The tight end position is one that always seems to be in flux when it comes to the Buffalo Bills. Whether it be due to injuries or ineffectiveness, the Bills have struggles to get quality play out of the position, even when they’ve invested significant money there.
Will 2017 be any different? A big factor in that is going to be the play of a third-year man out of Florida State who hasn’t been noticeable but has been effective in a limited role in the NFL so far.
Name: Nick O’Leary
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 252 lbs.
College: Florida State
Draft: Round 6, Pick 194 by the Buffalo Bills (2015)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): O’Leary is in the final year of his rookie deal, one that will pay him $615,000 this season. He enters restricted free agency at the conclusion of the year, provided he isn’t released beforehand.
2016 Recap: O’Leary was the only skill position player on the Bills’ offense to appear in all 16 games in 2016. He didn’t contribute much in the passing game, catching only nine passes for 114 yards, but he was a strong component of the run game when he was on the field. Pro Football Focus gave him a run blocking grade of 82.4, which was good for second in the NFL among tight ends.
Positional Outlook: Starter Charles Clay is seemingly always dealing with an injury, especially when it comes to his knees, and has received plenty of rest time during camp. The race for the third tight end spot has been interesting, but neither Logan Thomas nor Jason Croom have shown enough to supplant O’Leary in the reserve role, much less knock him off the roster entirely.
2017 Offseason: After a quiet camp, O’Leary caught one pass during the Bills’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings, a screen pass that he took 16 yards. It was a surprise to see, but it could be a preview of the regular season, if only in that O’Leary will be more involved in the passing game.
2017 Season Outlook: Despite playing in all 16 games last year, O’Leary only played in 35% of the team’s total snaps. That number could rise this year, as his solid performance in the running game could couple with a larger role in the passing game. If Clay ends up missing time, O’Leary is the guy that’s going to pick up the slack.