When comparing the 2012 Buffalo Bills wide receivers to those of 2011, there isn't much of a difference other than the speedster, T.J. Graham, drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. The Bills currently have 12 wide receivers on the roster, all competing for most likely six or seven spots.
With head coach Chan Gailey's spread offense, it can be difficult to lay out a firm depth chart as most of the wideouts are required to learn all of the positions.
1. Stevie Johnson
This one is obvious, as Stevie Johnson has become quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite target over the past two seasons. Last year, he caught 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. An impending free agent, the Bills' brass re-signed the No. 1 wideout to a five-year, $36 million deal this offseason.
It's obvious that Johnson is the main receiving weapon on the Bills, but after him it gets a bit tricky.
2. Donald Jones
After being nagged with injuries, wide receiver Donald Jones was finally placed on injured reserve toward the end of his 2011 campaign. Still, he managed 23 catches for 231 yards and a score in his limited playing time. Head coach Chan Gailey explained that he had the upper hand as the No. 2 wideout.
3. David Nelson
David Nelson has found his niche in the slot for the Bills under Coach Gailey's quick passing scheme, finishing second on the team in receptions with 61, gaining 658 yards and five touchdowns. The 6'5" Florida product is a mismatch over the middle, and has been developing a rapport with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ever since joining the team as an undrafted free agent two years ago.
4. T.J. Graham
Behind Donald Jones, Graham seems ready to be the vertical threat the Bills' offense desperately needs.
In OTA's, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has already said that Graham's speed is refreshing, since the team was lacking quickness at the wideout position due to the oft-injured Roscoe Parrish.
It was nice to see T.J. go out there and make some plays today. He did some good stuff. Every time you see him catch the ball in space you really see his speed. It's been refreshing to see him take a hitch, make the defender miss and run down the sideline—stuff like that.
If Graham can develop his route-running abilities to more than just go-routes, he will be a viable asset to the Bills offense.
5. Derek Hagan
Behind Stevie Johnson, Derek Hagan is the best fit for the "X" wide receiver position. After being picked up in the middle of last season, Hagan caught 13 passes for 138 yards and a score during his limited time with the team. His play caught the eye of the Bills' front office, as they re-signed the journeyman wideout to a one-year deal at season's end.
6. Marcus Easley
Drafted in the fourth round three years ago, Marcus Easley has been placed on injured reserve prior to the regular season in both of his professional years due to a knee injury and a heart ailment.
One of the most intriguing physical prospects on the roster, listed at 6'3", 217 pounds, with a 4.46 40-yard dash time at the combine, it's time for a healthy Easley to show what he is capable of.
While spending most reps with the second team, both Easley and Gailey sound optimistic about the third-year "rookie."
“I don’t think I need to talk to Marcus because his attitude has been so good,” said Gailey. “His work ethic and the things he’s done in the offseason to get ready to participate. He’s been so strong and so good I haven’t had to say a word to him. He is an upbeat guy. He knows he’s got to fight an uphill battle to get into the fray, but I think he can.”
Easley quickly was a fan favorite due to his stature and speed, but he will need to prove himself during training camps to even have a shot at making the team.