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2021 NFL Draft Scouting Spotlight: Florida WR Kadarius Toney

All he does is catch passes and break ankles.

The 2021 NFL Draft is almost here, and that means final checks on the rookies who might become the newest Buffalo Bills. An underrated need for the Bills is at wide receiver (or you might say offensive weapon), where the team has two aging veterans in the slot. They also lost their kick and punt returner, Andre Roberts, in free agency. How could they set themselves up for a 2021 impact and future success? Maybe the answer is Florida’s Kadarius Toney.


Kadarius Toney (Florida) Scouting Report

  • Measurables: 6’0” 193 lbs
  • 2020 stats: 70 catches, 984 yards, 10 TDs, 19 carries, 161 yards, 1 TD, 11 punt returns, 139 yards, 1 TD
  • 2019 stats: 10 catches, 194 yards, 1 TD, 12 carries, 59 yards
  • Year: Senior
  • Pro day testing: 4.38 40-yard dash, 39.5” vertical jump, 136” broad jump, 6.88 three-cone drill, 4.23 short shuttle, 9 bench press reps

Summary

Kadarius Toney is an ATH in the truest sense of the word - for the first three years of his college career, he had 47 carries and 50 receptions, and was also available to return kicks. As a senior, Toney came into his own as a receiver with 70 catches for 984 yards and ten touchdowns. That said, Florida still used him a dozen different ways on their offense.

The way Toney throws in so many shimmies, shakes, tempo changes, and crossovers, it’s like watching Stevie Johnson in his prime. But when you mix in a little of Cordarelle Patterson’s elusiveness with the ball in his hands, this may be the best all-around offensive weapon in the draft. That said, both of those players had drawbacks—Johnson’s unorthodox route running was mainly effective in a free-flowing offense with a gunslinging quarterback. Patterson never developed into a full-time starting receiver.

Toney can have success as a rookie if teams manufacture touches for him, a la Tarik Cohen. He’s hard to pigeonhole, but could be a successful starting flanker or slot receiver by year three, as well as a team’s primary punt or kick returner.

Strengths

  • Phenomenal fluidity and creativity in his route running—he regularly puts defenders in the spin cycle
  • Outstanding speed and agility
  • Excellent ball-carrier vision
  • Quick and flexible as a ball carrier, with great play strength. Constantly breaking tackles and spinning away for extra yards
  • Ultimate versatility—can catch passes outside or in the slot, run the ball from the backfield, or return kicks

Weaknesses

  • Can sometimes fail to catch the ball in contested catch situations or when his focus lapses
  • Unorthodox route-running style will not work for every QB or offensive scheme
  • Violent movements when running routes or breaking tackles could lead to injuries in his career
  • Missed ten games in his career between shoulder and shin injuries
  • Suspended one game in 2018, and an independent person (a la Marshawn Lynch) who marches to his own drumbeat, whether or not teams will want it

Draft projection: Late first round to second round


Why he fits the Bills

One of the keys to Buffalo’s success has been the talented unit of receivers surrounding Josh Allen. How else to maintain that success but to continue building it up? Cole Beasley is 32 years old, and the 34-year-old Emmanuel Sanders is only playing on a one-year contract, so before we know it, the Bills could need another slot receiver. Toney adds value to the team with his experience in the backfield and on jet sweeps, something with which offensive coordinator Brian Daboll loves to experiment. He can also give the Bills a primary kick and punt returner, now that Andre Roberts isn’t with the team anymore.

In terms of scheme fit, although Toney’s basketball-style route running wouldn’t fit with many teams, it would work well with Josh Allen. Allen’s policy is that his receivers just need to run to their spot on time, and the path doesn’t matter. That suits Toney just fine. In fact, Toney would be able to pattern a lot of his route running off of Beasley’s slippery work. In year one, Toney could be the team’s primary returner and a fifth receiver used on designed play calls. By year three, he would be part of the starting receiver trio for the Bills.