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Buffalo Bills: you don’t need a No. 1 wide receiver in today’s NFL

In the pass-happy version of the league, Buffalo’s GM and head coach don’t believe in the No. 1 WR concept

Fans of the Buffalo Bills are hoping the team makes significant upgrades to the wide-receiver position this offseason, and with approximately $77.4 million in cap space and ten selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Bills will certainly have the means to improve their wide-receiver corps.

Featuring third-year pro Zay Jones, undrafted free agent Robert Foster, and a cast of unproven characters (Isaiah McKenzie, Ray-Ray McCloud, Duke Williams, Cam Phillips, Victor Bolden and Da’Mari Scott are the only other wide receivers under contract for this season), Buffalo could desperately use an infusion of talent, especially to aid the development of second-year quarterback Josh Allen.

While there is some talent to be had in free agency and in the draft, the concept of finding their next No. 1 receiver is not something preoccupying the minds of Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott.

Sure, there are game-changing No. 1 receivers in the league like Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers), Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons), Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants), DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans), and Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints).

But when it comes to this day and age of the pass-happy NFL, neither Beane nor McDermott consider it essential for a team to have a prototypical No. 1 receiver on the roster.

“I’m not one that subscribes to a ‘number one receiver’,” Beane told reporters during the NFL Combine. “Receiver’s a position that comes in all sorts of sizes. You’ve got the guys that are 6’5”, 6’6”, and out-jumping people and going over the top. And then you’ve got some 5’7”, 5’8” guys that are making plays. Even the Super Bowl champions, they’ve won with those types of guys. So there’s a lot of different sizes, flavors, veterans, young guys, speed, size. We’re just looking for good football players, good receivers that can make plays and that Josh can count on when he throws them the ball, they’re going to be where they’re supposed to be and they’re going to make the plays.”

McDermott, entering his third season as Buffalo’s head coach, said the league philosophy has changed over the years, and that the importance of trying to find that game-changing top wide receiver has been diminished as teams place more of an emphasis on finding talented team-first receivers who have a knack for coming up with the big catch.

“At the end of the day I’m looking for a guy that can affect a defense, from a match-up standpoint, and a guy that people have to be mindful of,” McDermott told reporters at the Combine. “Other than that I want them to get open, catch the ball and put the ball down - and then come back and do it again. Let’s just say you got the New England Patriots. (Rob) Gronkowski is one heck of a receiver but he’s a tight end. Does that mean he’s not the number-one receiver? I think it’s dependent on the system. I want the guy that’s going to put the team first and catch the ball and not looking to come here and say, ‘I have to have these kinds of numbers.’ Everyone, receivers in general, want that. I mean that already comes with the position. But let’s find the guys that are going to do it down in and down out and put the team first.”