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2023 NFL mock draft: Bills add elite speed at receiver

Speed is the name of the game with this pick

Tennessee v Vanderbilt Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images

The NFL Draft is all about selecting players when appropriate, and not reaching for your selections. Certain areas of the draft provide better value at certain positions than others. For the Buffalo Bills, picking late in the first round, the offensive line position remains a big position of need. But the value must be there to match the need. In this weak of an offensive line draft, players will be pushed up the board to a degree. That could leave the Bills without much of an option at the position once it comes time for their selection.

Other traditional positions that receive a lot of love early on in the draft are quarterbacks, defensive linemen, and wide receivers. It’s likely that four quarterbacks will be selected well before the Bills are on the clock. This is also a very strong defensive line draft all across the board. It’s possible 10 or more defensive linemen are selected in the first round. While it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Bills to upgrade at those spots, it seems unlikely at this time that a first-rounder is allocated to that area.

That leaves receiver. Every team is always looking for a new weapon for their quarterback. Last year, six receivers went in the top 18 picks. It’s possible only one receiver goes within those picks in this draft. Thus, the Bills are in a bit of a sweet spot at 27, where there may be value barring an unforeseen early run at the position. No true stars at the position tends to equivocate to more runs on the position in the late first round to the second round. The draft can always be diverted in different ways with off-the-wall selections, but a late first-round run on receivers seems possible.

With that being said, let’s dive into a new name that enters the first-round fray at the receiver position, with a skill set that’s sure to scare any team.

We used the 2023 NFL mock draft simulator from Pro Football Focus to complete a realistic first-round mock draft. The Bills are selecting No. 27 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

With the 27th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select...

Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

There’s no secret about what Jalin Hyatt’s role will be in the NFL. Speed is the name of the game for one of 2022’s biggest breakout stars. Hyatt went from having a minuscule role with the Volunteers to exploding onto the scene as the 2022 Biletnikoff Award Winner and amassing more than 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season. He consistently ran away from SEC defenses with his lanky 6’0”, 185-pound frame. Some of Hyatt’s biggest questions will come from his size, and how much space he had to operate with at Tennessee.

Volunteers coach Josh Heupel runs a “Briles system” — a vertical spread offense that aligns receivers from sideline to sideline. It’s a testament of speed and a test for the defense’s ability to handle that speed across the entire field. Unsurprisingly, Hyatt thrived in the system with his elite speed. It’s likely that Hyatt is going to clock in the low 4.3s. That speed is going to raise plenty of eyebrows. It’s very possible that his Scouting Combine performance could help elevate Hyatt to first-round status.

The question with Hyatt will be what will translate to the next level, and what won’t. The Briles offense is one that presents issues for scouting offensive skill positions, because of the space allotted that won’t be reciprocated in the NFL. Hyatt is skinny, and he’s far from a technician at the position. But you can’t teach Hyatt’s explosiveness and ability to get vertical. Teams will covet that.

Hyatt is likely going to be a low-volume slot player in the NFL, at least to start. If the Bills are looking to lean into a heavily vertical offense, Hyatt makes a lot of sense as a speed threat in that role. Gabe Davis has been a pseudo “take the top off” player in the NFL, but his speed isn’t a strength, nor is it something that scares opposing defenses. Hyatt is a totally different ball game from that standpoint.

Josh Allen will always have love for the deep ball. The Bills leaning into a true vertical offense accentuates everything Allen loves. Will it work? Well, that would be an unwritten story for now. It could be a volatile strategy. But Hyatt could help to maintain the team’s explosiveness through the air for years to come.