If there’s one constant in Buffalo Bills history, it’s a barren depth chart at tight end. The position has never made a huge impact for the team outside of a few long-tenured all-around players like Pete Metzelaars and Jay Riemersma. The franchise record for tight end receiving in a single season is still Paul Costa’s 726 yards, set in 1967. For the majority of the decade, Bills tight ends were led by two men. I’ll add a third you might not have considered to round out the group. Who was the best?
Chandler, who joined the Bills from the waiver wire, ended up being the leading receiver at the position for the decade. The 6’7”, 270-lb pass catcher kept landing in the end zone, with 17 touchdowns during his Bills career.
How good is that number? Chandler aside, there were 21 other tight ends who appeared in a game for the Bills during the decade. All of them combined for just 22 touchdowns. Chandler nearly matched them by himself. Then again, maybe that just sums up how bad the Bills’ tight ends tend to be.
Chandler was never a dominant blocker, but played well enough to start as an in-line tight end during his whole career. After 65 games with the Bills, Chandler played for the New England Patriots in one more season before his time in the NFL came to a close.
Overall stat line: 274 targets, 182 receptions, 2,120 yards (7.74 Y/Tgt), 66.4 catch percent, 17 TDs.
I can already hear you going “seriously?” to your screen as you read that name. But let’s give this a bit more thought. For one thing, the receiving production at tight end drops off a cliff after Scott Chandler and Charles Clay—the next best player was Nick O’Leary, with 473 yards in three seasons. So why not pick a blocker?
But Smith has more going for him. He was the longest-tenured player, appearing in 72 games with 39 starts over five seasons with the Bills. He played four at the beginning of the decade, then came back for the 2019 season. Essentially a sixth offensive lineman, Smith played on roughly 30% of offensive plays and blocked for some great rushing attacks. In terms of blocking tight ends, Smith was easily the best the Bills had during the decade. Was O’Leary better, or for that matter a rookie Dawson Knox? You can think that if you want, but I’m giving Smith his due.
Overall stat line: 30 targets, 24 receptions, 175 yards (5.83 Y/Tgt), 80.0 catch percent, 4 TDs.
Clay, signed to a rich five-year deal as part of general manager Doug Whaley going all-in on his 2015 roster, was a reliable receiver and blocker who gave the Bills a solid starter for three seasons (and a fourth season where he fell out of favor and ended up released in the postseason). While his legacy probably looked better from the lens of the season where he helped end the drought, Clay nonetheless has a better three-year stretch than just about any tight end in team history (aside from, arguably, Scott Chandler).
Overall stat line: 274 targets, 178 receptions, 1,822 yards (6.65 Y/Tgt), 65.0 catch percent, 9 TDs.
Okay, voting time: who was the best tight end out of the past decade?
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: tight end
This poll is closed
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