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2020 All-22 Analysis: Buffalo Bills free-agent tight end Tyler Kroft

A look at the veteran tight end

The Buffalo Bills had an interesting tight end room in 2020. Blocking specialist Lee Smith. The young, inconsistent dynamo in Dawson Knox. Reggie Gilliam the project. And Tyler Kroft, the steady veteran. Well Lee Smith could be retiring and the younger guys have yet to “arrive.” A steady veteran actually sounds mighty appealing. Should the Bills look to keep Kroft in that role?


Play 1

There’s not much explanation needed here. Tyler Kroft isn’t the reason this run didn’t go anywhere. He maintains this block and pushes it pretty far sideways.

Play 2

Kroft doesn’t have much time to sell this as a route, but does a good job at it. His target is forced to pay attention to Kroft in order not to lose him and ends up locked down away from the play. Josh Allen has a tight lane and can’t quite escape but, if he did, Kroft gave him a clear path for a touchdown.

Play 3

The Bills love having Tyler Kroft go in motion to diagnose the defense, try creating mismatches, etc. On this play he’s doing a little bit of everything. The initial movement makes the defense adjust, then the cut back makes him the lead blocker for Isaiah McKenzie. The Los Angeles Rams diagnose it well on the back end and prevent this from being a huge gain.

Play 4

I love that little twitch to shake the man in front of him. The Rams read it wrong and this is an easy score.

Play 5

I’ve shown a lot of highlights so let’s come back down to Earth a bit. It’s not unusual to have tight ends work the middle. However, Kroft doesn’t have a complex route tree. And he doesn’t have blazing speed. He does have good hands though, catching 75 percent of the passes thrown his way. This one wasn’t a gimme either.

Play 6

If you’re going to have a limited tree, make the most of it. Kroft often does. I like the aggression on that early contact. Kroft then turns to box out the other thorn in his side. The throw goes to Stefon Diggs but Kroft had a good chance at a score too.

Play 7

This play illustrates some good and some less good. I like the lateral movement and vision to get involved in three blocks. On block one and two it’s minimal help. On block three he gets a little too far to our left and has to latch onto the arm rather than execute a solid block.

Play 8

Of course no player is successful 100 percent of the time. Kroft takes a small step to our right and simply isn’t fast enough to get in front of Deatrich Wise Jr.—and it’s a play-ending mistake.

Play 9

I don’t like ending on a bad note so I won’t. The above mistakes aren’t frequent. Overall, Kroft is a solid blocker and does well on the move. This is fantastic play by him.


Summary

First the bad news. Kroft is definitely a more traditional tight end in that he won’t be replacing anyone in the wide receiver room when it comes to speed and route running. That said, he’s a clear second in blocking behind Lee Smith, and arguably might be better on the move than Smith. Remember, I’m the President of the Lee Smith fan club, so I don’t say that lightly. Tyler Kroft is well rounded and effective across most of the play book.

He was the only tight end on the 2020 Bills I think you could make the above statement about. I like Kroft on the Bills, though snap counts definitely suggest the team wasn’t as enthusiastic about him as I am. Knox and Gilliam are exciting as prospects and, if you’re into gambling, Kroft is expendable. But until they’re better than Kroft they’re not and in 2020 they were not.