The 2019 Buffalo Bills were a team buoyed by its defense. Some would even argue that the stop unit carried the team to its 10-6 record, as the Bills ranked only 23rd in scoring and 24th in total offense. The passing game, in particular, was where the Bills lagged behind the rest of the league, as they ranked just 26th in yards and 24th in attempts.
While the Bills emphasized the running game over the last two seasons, their investment in the pass-catching group seems to signal a shift in philosophy is coming for 2020. Buffalo has spent significant resources, both in dollars and draft capital, to improve its wide receiver group. This should give third-year quarterback Josh Allen all the resources he needs to take the next step towards becoming the elite quarterback he was drafted to be.
In today’s installment of “91 players in 91 days,” we examine one of the Bills’ newest receivers—a big rookie drafted in the later rounds who has a chance to push some veterans off the roster.
Name: Isaiah Hodgins
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 201 lbs.
Age: 21 (22 on 10/21/2020)
Experience/Draft: R; drafted in the sixth round (No. 207 overall) by the Bills in the 2020 NFL Draft
College: Oregon State
Acquired: 2020 NFL Draft
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Hodgins signed his rookie contract, a four-year pact worth a total of $3,453,888, on May 7.
2019 Recap: While Hodgins had produced as a freshman and a sophomore, he absolutely exploded during his junior season, notching 86 catches for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns. That production very nearly matched, and in some cases exceeded, the totality of his production from his freshman and sophomore seasons, where he combined to make 90 catches for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns. He led the PAC-12 conference in receiving touchdowns, was second in receptions (trailing only Michael Pittman Jr.), and third in receiving yards (behind Pittman Jr. and Brandon Aiyuk).
Positional outlook: Hodgins joins a crowded field at wide receiver, where at least three spots, and possibly five, are spoken for already. Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley are roster locks, and fourth-round pick Gabriel Davis and return specialist Andre Roberts are about as safe as can be. That leaves Hodgins fighting with Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Robert Foster, Nick Easley, and Ray-Ray McCloud III for a maximum of two roster spots.
2020 Offseason: Nothing new to report.
2020 Season outlook: I think Hodgins is the biggest wild card in the receiver grouping. His size and contested-catch ability gives Buffalo an element that they don’t have among their top grouping, though Diggs is excellent in contested-catch situations for a smaller receiver. The reason Hodgins fell to the sixth round of the draft, though, is his lack of speed—he only ran a 4.61-second forty-yard dash, and most scouts agree that he’ll struggle to separate from press-man coverage at the NFL level. If Hodgins can provide special teams value while also showing the ability to make contested catches in the preseason, he could push to be the team’s sixth wideout. However, he’ll have to go through three players (Foster, McKenzie, and Williams) who played significant roles at different times last season. Hodgins has a great deal of upside, but in terms of receiver snaps from last year, McKenzie was third, Foster was fourth, and Williams was fifth. Foster was also tenth in special teams snaps. The Bills will have to weigh their options with that last receiver spot—do they take the risk of passing Hodgins through waivers, or do they move on from someone who took significant snaps last season? The battle at wide receiver is going to be hotly contested this summer.