Buffalo Bills: Scouting the NFL Draft for a Tight End

buffalo bills nfl draft

Jun 14, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Nick O’Leary (84) catches a pass during mini-camp at the ADPRO Sports Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL Draft quickly approaching, we will be examining each position and players the Buffalo Bills should be considering, this time with tight ends.

A positive aspect of the Buffalo Bills‘ roster is based on the players under contract for the 2017 season, the Bills won’t need to look for a tight end in the NFL Draft.

The odd part is, even with some good talent and a diverse skill set, the tight end position may have been the most underutilized position during the Rex Ryan Era.

Current Tight Ends on the Roster

Charles Clay (26 years old, 3 years remaining)

Nick O’Leary (24 years old, 1 year remaining)

Gerald Christian (23 years old, 1 year remaining)

Blake Annen (25 years old, 1 year remaining)

Improvement Need: LOW

Charles Clay is one of the highest paid tight ends in the game, but hasn’t produced up to his contract thus far. Even with that said, Clay is still one of the better weapons in the NFL and has remained relatively healthy in his first two seasons with the Bills.

The remaining depth at the position consists of young talents who bring receiving or blocking skills, but not both. Nick O’Leary is a former Buffalo Bills‘ draft pick who showed flashes of being a good receiver.

For now, he is best known as “that guy who doesn’t wear gloves”.

While we rate this draft need as “Low,” don’t be shocked if the Bills make a selection to upgrade the talent at the position.

Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison has been in offenses that featured A LOT of tight end production. Offenses that included the likes of Shannon Sharpe, Owen Daniels, and Dennis Pitta.

While Clay wasn’t featured much under Rex Ryan, expect that to change moving forward.

Barring a massive move to free up cap space or cutting several tight ends to make room, the Bills won’t be drafting at this position.

There are tight ends in this draft that could tempt the Bills to add an instant offensive threat. That alone means you need to know who to watch for this April.

If the Buffalo Bills draft at tight end with the 10th pick, who will it be?

buffalo bills nfl draft

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) makes a touchdown catch against the Clemson Tigers during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

O.J. Howard – Alabama

Senior

39 games

69 Receptions

1,131yards

4 TDs

I don’t believe the Buffalo Bills will take a tight end with the 10th pick. Yet, with Doug Whaley at the helm, we can’t be shocked if they do.

The NFL is a copycat league and in the AFC East, the Patriots continually work with 2 tight ends and seem to be doing pretty well lately. Adding a talent like Howard to pair with Charles Clay would be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

Howard’s stat-line shouldn’t be a reason for Bills’ fans to write him off. He played at Alabama with very questionable quarterback play and their formula is simple — have a great defense and pound the ball running.

The Alabama offense has produced a string of NFL running backs, like Eddie Lacy, TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry. Thus, the passing offense hasn’t been needed.

Howard, while not being a focal point, has saved his best for the money games on national TV. In the National Championship the last 2 years (both against Clemson), Howard has 214 rec yards, 9 receptions and 3 TDs.

Just to pile on, he was one of the standouts at Senior Bowl practices. According to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock:

“I think he had two goals, one, show he can separate against man-to-man coverage, and two, confirm that he is a much better blocker than he was a couple years ago. Both goals were accomplished,” Mayock said on NFL Network Saturday in pre-game remarks. “In my opinion, he’s a top-20 pick and my NFL comp for him will be Greg Olsen. He can block, he can be in-line, and he can beat you downfield vertically.”

What if the Bills do not select O.J. Howard in Round 1?

Let’s look at some other prospects the Buffalo Bills can draft in the later rounds to improve the position.

buffalo bills nfl draft

Oct 27, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies tight end Bucky Hodges (7) pulls in a pass against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Phillipie Motley (32) during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech

Junior

25 Games

85 Receptions

1,056 yards

13 TDs

What will make Bucky Hodges an intriguing option for the Buffalo Bills is that he is a walking nightmare for defenses. What he lacks in run blocking polish he makes up for in shear size. Read this review by CBS Sports Rob Rang:

In terms of the size, speed and strength package, Hodges might just be the freakiest pass-catcher in the country. If committed to polishing his game, the future looks bright for Hodges with a possible first-round selection waiting for him.

Projected Bills NFL Draft Round: 3

I don’t believe he will be a 1st round pick, but all it takes is 1 team. Should he fall to a place the Bills feel comfortable for a luxury pick, Hodges could be a draft steal.

For the Buffalo Bills passing offense to take the next step, they need to be more of the aggressor.

Creating a mismatch is easier, when it’s just the player that does it, and not a gimmicky play or route.

nfl draft buffalo bills

Nov 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt (88) rushes in the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Butt – Michigan

Senior

44 games

138 receptions

1,646 yards

11 TDs

2016 John Mackey Award Winner

Jake Butt was once projected to be a late first round selection after O.J. Howard. His fall in the draft will be happening due to a torn ACL he suffered during this year’s Orange Bowl.

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What is unfortunate for Butt, is fortunate for NFL teams that can afford to have a high reward player sit for a year. Looking at the contract status of the Buffalo Bills tight ends group, Buffalo will fit that description.

The hesitation for Whaley/McDermott should be that they will get no help in the 2017 season from Butt. Whaley has given mixed messages on if the Bills are rebuilding or not. Drafting Butt signals a true investment in the future, as the team who takes him will get nothing in 2017.

Projected Bills NFL Draft Round: 3-4

When healthy, Butt will bring the pass catching features our previous prospects bring, but he will offer a higher potential of blocking abilities. The reason Charles Clay is a top tight end is because he can block and catch —  and Butt will offer the same potential.

What round would you take a first round talent, but know you will get no help in the 2017 season?

What other tight ends are you looking at in this year’s NFL Draft? Leave your comments below!

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