Just like last year, the Buffalo Bills are looking for help at wide receiver.
The only difference is, this year, the Bills need to make additions at the position. As of March 19, the Bills have five wide receivers on the active roster with a combined nine years experience among them. Stevie Johnson is the only Bills receiver with more than two years of NFL experience.
So clearly, they could stand to add talent at the position.
By now, you're all familiar with Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (if not, get familiar here). He is the consensus best receiver in the 2013 draft class. It's basically Patterson and the rest of the pack.
What if the Bills don't go after Patterson, though? Who's a fit?
The drop-off is minimal in the middle rounds. That presents plenty of opportunities to get good value on a talented receiver who may not be a finished product but has plenty of upside.
Here's a short list of names to familiarize yourself with as we approach the draft.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
Weight: 189 lbs.
Projected Round: mid-to-late second
Strengths: Wheaton has elite quickness, which he showcased at the combine with a 4.02-second 20-yard shuttle, and solid long speed with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash.
He's at his best when given room to work: lined up in the slot, on screen passes, drag routes, etc., but he's still experienced at getting off jams, having practiced against Oregon State's press-coverage cornerbacks.
Weaknesses: He can shake defenders in the open field, but he is too often taken down by arm tackles, failing to gain yards after contact.
Most scouts have two issues with his game: He rounds off his cuts and drops catchable passes. Those are both technique issues, which can be resolved, and he has proven capable of being productive despite those limitations.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Weight: 193 lbs.
Projected Round: late second to early third round
Strengths: Like Wheaton, Bailey also showed off his top-end quickness with a 6.81 three-cone drill and a 4.09 20-yard shuttle. He's built like a running back, which makes him tough to bring down in the open field. His size will be a concern for some teams, but his comparisons to Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith are indicative of why his size may not matter.
He has the long speed to be a downfield threat, and he tracks the ball well on deep passes, but his overall quickness and route-running savvy make him a great threat over the middle and on short and intermediate routes.
He's incredibly physical, fighting to win leverage and create separation. His soft hands allow him to make any catch, whether in traffic or when tracking the ball on a deep pass.
Weaknesses: Bailey lacks many of the traits of a No. 1 receiver: size, speed, leaping ability etc. His explosiveness (or lack thereof) isn't enough to beat defenders on its own.
Although it's not necessarily considered a weakness, scouts need to keep in mind the attention being paid to his teammate Tavon Austin. Pair Bailey with a good No. 1 receiver, and that blemish is a nonissue.
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Weight: 205 lbs.
Projected Round: late third to early fourth
Strengths: Swope had a dynamite combine, running a 4.34 40-yard dash, which put him in the top five at receiver. He's far from just being a track star, though, putting up consistent numbers throughout his career in College Station, with over 70 receptions and 800 yards in each of the past three seasons.
He's not incredibly big, but at 6'0" and 205 pounds, he's still bigger than most NFL cornerbacks. His stocky frame translates well to the field and also makes him a solid blocker in the running game.
He is well versed in running all the short and intermediate routes he'll be asked to run as part of the Bills' West Coast offense, and his quickness allows him to gain separation on those routes.
Weaknesses: His long speed doesn't necessarily translate perfectly to the field—he's not going to blow by defenders on a consistent basis. He doesn't have the quickness to elude defensive backs in the open field, and he doesn't have the strength to run over linebackers and safeties over the middle.
In addition to adding a little size to his frame, Swope could stand to improve his physicality both in running routes and in blocking.
Aaron Dobson, Marshall
Weight: 210 lbs.
Projected Round: late third to early fourth
Strengths: Dobson is the first receiver on this list who stands more than 6'0" tall. He uses his long frame to make difficult catches in jump-ball situations. Best of all, he does it with his hands and not with his body. He has route-running savvy and does a good job setting up his routes.
He's slender, but there is some physicality to his game, as he consistently beats press coverage at the line of scrimmage, makes catches with defenders draped on him and fights through contact for extra yards.
Weaknesses: Dobson is limited to the role of X receiver; he doesn't have the versatility to line up at other spots. He's a strider and takes a little longer to get up to top speed. His quickness isn't elite to help him consistently get open over the middle. Also, he still has to develop as a blocker.
He caught 12 touchdowns as a junior, but just three as a senior, though he averaged 1.7 yards per catch more as a senior than as a junior.
Marcus Davis, Viriginia Tech
Weight: 232 lbs.
Projected Round: Day 3
Strengths: Davis makes two straight receivers on this list that are ripe with size. Davis also measured in at 6'3", with 32.25-inch long arms, and had an impressive combine with a 39.5-inch vertical and a 4.56 40-yard dash. He has great quickness and the suddenness to win against press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
As a former quarterback, he has a good understanding of reading coverages and knows how to run a route the way a quarterback would want it to be run. He fits into a West Coast offense because of his great speed in and out of breaks, specifically on slant routes, and because of his ability to create yards after the catch.
Dripping with athleticism, Davis looks like a prospect any coach would be wild about.
Weaknessess: He's new to the position, and as such, far from a finished product.
He lacks polish as a route-runner, and he also fails to consistently catch the ball with his hands, too often letting it get into his body. There are questions regarding his work ethic, as he seemed to "coast at times" with his effort (via CBS Sports).
He also appeared to be out of sync with his quarterback at times, and could put his experience as a quarterback to better use in that regard.
All combine info courtesy NFL.com.
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