The Buffalo Bills have two of their outside wide receivers entering the free agent market, and while they have two starters at the position, they had four players take significant snaps. There is a significant hole at WR, so we are taking a lot at all the options to ask how they should tackle the spot.
Read through our excerpts (better yet click through and read the whole article) and then vote in our poll.
All-22 Review: Emmanuel Sanders
I usually do seven or more GIFs but honestly ran out of points to make with Emmanuel Sanders. The GIFs on hand and the route charts are pretty conclusive. The guy has a nice route tree at his disposal. Emmanuel Sanders is a good receiver and, as a WR3 like he wound up in Buffalo, I might go so far as to say he still presents enviable talent at the position. In a vacuum, fans should be screaming their heads off to make sure Sanders sticks around (which would be very difficult without any air).
Read the entire analysis with those GIFs he mentioned here
All-22 Review: Gabriel Davis
Don’t let anyone tell you size doesn’t matter. Davis’s size will likely always limit his route tree to some degree, but that same size allows him to have an advantage for contested catches and withstanding press coverage/contact on routes.
That said, even if Davis is at a relative disadvantage to Sanders when it comes to his tree, Davis is still quite respectable with some highlight-reel cuts and stops on film already. Most importantly for us data nerds, Davis has now shown it for two seasons. There’s a good deal of confidence he can continue producing the same way going forward.
Read the entire analysis with those GIFs he mentioned here
Sanders hints at retirement in run up to Super Bowl
“Right now, I’m in a position and we’ve all been there. I’m the oldest wide receiver in the league and I have a son about to be eight on Super Bowl Sunday. I got some decisions I have to make within myself if I want to still continue to play. I’m missing out on my son’s games and I’m moving my family to these cities back and forth. I got a lot of stuff that I got to reconsider, but if I did, I think I probably would go back to Buffalo to run it back,” Sanders said.
For more on what Sanders said and analysis, check out the full article
Contract projection for Emmanuel Sanders
Ultimately, I don’t think the marriage makes financial sense in 2022. Sanders will want guaranteed money and the Bills should be looking at Davis to be a cost-controlled option instead. Unless he takes a well-below-market deal, it looks like a one-year relationship. If he signs somewhere else, one year and $6 million. If he signs in Buffalo, one year and $3 million.
Read the entire article with comparable contracts right here.
In-house replacement options for Emmanuel Sanders
Besides Diggs and Davis, the only other outside receiver under contract for 2022 is Isaiah Hodgins, a sixth-round selection out of Oregon State in the 2020 NFL Draft. Hodgins spent most of his rookie year on the Injured Reserve list after suffering a shoulder injury during training camp.
Read the entire breakdown of the current roster right here
Free-agent options at outside receiver
Early injury issues gave him a slow start in his career, but Williams came on strong as one of the league’s best big-play receivers in the last few years. The 6’4” 218-lb WR averaged 58 catches, 967 yards, and 5.3 TDs (and 16.8 yards per catch) in the last three years.
The last potential WR1 (or high range WR2) on the list, Robinson has maybe the worst QB luck in history. Seriously, the lowlights include Christian Hackenberg, Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, and a slew of backups. Despite that, he had 200 catches, 2397 yards, and 13 TDs from 2019 to 2020.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Obviously Beckham has talent, and his diva traits are well-known (though maybe overblown because of toxic teams in New York and Cleveland). If healthy, he’s two years removed from a 1000-yard season, but maybe this isn’t the best time to pursue him.
Only 26, Smith-Schuster is still a high-upside receiver, especially if he works back outside. His value is uncertain, but another single-season deal in the neighborhood of $4-7 million could work.
Fuller, a glass cannon, is one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL... when he’s on the field. Between injuries and suspensions, he’s only appeared in 55 of a possible 97 games in his career. So his stats don’t look like starting receiver numbers. Although his per-game stats, extrapolated out to a 16-game season, would net you 62 catches, 912 yards, and seven TDs.
Gallup will be 26 in 2022, still in the prime of his career. When healthy, he’s easily a starting-quality wide receiver. He’ll probably sign a one-year deal, and he might not want to play for the Bills, who have depth in place.
In his four seasons with the Packers, Valdez-Scantling averaged 31 catches, 538 yards, and 3.3 TDs, with 17.5 yards per reception. The tradeoff is that he only caught 49.8% of his targets.
Like Allen Robinson, Cole has suffered through some dreadful quarterbacks in his career, but he’s still been a productive backup receiver in that time. 2020 was probably his best season, when he caught 55 of 88 targets for 642 yards and five TDs.
The former Oklahoma State star hasn’t lived up to his second-round draft status in his career, with his best season a 44/735/3 receiving slash in 2019. Now, you could argue that he suffered by catching passes from a toasted Ben Roethlisberger, especially since his calling card was the vertical passing game.
Another backup-receiver candidate, Robinson has had a few brief, shining moments for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he’s typically their fourth or fifth option on the field.
Oh hey, remember this guy? Watkins is still in the league, turning 29 this year, but lately he’s more of a WR3 or WR4 on his teams. In the last four seasons, he’s appeared in 47 of a possible 65 games, and he’s averaged 39 catches, 500 yards, and 2.3 touchdowns per year.
Remember this guy? Jones had a rough 2019 and 2020, falling out of favor with the Bills, being traded to the Raiders, and not exactly distinguishing himself there. But he turned a corner in 2021, catching 47 of 70 targets for 546 yards and a touchdown. He also had five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Las Vegas Raiders’ playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Read more information about each free agent option in the full article.
2022 NFL Draft prospects at receiver
- Garret Wilson (Ohio State)
- Drake London (USC)
- Jameson Williams (Alabama)
- Treylon Burks (Arkansas)
Fast, physical and creative with the ball in his hands, Wilson’s not your traditional number-one option, and profiles better as someone that teams might best utilize through manufactured touches. Like former USC teammate Michael Pittman Jr., London profiles as a jump-ball specialist but has some speed and runs pretty clean routes as well. Known for his elite deep speed, Williams isn’t just a deep threat. He’s shown the ability to make difficult catches and profiles as quarterback friendly when teams run zone. Burks has a lot to learn about the nuances of the position—including some worrying lapses at the catch point—but no other receiver boasts his combination of size and speed. He should blow up the combine.
- Chris Olave (Ohio State)
- Jahan Dotson (Penn State)
- David Bell (Purdue)
- Justyn Ross (Clemson)
- Jalen Tolbert (South Alabama)
- George Pickens (Georgia)
- Christian Watson (North Dakota State)
Read more about the Tier II and Tier III players in our full article.
Opinion: Outside receiver is the position of need no one is talking about
In 2021, three outside receivers played more than 47% of the snaps; Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and Davis. Jake Kumerow was in on 10% of the snaps as the fourth outside WR. The Bills need more than just two guys capable of carrying the load, while Sanders and Kumerow are free agents.
I think the first four rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft are going to see a wide receiver come off the board for the Bills.
Read the entire column here with more background information and opinion
Now it’s your turn to decide. Vote in our poll below and let us know what you want the Bills to do. Diggs is WR1, but I’ll leave the distinction of WR2/WR3 alone for now.
What should the Bills do at receiver this offseason?
This poll is closed
Convince Emmanuel Sanders to return
Sign a free agent
Draft a WR on Days 1/2
Draft a Day 3 WR
Roll with Diggs/Davis/Hodgins