Buffalo’s Wide Receiver Log Jam

May 29, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley (81) makes a catch during organized team activities at the Ralph Wilson Field House. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

We know one thing: Stevie Johnson will start for the Bills at one wide receiver spot in 2012.

As for the rest of the depth chart at wide receiver…who knows?

The Bills have to find a starter to play opposite Johnson, and 3-4 more other receivers will make the roster. Fortunately/unfortunately, Buffalo has about 10 contenders for those roles. Let’s break down the contenders:

David Nelson – I love David Nelson. He’s great in his role – he’s a big target with great hands who works well in the slot. He’s going to be a productive player for a decade. Nelson’s going to make the team for sure.

What he shouldn’t be is the team’s #2 receiver.

Nelson is just not as effective on the outside, where he doesn’t have the speed to really work as a deep threat. If Nelson emerges as the team’s #2 WR…it’s a real problem.

Donald Jones – Jones won the starting job in training camp last year, but proceeded to not impress, making only 23 catches before his season ended due to injury. He’s athletic and the coaches seem to love him, so he’ll get another chance in 2012. There’s a chance he’ll win the job back. There’s also a chance he doesn’t even make the team.

T.J. Graham – Buffalo’s third-round draft pick this year, this rookie is as unpolished and raw as it gets…but the dude can fly. This man is fast. That alone might win him quite a bit of playing time in 2012, as defenses will have to respect him deep, which will open up the field elsewhere. In any case, he’s virtually guaranteed to be on the roster this year.

Marcus Easley – In our poll yesterday, a whopping 53% of you voted that Easley would emerge as the other starting WR this year. I think that’s really optimistic for a guy that hasn’t played a real game of football in three years. Yes, he looked good in last year’s preseason…but it’s not like he was the second coming of Jerry Rice. He had seven catches. Seven. The coaching staff likes Easley and he’ll get a look, but the fact remains he’s missed two years. Chan Gailey himself said that Easley has “an uphill” battle to make the roster.

That all said, Easley has size, speed, and talent. He seems built to play on the outside in the NFL, so it would sure be nice if Easley could win the job.

Ruvell Martin – The veteran somewhat surprisingly made the roster out of camp last year, and stuck for the year. Martin is pretty limited on the offensive side of things, but he’s very good in special teams, which might allow him to steal a roster spot again.

Derek Hagan – I went into some detail about Hagan earlier in the week. Hagan played well while getting a look with the Bills late last season, and he’s got a real chance to stick on this roster. He can threaten defenses deep and has decent hands. Hagan also seems to have some report with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Don’t be shocked if he’s the team’s #4 WR.

Naaman Roosevelt – The local hero has been cut each of the past two training camps, but has made his way back to the main roster both seasons. Not sure if he’ll be so lucky in 2012. Roosevelt can play, but his upside is fairly limited, and the Bills just have so many other options. He’ll probably be a victim of the numbers game.

Kamar Aiken – Aiken was an afterthought before last year, heading into last year’s training camp as an undrafted rookie. He had no chance to make the roster, but he impressed enough to earn a practice squad role. Aiken was promoted to the main roster for the end of the season, but struggled to get activated on game days.  He certainly looks the part, but there’s just not room on this roster right now. He might be practice squad bound again.

David Clowney – Clowney is fast. Very fast. But that might be his only real NFL-quality trait. He’ll get a look, but Buffalo’s drafting of Graham probably ended any chance Clowney had to make the roster.

 

Final Prediction: A lot of names here…but who makes the cut? I’m still concerned there’s not a real #2 among this group. So concerned that it wouldn’t shock me if Nelson gets the nod to begin the season. Ugh. But I’ll be optimistic and say Easley grows into the role. Nelson and Graham are also guaranteed to make the roster. That leaves one or two spots. I’ll say Hagan grabs it. If the team decides to keep six receivers, don’t rule out Martin hanging on due to his special teams ability.

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  • B_inShortsville

    I’ll toss two cents into this.
     
    I think Johnson (obviously), Nelson (nearly as obviously), Graham (potential and recent investment) are locks.
     
    My spidey sense tells me the other three will be Hagan, Jones and Easley.
     
    Hagan is the most experienced of the non-lock contenders with the best credentials on Sundays. There’s a reliability/comfort factor in that. He’s be another guy like Urbik, Rinehart, Pears, Morrison, etc. that comes in with some experience and after being a high draft pick of another team, to fill a role.
     
    Jones made the team initially as a physical guy that ran down on kicks and punts and developed as a receiver. Easley was similar at UConn in that he was mostly a special teamer for three years before having a breakout (or “one-year wonder” for the less charitable) senior season.
     
    So I think they’ll keep both on that rationale, maybe cutting a DB or LB instead and spare a bottom-of-the-roster spot for a developing 6th receiver who can cover kicks while learning the trade.
     
    I think a combination of Hagan, Jones and Easley will fill the “WR2″ position on a situational basis for the Bills in 2012 opposite Johnson.
     
    -Brian in Shortsville

  • cblizzard44

    It irks me that people continue to say that the Bills do not have a “number two” wide receiver when Nelson is obviously that guy. The problem there lies mainly with the idea that the Bills run a traditional offense with two wideouts on any given play, when they tend to use a lot of formations with three wide receivers.
     
    In the end though, I’m just arguing semantics. It is obvious that the Bills need someone at the other outside position across from Stevie Johnson to step up. I like Easley’s potential, and I think Hagan will make the final roster after his performance late last year and his veteran status. Jones will probably make it too, though I’m not as high on him as OBD seems to be.

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