The Buffalo Bills receiving corps failed to meet off-season expectations. After a breakout 4 touchdown 200-yard explosion against the Kansas City Chiefs last season, Gabe Davis was expected to make a massive leap in his age-23 season. Dawson Knox inked a large contract over the offseason, largely due to his crucial role as a redzone target for Josh Allen. Khalil Shakir was a Day 3 Darling of many draft analysts.
For a multitude of reasons, these young additions failed to meet expectations. Davis caught 51.7% of his targets, Knox did not see his role expand, and Shakir only played a majority of the offensive snaps in a singular game. This is not to suggest that any of these players played poorly, but rather that they did not play as well as many anticipated they would.
This was particularly evident in the Divisional Round loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis were held to 35 and 34 yards respectively, despite matching up on a defense that was missing its top cornerback in Chidobe Awuzie. Part of their poor performance can be attributed to the suboptimal weather conditions, but this is not the first time that Diggs has disappointed in the box score at the end of the playoff run.
The reason Diggs has disappeared in these playoff games and the struggling of the Buffalo offense can be nailed down to a singular point: The offense refuses to, or perhaps is incapable, of doing the easy things. In the Wild Card, Josh Allen was constantly pushing the ball downfield. These deep shots are unpredictable and unreliable sources of offense. In that game alone, Shakir was inches away from hauling in another deep target but just couldn’t control it all the way to the ground. The offense struggled to move the ball but was easily capable of exploding for 30-40 yard gains.
The impetus this offseason should be to add offensive playmakers who can create plays for Josh Allen. Making his life easier is a crucial way to cut down on turnovers and risky plays which plagued this offense this season.
The Case for Receiver Early
The Bills pick 27th this year, which is far enough down the board that picking whichever prospect falls down the board would be a solid option. Last year, Devin Lloyd fell to 27th despite being projected as a mid-first-round pick. Sticking and picking is certainly an option for the Bills in this position, but they should not shy away from a trade-up. Though Elam may not have had a great rookie campaign, the aggressive move by the front office to trade up for was a good decision.
The Bills have a clear WR1 with Diggs, a solid Tight End with Knox, and a good deep threat with Davis. They’re missing an explosive playmaker who can create offense for himself. Given the sparse landscape of the incoming receiver free agency, headlined by Jakobi Meyers and Allen Lazard, the Bills must turn to the draft to address this need.
There are Two Receivers who I think the Bills should consider going after in the late first round.