see him sticking on the roster and maybe even contributing early on.


What a difference a year and a half makes. Buffalo will be trotting out one of the top wide receiver trios in the league in 2020, with three guys who are among the best in their roles and definitely can win games for the team. In the first version of our Lofton exercise, in 2018, they didn’t have a single one.

Still looking at this year’s ranking, the lack of tier two guys, players who you can win with, could lead you to believe the Bills have a lack of depth. However, there are intriguing options in the ‘need better’ group who are almost there. With the rookie arrivals and the competition between them, I’m confident that the tier two guys will emerge naturally.

Roster Comparison

2018 WRs

  • Can Win with Him: 2 (Foster and Zay Jones)
  • Need Better:  3 (McKenzie, McCloud, Deonte Thompson)

2019 WRs

  • Can Win Games for You: 3 (Diggs, Brown, Beasley)
  • Need Better: 6 (Foster, McKenzie, Williams, Roberts, McCloud, Easley)
  • Rookies: 2 (Davis, Hodgins)