The Buffalo Bills selected WR Justin Shorter from the University of Florida in the fifth round (150 overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft. Shorter will join a current receiver group that consists of returning players Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Kahlil Shakir, and newcomers Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty. Shorter figures to slot in as the team's sixth receiver on the depth chart. He has a relatively open path to making the Bills’ 53-man roster due to general manager Brandon Beane’s recent comment saying he hopes to roster six receivers this year. Let’s take a peek at what Shorter has to offer for Buffalo.
Justin Shorter’s college Career
Shorter was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school in 2017. The New Jersey native was a five-star consensus recruit on all three major recruiting outlets — ESPN, 247Sports, and Rivals. He was also the number-one receiver prospect in the nation on both ESPN and 247Sports.
Shorter committed to Penn State and stuck around for two seasons. He redshirted his first season in 2018, only appearing in four games. In 2019 as a redshirt freshman, Shorter saw action in 10 games, tallying 12 catches for 137 yards.
In 2020, Shorter transferred to the University of Florida, where he played for the next three seasons and finished his college career. In three seasons at Florida, he produced a total of 95 receptions for 1395 yards and eight touchdowns. Even though Shorter only played in nine games in 2022 due to a hamstring injury, it may have been his best season. He finished his final year of college football with 29 receptions, 577 yards, two touchdowns, and an eye-popping 19.9-yard average/catch.
2023 NFL Scouting Combine
Justin Shorter was one of the tallest receivers at the NFL combine, measuring in at 6’4” and weighing 229 pounds. He has longs arms at 33 3/4”, and 10” hands. Here are Shorter’s combine testing numbers:
- 40-yard dash = 4.55s
- 10-yard split = 1.59s
- Vertical jump = 35.5”
- Broad jump = 10’6”
- Bench press = 18 reps
These numbers might not be “world class” but they are quite impressive for someone who’s 6’4” tall. His 4.55-second 40-yard dash is plenty of speed for his size and his 35.5” inch vertical combined with his height and long arms will make him a threat in jump-ball situations.
Film Analysis of Justin Shorter
Shorter utilizes rocker step
Shorter incorporated a “rocker step” move into his deep post route, and it paid off big time. He got the defensive back to turn his hips and took advantage by beating him deep to the inside. Watch at the end how Shorter effortlessly tracked this moonball from quarterback Anthony Richardson under the bright lights in Gainesville, FL.
Shorter’s high-point game
Shorter used his big frame and long arms to high-point the football on this touchdown catch. This play shows just a glimpse of what Shorter could potentially provide the Bills in the red zone.
Shorter running the post-corner route
Shorter ran an excellent post-corner route on this play. He sold the post by turning his back to the QB like he was expecting the ball to come out, then he broke his route off and headed towards the sideline. He did a nice job of not letting the corner part of his route get too steep, which would have allowed the safety to make a play on the ball. At the end, he took a hit and still managed to make a catch with his feet inbounds.
Shorter getting vertical
Shorter simply outran the DB on this deep ball. The best part of this route was how after Shorter gained a step on the defender, he “stacked” him. This means instead of just staying on the outside, Shorter wove his route back in so he is “stacked” over the top of the DB. This allowed Shorter to keep the DB in a trailing position and made it more difficult for the DB to get back in phase to make a play. The ball was slightly underthrown on this play, but Shorter was still able to make the catch.
Shorter catching over the middle
Shorter froze the DB at the line of scrimmage with a little hesitation, which allowed him to get the separation he needed over the middle. Shorter isn’t afraid to go across the middle and make a catch, even if that means he’s going to take a hit.
Shorter’s zone feel
Shorter showed a nice understanding of how to get open in zone coverage during this play. He bent his route outside initially to get around the first linebacker. Then he didn’t settle over the middle because the opposite linebacker jumped inside. Shorter kept running until he cleared the defender and then settled down, which allowed a big open window for the QB to throw to.
Just Shorter: Pros & Cons
- Big wideout in all aspects: tall, giant wingspan, and large hands
- Serious deep threat; even though he doesn’t have “burner” speed, Shorter can get vertical in a hurry and his long strides can separate from DBs quicker than you think
- Great deep-ball tracker — makes it look easy
- Can high-point the ball well in jump ball situations
- Has the potential to continue to develop as a route runner; his short-area quickness shows better pop than most players his size
- Isn’t afraid to catch the ball in traffic or over the middle
- Special teams contributor — likely his initial path to make the 53-man roster
- His production was subpar at the collegiate level
- Injury problems at both Penn State and Florida
- Disappeared at times during games
- Was an “all or nothing” type of WR — production was dependent on deep balls
- Doesn’t separate well in the short & intermediate routes
I think Shorter will likely make the Bills’ final roster due to his special teams ability. I expect him to contribute in all four phases of special teams and possibly even take over Taiwan Jones’ gunner position on the punt team.
Shorter is a bit of a developmental project at WR. Clearly, he has the physical attributes to succeed on the outside as a WR in the NFL, but he has to add some more skills to his repertoire and be more consistent.
I see Shorter in a similar role to Gabe Davis. I think Davis is a better WR than Shorter right now, but I can definitely see Shorter developing into the role that Davis holds right now on Buffalo’s offense — that is a WR2 deep threat who gets most of his targets down the field. Davis isn’t particularly fast, but he has an innate ability to get open on deep routes and I think this type of role is something the Bills truly value. Shorter has the same type of ability to get open down the field; his long strides are deceiving and eat up cushions with ease. Shorter is also taller and has better hands than Davis. Could the Bills be thinking ahead and using Shorter as Davis’ eventual replacement? I guess we’ll find out in time!