The Buffalo Bills probably won't have much playing time to spare for any rookie running back or wide receiver that they pick up in the 2015 NFL Draft (though they could certainly make room if necessary), but that is not the case at the more blocking-oriented skill areas in the offense Greg Roman will be installing in Buffalo.
Buffalo entered the free agent signing period knowing that they'd need new athletes in full-time roles at both tight end and fullback, which is why they released four-year starting tight end Scott Chandler, then gave veteran players Charles Clay and Jerome Felton high-end contracts at their respective positions. Both of those free agent signings will have very significant roles to play for the 2015 Bills.
Their work is not done yet, however. (Well, it might be at fullback, but you get the point.) There is still plenty of wiggle room for a rookie to walk into this offense and play a significant number of snaps from day one. And if the Bills play their cards right, they might be able to knock out their need for a tall, lengthy receiving threat in one fell swoop.
Is there an instant contributor?
In all likelihood, yes. Clay is the clear starter, and he'll have a chance to play as many snaps as he can handle, but things are far less certain behind him on the depth chart. Right now, the Bills have 2013 seventh-round pick Chris Gragg, who spent the last chunk of his second season inactive as a healthy scratch, and practice squad veteran MarQueis Gray (scouting report) as the best options for playing time behind Clay. Both are intriguing athletes with some positional versatility, but neither has really earned a significant role in a NFL offense, especially as blockers. They are project-types worth taking a long look at this summer.
Even in a draft class without a first-round lock, there are a good number of tight ends that could contribute immediately in Buffalo. Many tight ends entering the NFL these days are far more developed as receivers than blockers, but considering the Bills' need for a big body in the passing game, guys like Devin Funchess or Maxx Williams would absolutely see playing time from day one. But a guy with a more developed game, like Clive Walford, might have a chance for an even bigger role thanks to his polish as a blocker.
Where does a project fit in?
That depends on the skill of the project. If it's an intriguing athletic prospect with a receiving-first slant, they'll slot right in next to Gray, Gragg, and former local college hoops player Chris Manhertz. But if it's an in-line, blocking prospect? That type of player might have a better line on playing time right away, even if it's only in a minimal role.
The Bills have projects at tight end, though. They need better talent.
Is it a need in 2015? 2016?
Yes to both. Clay and Felton are entrenched in their roles, but with such massive contracts, a pipeline needs to be established, especially behind Clay. Tight end should be a day two consideration for the Bills this time next week, with the idea that a second- or third-round pick would have a significant role to play in 2015.