UDFA Preview: Wide Receiver & Tight End

BBD thinks the Bills need more help outside

With a new CBA deal seemingly only days away its time to start looking at some of the undrafted talent that remains from last April’s draft. Yesterday we looked at the Quarterback options and earlier today we examined the Running Back class. Now we continue our preview series with Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends.

Lots of potential diamonds in the rough remain in this class, but some come with red flags such as maturity, injury, or just limited potential.

Bills current WR situation:
WR Lee Evans-Starter
WR Marcus Easley
WR Paul Hubbard
WR Felton Huggins
WR Steve Johnson-Starter
WR Donald Jones
WR David Nelson
WR Roscoe Parrish
WR Naaman Roosevelt

The Bills currently have a lot of players at WR but are lacking in terms of depth and playmakers. The youngsters such as Easley, Roosevelt, and Jones all have potential but will need time to grow and develop there skills. Starter Steve Johnson emerged last year as a big play target but was inconsistent and cost the Bills dearly at times. Lee Evans is the veteran leader and most reliable target for this team but he is getting older and his big play ability will begin to become less of a threat as the years continue to pass. The one thing we definitely lack is size WR’s who can get down the field and make plays. David Nelson has lots of size, but is limited athletically and is not a threat to stretch a defense.

DeAndre Brown-Southern Miss
6’5, 233 lbs.

There is no denying that Brown has had tumultuous relationship with his head coach, Larry Fedora, while at Southern Miss. He has been labeled as a diva and to some degree it’s certainly deserved. He does not give his all when he knows he is not the main target and his attempts at blocking despite his superior size are infuriatingly poor. He has maturity issues and it remains to be seen how much he has grown up.

Brown’s issues with Fedora are as much on Brown as they are on Fedora. I don’t want to pile on to Brown but I did want to illustrate the risk you have with picking him up. He is an incredible talent and could be a dominant #1 WR if he wants to be. That’s the biggest issue with Brown is can you get him to finally get it?

Andre Holmes-Hillsdale
6’4, 210 lbs.

A big target from a tiny D2 school up in Michigan, Holmes was a dominant force in the GLIAC using his size and strength to overpower smaller defensive backs. Holmes is built like an NFL WR and runs his routes with good balance, it’s very hard to knock him off his routes with a jam due to his balance and strength. He is a fantastic athlete who is able to go up after jump balls and has the speed to get behind the defense.

Any time you have a small school prospect the question of ‘just how good are they?’ is valid. Playing in the GLIAC is not like playing in the ACC or Big East. On tape Holmes biggest issue is getting going, you don’t see him explode off the line into his routes like elite WR’s do and he has a very long stride that takes time for him to get to full speed. He has stiff hips and struggles some with getting the proper break on his routes.

All of what plagues Holmes can be fixed, and what he offers is a big target with good speed and athleticism. He projects to an outside WR and with time and coaching could really develop into something.

Lester Jean-FAU
6’3, 215 lbs.

Do you see the theme Im going with yet? Jean is another big bodied WR who can work outside and is strong enough to handle the jam at the line. Jean displays good body control down the field which allows him to go up after passes and make big plays. He does a fantastic job setting up his defender on double moves and really sells his fakes. Jean is also the most accomplished blocker of the three, he has good strength, and does a good job of picking up key down field blocks to spring his back.

One of the biggest issues with Jean are his routes, they tend to get lazy and he does not get proper depth on his shorter routes often letting the LB cut inside his crosses and slants.  He needs to get in and out of his breaks a little quicker, he takes too much time between decelerating into his break and accelerating out of it. The one area of his game that could prevent him from seeing the field are his mental lapses, he has to find a way to be more consistent with his hands, he makes too many big catches, to be dropping the easy ones.

Jean may be the most complete WR option left, he has the body, strength, and playmaking ability many want in outside WR’s. He’s not a burner, but he has enough speed to get deep and with his size, he has an advantage on any jump ball. I see Jean as a fantastic red zone target early in his career.

Bills current TE situation:
Mike Caussin
Scott Chandler
David Martin
Shawn Nelson-Starter
Jonathan Stupar

Nelson somewhat defaults into being the starter an in his first two years in Buffalo has been somewhat of a disappointment. He brings plenty of athleticism to the position, but his concentration lapses and blocking issues have been glaring. Behind him are set of decent TE options but nobody who offers Nelson much competition in terms of challenging for his starting role. How important a role the TE plays in Gailey’s offense is yet to be seen but if we could add another TE to the mix who can make plays, maybe he’d find a way to work them in.

Charlie Gantt-Michigan State
6’4, 252 lbs.

We were shocked when Gantt went undrafted last April and we immediately put him near the top of our UDFA wish list in terms of players we wanted to see the Bills bring in. Gantt is the most complete TE of those left and was likely looked over because he is not the same caliber athlete that others are. Gantt is a well rounded TE he catches the ball out away from him body and secures it well, he has good footwork which allows him to run routes with precision. He is a very accomplished inline blocker and can’t definitely help to set the edge.

The knocks on Gantt are about his athleticism, while we feel he is more than athletic enough to play the position, there are questions about his speed and his ability to gain separation down the field. Also there are questions about how much potential he has. For all the talk about high potential prospects Gantt is more of a ‘what you see is what you get’ player. He has only average size for the position, which is an issue when he is asked to anchor and block bigger defenders. He shows proper technique and gives great effort, but at times he can be overpowered based almost solely on size.

Gantt going undrafted was one of April’s biggest crimes and we hope Buffalo can bring him in. While others knock him for not being able to run a sub 4.55 40 we don’t have an issue with it. We’ll take the TE who can catch, block, and gives it his all every play.

Mike McNeill-Nebraska
6’4, 231 lbs.

An excellent receiving option off the line, Mike McNeill saw his stock rise pre-draft but not quite enough to get drafted. McNeill has soft natural hands which allow him to make catches away for his body. Runs one of the best seam routes of any TE in this draft and does a good job of getting off the line and into his route quickly. One of the best parts of McNeill’s game though is his ability to identify zone coverage and understand how it’s being applied on the field. He is able to locate soft spots in the zone and sit down in them providing his QB a nice target to throw at.

McNeill isn’t a very bulky TE, he is bit thin and because of this he clearly struggles with the physical parts of playing TE. He is not a very good blocker, often getting over powered at the POA. He does a decent job of chipping his man and then releasing into the flat, but he’s not completely comfortable doing that. Also when they bring a LB over him to jam him at the line they can really disrupt his timing and work him off his route.

McNeill is probably one of the more athletic TE option available to us. He provides us with a good pass catcher who can flex out and provided mismatch issues over smaller nickel corners. You won’t get much blocking out of him and that means the amount of snaps he’ll see could very well be limited to just clear passing downs.

Schuylar Oordt-Northern Iowa
6’5, 261 lbs.

Oordt is somewhat of a blend of half-Gantt and half-McNeil. He is a very natural athlete who does a good job of running his routes and looks at ease doing it. He has terrific length which he uses to his advantage both on jump balls and in the red zone. Shows good footwork to get in and out of his breaks quickly and does not take false steps. The thing we admire about Oordt’s game that often gets overlooked is his YAC ability. He’s not going to make people miss or run past them but he runs so hard once he catches the ball that he will break tackles down the field.

Oordt is a very raw prospect still that will need time to learn, develop and adapt his game to the pro level. Not much of an in-line blocker right now, and can be exposed while blocking due to poor technique and lack of power. He’s also not a very broad TE so he is able to be engulfed while blocking by bigger, stronger defenders. The biggest issue with Oordt is that he is more of a body catcher at this point than a hand catcher. He lets too many throws get into his body and this can cause him to drop passes and lead to a drive killing incompletion.

The thing to keep in mind with Oordt is that for everything he does well, none of it is quite complete. He is still a very raw product in terms of polish and he can get better at everything he does, including those that he is already pretty accomplished at. His ceiling is very high but he’s going to need some time.

 Do you want to see the Bills pick up another WR? Do you think Easley is going to be the man who steps up next? Are we ever going to find another TE? Let us know what you think in the comments!

2 Responses to “UDFA Preview: Wide Receiver & Tight End”

  1. NEPD says:

    Oordt is a nice player and his work ethic will be great on a practice squad. I think he makes a 53-man roster within a year or two.

    • Matt Elder says:

      On the Bills roster he could make the 53 out of camp. Not a lot seperating him from Nelson in terms of talent and Nelson hasn’t made the best impression on the new staff.

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