Which Wide Receiver Prospects Fit Best with Buffalo Bills?

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013

Which Wide Receiver Prospects Fit Best with Buffalo Bills?

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    In 2012, the Bills were one of 13 teams to target their primary receiver on at least 25 percent of their pass attempts. And it's no coincidence that eight of those teams missed the playoffs. 

    Stevie Johnson was targeted 144 times by Bills quarterbacks a season ago, more than the combined total of Donald Jones, T.J. Graham and Brad Smith. 

    While Johnson clearly has the tools of a No. 1 receiver, the Bills offense will be unable to take the next step until they find a suitable second option. 

    Here's a list of the top receivers in this class based on how well they would fit into the Bills offense. 

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

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    In terms of all-around talent, DeAndre Hopkins wouldn't be at the top of any draft board. But the Bills aren't necessarily looking for a No. 1 receiver. 

    Stevie Johnson will remain the Bills top target, which means they simply need to find a reliable No. 2 option. 

    Hopkins is essentially a poor man's Roddy White. 

    Like White, Hopkins lacks elite size and speed, but he simply knows how to get open. 

    Hopkins will primarily be an option on underneath routes at the next level, essentially playing the role of a possession receiver. But if the defender tries to jump a short route, he has the ability to get over the top of the defense. 

    Few college receivers enter the league with the all-around game that Hopkins possesses, and he has the tools to be an instant-impact player in an offense such as Buffalo's where he won't be the go-to guy. 

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

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    Patterson has been mentioned as a potential option for the Bills with the eighth pick

    That would a bold move, but Patterson's playmaking ability would definitely add a new dimension to the Bills offense. 

    Patterson would give the Bills a receiver capable of making big plays after the catch, something they lack on the current roster. 

    T.J. Graham provides the Bills with that big-play threat, but most of his long receptions came on the deep ball. 

    What the Bills need is someone who can take a quick slant or a drag out route, and turn it up the field for a 15-yard gain. And that's exactly what Patterson brings to the table.

    Patterson has some flaws—he tends to body-catch the ball, which will lead to drops in the NFL—but once the ball is secured, he becomes a running back. He's big enough to break some tackles, but also quick enough to make guys miss in the open field. 

Tavon Austin, West Virginia

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    The Bills already have an undersized receiver in Graham, but he and Austin are drastically different players. 

    Graham is a pure deep threat.

    According to Pro Football Focus, in 2012, the Bills lined him up on the outside for 91.6 percent of his routes and 24 percent of his targets came at least 20 yards down the field. 

    Austin, on the other hand, is a prototypical slot receiver. 

    The Bills could also get creative with an athlete such as Austin, lining him up in the backfield on occasion. 

    Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett designed a new offense in 2012, at Syracuse, based loosely on Chip Kelly's scheme at Oregon. As a result, they ran some read-option plays, and a playmaker such as Austin would be a perfect addition to that type of scheme. 

Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech

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    Quinton Patton lacks the elite skills of a No. 1 receiver, but he could be the perfect complement to Johnson and Graham. 

    Patton isn't quite as polished as Hopkins, but he has a similar skill set which would make him an ideal No. 2 receiver in Buffalo. 

    He isn't an explosive receiver, which limits his big-play ability, but Patton has the size and reliable hands to be a possession receiver in the Bills' offense. 

    If he polishes his route running skills, Patton could develop into an Anquan Boldin-type receiver later in his career.

Robert Woods, USC

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    Robert Woods was overhyped entering the season and never should have been considered a potential No. 1 receiver. But now that his stock has come back down to earth, he may actually be underrated. 

    The Bills are lacking a prototypical slot receiver, which makes Woods an ideal fit. 

    Woods is excellent after the catch and has plenty of experience making catches in the flat and on three-to-five yard slants in USC's quick-strike offense. 

    Expectations for Woods should be minimal, as he is purely a slot receiver with limited upside, but he could be the perfect complementary piece in Buffalo. 

Other Receivers of Note

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    Keenan Allen, California


    Allen has more upside than some of the receivers on this list, but may not be an ideal fit in Buffalo. He's still learning how to use his size to his advantage, and relied too much on his modest speed at Cal.

    Allen may be a slow-developing prospect, but the Bills need someone to make an immediate impact. 



    Justin Hunter, Tennessee


    Like Allen, Hunter is more of a project than the Bills should be interested in this offseason. His upside is obvious, but he struggled with focusing on the field in 2012, which led to an inordinate number of drops and poor routes. 



    Markus Wheaton, Oregon State


    Wheaton is a personal favorite of mine, but he may be too similar to Graham to be a good fit in Buffalo. Like Graham, he's an undersized outside receiver who excels at stretching the field.