For a long time, the Buffalo Bills were in the wilderness with regard to finding a reliable tight end. Sure, there were solid moments—Paul Costa, Ernie Warlick, Pete Metzelaars, Jay Riemersma, Keith McKeller, and Scott Chandler all had varying degrees of success—but the team hasn’t really had a true game-changer at the position. We’ve thought that the team might have found that game-changer at numerous points throughout my lifetime, as anyone who thought that Charles Clay or Shawn Nelson would be that guy could tell you. We also know that the Bills, for whatever reason, just haven’t found a tight end who could be among the league’s elite.
That might be changing now, as Buffalo’s current starter at tight end has developed into a true stud at the position. He is dynamic in the red zone, he can run most any route, and he has become a reliable safety valve for quarterback Josh Allen. Are we overvaluing him a little since he’s our guy? I suppose that’s a possibility, but it’s hard to ignore the growth he’s shown over the last three years.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss Buffalo’s tight end.
Name: Dawson Knox
Height/Weight: 6’4” 254 lbs
Age: 25 (26 on 11/14/2022)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected in the third round (No. 96 overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft by Buffalo
College: Ole Miss
Acquired: Third-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Knox enters the final year of his rookie contract, a four-year deal worth a total of $3,521,600. For the 2022 season, Knox carries a cap hit of $2,745,545 and a dead-cap hit of $205,545 if he’s released or traded.
2021 Recap: Knox had 52 catches for 676 yards and five touchdowns over the course of his first two professional seasons combined. He had a lot to prove in 2021, and he proved it. He caught 49 passes for 587 yards and nine touchdowns in just 15 games last season, as he obliterated his career marks in all three categories for a single season. More importantly, he dropped far fewer passes and showed himself to be a more-than-adequate blocker. In the playoffs, Knox was outstanding as well, catching seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns in two games. After being credited with ten drops as a rookie, Knox has dropped just eight passes combined over the last two seasons, dropping four in 2020 and in 2021. He was fourth on the team in targets (71) and in receiving yards, and he was third in receptions and second in receiving touchdowns. It was a fine year for a man who appeared on the precipice of a breakout in 2020.
Positional outlook: Knox sits atop the depth chart at his position, with O.J. Howard, Tommy Sweeney, Jalen Wydermyer, and Quintin Morris the other players at the position.
2022 Offseason: Knox is healthy and he has participated in all offseason activities to date.
2022 Season outlook: Knox is already in the top ten among tight ends in most important categories in Bills history over his young career. He’s tenth in receiving yards (1,263), ninth in receptions (101), and fifth in touchdowns (14). By the end of the year, it’s not crazy to assume that he’ll be as high as sixth in receptions, second in touchdowns, and fourth in receiving yards by a tight end. Does the fact that he’s on pace to be, statistically, the best tight end in franchise history warrant an extension? I think it does, but not just for that reason, as stats compared across eras, especially at a position that once was treated like a sixth offensive lineman, aren’t necessarily informative.
Knox has developed from the guy my oldest son referred to as “the slippery hands guy” to a legitimate threat in all areas of the field (side note: last year, he looked at me during one of Knox’s better games and said, “Wow daddy...Knox is really good now!”). He might not be on Travis Kelce’s level statistically, but he’s someone who can do a lot of things that Kelce does in terms of stretching the defense horizontally, attacking defensive backs and linebackers alike, and making chunk plays for his offense. Knox is one of those priority players to re-sign, and if he builds off of his successful 2021 campaign, the price tag is only going to rise.