The Buffalo Bills were one of the most prolific offenses last season, finishing 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.
Despite all that, when the 2023 NFL Draft started, a hefty percentage of Bills Mafia still wanted Brandon Beane to figure out a way to select one of the elite WR prospects like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison. However, those four were all selected between the 20th and 23rd picks, while Buffalo was slotted to pick 27th. With pass catchers flying off the board, Beane struck a deal to move up from 27th to 25th and selected Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. Since that moment, the hype train has been circling the wagons like 1990s Chris Berman.
— Greg Vorse (@GregVorse) April 28, 2023
Kincaid has drawn comparisons to the best tight end in the game today, Travis Kelce. I’ve seen national media compare him to Zack Ertz and call him a more athletic Dallas Clark. If he becomes any of those things, the Bills’ gamble will pay off 10-fold.
While putting all your chips on any single roulette number may seem like a feeble attempt to hit it rich, Kincaid’s teammates and my Cover 1 colleagues believe the attributes he’s shown at camp so far are too polished to crap out.
“The hype is real. His efficiency in his footsteps are what people mean by ‘smooth.’ Zero wasted steps, gather step, balance step… constantly gaining ground,” said @GregTompsett.
“He’s very smart, he’s instinctive. He’s got a good feel out there,” said Josh Allen.
“I think it’s clear Kincaid will be a day one playmaker on this offense. I’ve been keeping modest expectations all offseason but that’s changed through the first week of camp. I’m expecting 50+ receptions for over 550 yards,” added @Mike_Bundt.
Fellow tight end Dawson Knox had high praise “I think he’s gonna be a reliable target. If we’re both out there at the same time, creating some mismatches the more multi-tight end sets you can run, the more versatility you’re gonna have on the offense. So, it’s gonna be pretty good.”
@Ant__Pro may have said it best, “Fluid technicality on display at all times. Already winning in his routes with nuance & feel for defenders/space (just like he did in college). What’s potentially more exciting is that Dorsey is already maneuvering him around and using him as a primary target but also as a decoy. And he’s lining him up in a variety of alignments in various formations. Testing the cage, turning different dials, pulling different levers. Lot of individual & schematic potential for him.”
The Kincaid hype has been the top storyline from camp, and justified. He’s been very good. Dean shares his thoughts on the young TE.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 3, 2023
To learn more about the rookie pass-catcher, we need to turn the cards over on his college stats.
‘Swole Beasley’ improved his numbers across the board for the Utes in 2022, racking up career-highs in receptions (70), yards (890), and touchdowns (eight). Those numbers ranked second, first, and second in the country, respectively. His contributions earned First-Team All-Pac-12, and he was a semifinalist for the John Mackie Award going to the nation’s top tight end.
Looking deeper at the stats, his 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. PFF (Pro Football Focus) gave him a 91.8 grade on a per route run basis which was tops in the FBS. The 90.2 grade overall was second behind Raiders’ rookie, second-round pick Michael Mayer. What might mean the most to Bills’ fans is his 88.3 in PFF’s drop score, which was fourth best in the nation out of 69 qualified tight ends. Kincaid was also third among TEs in missed tackles forced at 16 and ninth in contested catches with nine.
The safest bet schematically with the addition of Kincaid is the uptick in 12 personnel. Over the last several years, Buffalo has ranked near the bottom in deploying one running back and two tight ends. They have shown, in camp, a desire to run out James Cook along with Knox and Kincaid.
Again, looking at his college usage, Kincaid is a perfect fit. The Utes utilized him primarily as a route runner and not often as a pass blocker. That may be his only knock when breaking down his game, but who cares? The Bills did not draft him to block, at least not initially. 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. The first-round pick’s versatility will be a weapon for Ken Dorsey and Josh Allen. The Bills can start with Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, James Cook, Dawson Knox, and Kincaid in any 12-personnel formation and motion any of them to anywhere on the field. Yes, I am saying let’s get wild with Diggs motioning to H Back and Kincaid splitting out wide. I want to see them do all the stuff, and Kincaid allows all the stuff to be done.