The Buffalo Bills once again boasted one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2022, yet somehow, it felt at times as if the team was underachieving in that phase of the game. Maybe it was the immense expectations, or perhaps it was the hot start to the season that cooled a bit as the year progressed — but it seemed that Buffalo was this close to being an unstoppable juggernaut.
Production out of the wide receiver group was one point of emphasis, at least among those not named Stefon Diggs, as the season progressed. Quarterback Josh Allen was elite once again, but he was less effective in targeting everyone other than his top target. This makes sense, of course, as there’s an expected drop-off that takes place when targeting players who aren’t as good as one of the best in the league. The team tried to add veterans with an established rapport with Allen as the year progressed, but it’s possible that they overlooked an in-house option in the process.
In the first installment of our 2023 edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one of those wide receivers, a young player whose ability far surpassed his first-year statistical output.
Name: Khalil Shakir
Height/Weight: 6’, 190 pounds
Age: 23 (24 on 2/3/2024)
Experience/Draft: 2; selected in the fifth round (No. 148 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft
College: Boise State
Acquired: Fifth-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Shakir enters the second year of his rookie contract, a four-year pact worth a total of $4,007,148. For the 2023 season, Shakir carries a cap hit of $956,787.
2022 Recap: As has been the way under head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills brought Shakir along slowly during his rookie year. For a brief moment, Shakir served as the return man, but that ceased once the team acquired Nyheim Hines. Shakir returned three punts for a total of 23 yards and one kickoff for 34 yards. He appeared in 14 games, making two starts, but he only saw 20 targets in the passing game overall. He caught ten of those passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Most of that production came in his first career start, a 38-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5 where Shakir caught three passes for 75 yards and that lone touchdown. In the playoffs, Shakir was the target on seven of quarterback Josh Allen’s passes. He caught five balls for 91 yards in two games.
Positional outlook: After spending much of last season buried on the depth chart, Shakir enters the year as the de facto top option in the slot. Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty each offer competition for the role in Buffalo’s “11” personnel packages, and rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid may steal some snaps as a move/”F” tight end if Buffalo uses more “12” personnel groupings. The wide receiver unit is the largest grouping on the current roster — there are 13 players overall — including Sherfield, Harty, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah Coulter, KeeSean Johnson, Dezmon Patmon, Justin Shorter, Braydon Johnson, Tyrell Shavers, Bryan Thompson, and Jalen Wayne.
2023 Offseason: Shakir has spent some of the offseason training with Eric Moulds, and he is healthy heading into the offseason program.
2023 Season outlook: Count me among those who thought that Buffalo would have been better off just playing Shakir more often instead of signing Cole Beasley off his couch last year at the end of the season. To be fair to Beasley, the veteran did play well in his limited time with the club, and they definitely serve different purposes — as Shakir is difficult to cover against man-to-man while Beasley is a wizard in zone coverage. However, it seems to be Shakir’s show now, and the Bills are better for it. The question isn’t going to be one of his ability, I don’t think, as he showed plenty of that in limited duty last year. There will definitely be a question about how much opportunity he’ll have in an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed in the passing game. Shakir played on just 25% of the team’s offensive snaps last season. If he doubles that number this season, I think it’s reasonable to expect him to catch somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 passes for 400 yards and a handful of touchdowns. Perhaps even that’s too slight a projection, but given that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will need to find ways to utilize Shakir, Harty, and Kincaid in similar roles (and that’s in addition to using Hines and James Cook in the slot, which will probably happen at times), I don’t think it’s wise to expect a huge output from Shakir this season. I view him as an immensely talented part of the offense who is going to contribute much more this season, but he probably won’t be a guy who enters your fantasy football starting lineup every week.