Rookie Outlook: Buffalo Bills Wide Receivers
By Zach Law
Take the Buffalo Bills’ offense, remove C.J. Spiller, and you have a hollow shell of fantasy hopes and dreams. The Bills’ front office thought so, anyway, and made a major effort to improve the skill positions in the 2013 draft. Other than the new quarterback of the future, the team drafted two wideouts and picked up a troubled, but intriguing, undrafted free agent. What can we expect from the rookie trio?
After trading down in the first round, the Buffalo Bills stood pat and selected Robert Woods of USC with the ninth pick of the second round. Woods was ultra-productive as a Trojan, with 187 receptions and 26 touchdowns his final two years of college. He’s a technician capable of running every route in the tree. Woods does lack the elite size and speed, which is why he fell to the second round. A right ankle injury that required surgery during the 2011-2012 offseason is a minor concern.
With the 16th pick of the third round, the Bills took Marquise Goodwin from the University of Texas. Some wideouts are said to have track speed, and Goodwin lived up to that name, qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. Goodwin played all four years at wideout for the Longhorns, putting up middling stats. While he’s small for the position at 5’9 and 183 pounds, his 4.27 40-yard-dash speed is world class.
One of the biggest mysteries of the draft was the precipitous fall of one Da’Rick Rogers. He left the University of Tennessee after his sophomore year due to multiple off-field issues and transferred to Tennessee Tech for his junior year. He has the most prototypical “WR1” size of any of the three receivers, although his speed is just average for the position. Rogers put up great numbers (78/1,207/11) during his junior year, although it was against a lower level of competition.
Currently at wide receiver, the Bills have Stevie Johnson and not much else. He was the classic third-year breakout, with 82 receptions after having 12 his first two seasons in the league. In his past three years, he’s caught 82, 76, and 79 passes with slightly more than 1,000 yards each season and 23 total touchdowns.
The Bills drafted T.J. Graham out of North Carolina State in the third round of the 2012 draft. Graham is like Goodwin in that he’s a fast, small player who most likely will play in the slot.
How much of the delicious Buffalo Bills' fantasy pie is left for the rookies? The 2012 squad had 309 pass receptions as a team. Johnson had 79 receptions. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 77 receptions. Donald Jones, who signed with the Patriots, had 41 catches. Graham had 31. Tight end Scott Chandler had 41 catches, and he’s recovering from an ACL tear.
While Da’Rick Rogers and Robert Woods are fighting for a starting spot, it’s most likely going to Woods. Rogers should make the team and may be able to contribute on special teams, but he will be on a tight leash. Goodwin should be the team’s kick returner at least.
For fantasy purposes, Woods is the only guy who will have any kind of redraft value, and that’s purely as a guy to keep an eye on for the waiver wire. His upside is a 50/610/4 type season.
Rogers is a dynasty stash who could be an outside starter in time, although Stevie Johhson is signed through 2016, so that’s going to be a long wait.
While there has been a comparison of Mike Wallace to Marquise Goodwin, it’s more likely that he follows the trajectory of Yamon Figurs. Figurs was the fastest wideout in the 2007 draft, taken by the Ravens in the third round, and after getting two return touchdowns as a rookie, he bounced around the league for four years, catching five career passes.
The Buffalo Bills have an interesting trio of rookie wide receivers, but like their 2013 offense, there isn't much to see here outside of hope that Woods can contribute for your bye weeks.