ORCHARD PARK NY - NOVEMBER 14: Lee Evans #83 of the Buffalo Bills makes a finger tip catch against Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 14 2010 in Orchard Park New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
This post is part of a series entitled State of the Buffalo Bills on a position-by-position basis. If you're confused about the number and letter classification appearing after each player's name, read this post. You can check out all previous installments of this series here.Roster, in which we're breaking down and evaluating the
If there was one Bills positional group that exceeded expectations in a monumental manner in 2010, it was most definitely the team's wide receivers. Buffalo entered the year with nothing more than Lee Evans and a bunch of question marks. From Roscoe Parrish to Stevie Johnson to David Nelson and even to Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt, many of those question marks turned into, bare minimum, pleasant surprises.
Now, with the group getting healthier and with a far bigger degree of stability at quarterback than they had at the outset of the 2010 season, this young group of receivers - five key contributors (or future contributors) are all aged 25 or younger - has a lot of promise to deliver on.
Our take on Buffalo's solid group of wide receivers lies after the jump.
Right now, the Bills have ten wide receivers in their organization.
Lee Evans (2-B). For whatever reason - likely his salary - Bills fans have been disappointed in Evans for a number of years. I thought his 2010 season, before it ended due to injury (the first major injury of his career), was better than I expected it to be. No, his numbers weren't great, but playing receiver is about more than numbers, and Evans was still the guy that opposing defenses sought to eliminate first. That opened the door for Buffalo's younger guys to be productive, and as long as Evans keeps defenses soft underneath, he'll have a vital role on this football team.
Roscoe Parrish (2-B). In terms of pleasant surprises, it can be argued that none was more pleasant than Parrish. This guy caught three passes in 2009, then came back with 33 catches, 400 yards and two scores in eight games. Parrish is what he is - a slot receiver - but it's clear that Chan Gailey likes him in that role, and has plans to use him there for the foreseeable future. For a guy that many believed wouldn't make the team, that's a nice little role shift from year to year.
Stevie Johnson (2-C). Johnson came out of nowhere to emerge as Ryan Fitzpatrick's go-to receiver in 2010, and right now, he looks like the team's best receiver. After hauling in 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns, there isn't much to say about Johnson that hasn't already been said. Guy is the real deal.
David Nelson (2-C). The undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida was productive no matter what role he was fulfilling, whether he was the team's fourth receiver, their primary slot receiver, or a full-time starter, as he was when the season wrapped up. His 35 receptions, 353 yards and three scores are especially promising given his measurables (6'5"), and he looks primed to enjoy a lengthy career as a dependable possession receiver with red zone capabilities.
Marcus Easley (3-D). Taking over Stevie's role as "that young receiver who hasn't done a thing yet but is going to be awesome, no questions asked" is Easley, the 2010 fourth-round pick that missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. He reportedly looked great in mini-camps and at the outset of training camp, and he'll get his opportunity to deliver on his immense potential next season.
Donald Jones (3-D). Jones was up and down as a receiver, producing nice numbers (18 receptions, 213 yards, 1 TD) in limited work as a slot option. I thought his best impact came as a punt gunner; Jones has a lot of promise as one of the team's young, core specialists. He's proven that he belongs in the league, but he might have an uphill climb getting back onto the field with the offense in 2011.
Naaman Roosevelt (3-D). The local product, and the third undrafted free agent on this list, is not as talented as his rookie cohorts. After spending most of the season on the practice squad, he snuck into the lineup due to injury and looked like he belongs, making a few plays late in the season.
Felton Huggins (4-F). People were quick to dismiss Huggins last pre-season, but he was quietly having a very good spring and summer before his season, too, ended due to a shoulder injury. Buffalo waived/injured him in August, but as far as I am aware, he cleared waivers and landed on Buffalo's IR list.
Paul Hubbard (4-F). Proof that the Bills like to stockpile big, athletic receivers, Hubbard was on and off Buffalo's roster throughout the season, spending most of it on the practice squad.
Bobby Williams (4-F). He ended the season on the practice squad, and that is about the extent of my knowledge on Bobby Williams.
Contract situations to monitor: Johnson's deal is perhaps the biggest situation to watch across the roster, as he's entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal, and will be severely underpaid in 2011. The sooner the team can begin negotiations there, the better. Parrish, too, is entering the final year of his deal, while Evans is signed through 2012 (and due $1 million roster bonuses in each of the next two seasons).
Outlook: This group really was a lot of fun to watch in 2010, not just because of the production, but because of the comfort level with the depth. This is truly the deepest, most talented positional group on Buffalo's roster, and it's nice to see a group able to produce from top-to-bottom; that depth needs to be replicated as closely as possible across the rest of the roster. In Johnson and Nelson, the team has productive young role players with big potential, and in Evans and Parrish, they've got reliable veterans. Easley is the wild card; if he realizes his potential, the Bills might have a true stud at the position.
Possible Acquisition: Buffalo doesn't need to add a receiver, but the idea of drafting A.J. Green is tempting. Johnson was able to hurt defenses at all levels of the field in 2010, but doesn't have the long speed to be a true deep threat. If Buffalo has a shot at Green, who can make plays at any level of the field with ease, they'll think seriously about adding him. Beyond that, they're good.