Can Dalton Kincaid break recent trend for first-round tight ends?

Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The Buffalo Bills drafted Dalton Kincaid in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft and the hope is that he can bring versatility to the position. The Bills now have two starting tight ends with Kincaid alongside Dawson Knox.

However, Kincaid can be moved around more than a traditional tight end and has the separation ability to line up as a slot receiver.

For Dalton Kincaid's rookie season, recent trends may be working against him in terms of what impact he can have this year. Since the 2014 NFL Draft, there have been eight tight ends drafted in the first round and these are their stats from their rookie season:

  • Eric Ebron (2014): 25 receptions, 248 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
  • O.J. Howard (2017): 26 receptions, 722 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
  • Evan Engram (2017): 64 receptions, 722 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
  • David Njoku (2017): 26 receptions, 432 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Hayden Hurst (2018): 13 receptions, 163 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
  • Noah Fant (2019): 40 receptions, 562 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
  • T.J. Hockenson (2019): 32 receptions, 367 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Kyle Pitts (2021): 68 receptions, 1,026 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Among these eight tight ends, only two had more than 45 receptions (Pitts, Engram), three had more than 700 receiving yards (Pitts, Engram, and Howard) and two had more than five touchdowns (Howard, Engram).

Buffalo Bills may need to be patient with Dalton Kincaid this season

If this trend holds true, the impact that Dalton Kincaid has on this offense might not be felt this season. There is no question that the addition of Kincaid gives the coaching staff more flexibility with their personnel.

In theory, with Kincaid and Knox on the field the Bills can run anything from two tight end sets to four wide and keep the same group on the field. This will be extremely beneficial in two minute drills that will keep defenses guessing on the play call.

However, if Kincaid is not ready to step in as the primary slot receiver the coaching staff will need to have a backup plan for this season. The Bills will have some options with players like Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty, or even Nyheim Hines.

In the long term, Dalton Kincaid will be very productive in this offense with Josh Allen as his quarterback. The impacts though may not be felt until next season based on what rookie tight ends have been able to do recently.

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