BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
Revamp. If there’s one word that I would use to describe the difference in the Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver roster from 2012 to 2013, it would be revamp. The Bills said goodbye to three of their receivers from last season’s roster (Donald Jones, David Nelson and Ruvell Martin). When the team makes its final cuts, I expect there to be at least one more wide receiver added to the “goodbye” list.
This offseason, the Bills decided against tendering both Donald Jones and David Nelson, with Nelson coming off of a torn ACL. The Bills made it apparent that they were going to add wide receivers to their roster via free agency or the NFL draft.
Free agency came and went and no wide receivers were added, but they addressed the position in the draft. The Bills selected USC’s Robert Woods in Round 2 and Texas’ Marquise Goodwin in Round 3. The Bills also numerous wide receivers as undrafted free agents, including troubled but talented wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers.
On paper, the Bills took an area of weakness at wide receiver and turned it into one of strength. Expectations will be high for Stevie Johnson and his company among the Bills’ receiving corps in 2013.
Johnson is the only wide receiver in Buffalo Bills history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. That’s pretty special considering some of the wide receivers the Bills have had over the years. Unfortunately for Johnson, the streak is likely to end in 2013.
In the past few seasons, Johnson has benefited statistically from garbage time yardage and being the team’s only legitimate threat at the wide receiver position. Johnson has been among the league’s top nine receivers in targets in each of the past three seasons, with at least 135 targets each season.
Johnson won’t receive nearly as many targets in 2013 due to the team’s new influx of talent at wide receiver along with the team’s talented running back duo, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. The backs should not only see more carries in 2013, but the duo should also see its fair share of receptions.
It’s a safe bet that Johnson will still lead the team in receiving yards, but with the talent around him, don’t expect Johnson to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2013.
Woods is a classic “plug and play” receiver, meaning he can start instantly. At USC, Woods showed off the ability to run excellent routes while using his deceptive speed. In three collegiate seasons, Woods put up outstanding statistics. He pulled in 252 receptions for 2,930 yards and 32 touchdowns.
In Buffalo, Woods will instantly fill the Z-receiver role and contribute. Look for the former Trojan to finish with close to 50 receptions in his rookie season. There’s no doubt in my mind that Woods will be one of the most productive rookies in 2013.
Graham didn’t have the greatest rookie season, but it wasn’t entirely his fault.
Graham compiled 31 receptions for 322 yards and one touchdown in his rookie season. I highlighted some of Graham’s highs and lows in my Sophomore Spotlight series from earlier this offseason. According to Pro Football Focus premium statistics (subscription required) 183 yards came after the catch (57%), which Graham can build upon. His seven drops was his biggest flaw.
In truth, Graham was not utilized frequently in 2012. He was only targeted 14 times on passes of 20 yards or greater and had two receptions, according to PFF, with the other 12 passes deemed uncatchable. Graham also only received one carry all season, a five-yard rush against the Rams.
In 2013, look for Graham to be used as a deep threat more often. His deep receiving ability is his greatest asset and the reason the Bills selected Graham in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. Graham should start the season as Buffalo’s X-receiver when Johnson lines up in the slot, and in an up-tempo offense, Graham will get his fair share of looks. Look for Graham to build upon his rookie season and finish with a bit more production than his rookie season.
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Tags: Brad Smith, Brandon Kaufman, Chris Hogan, Da'Rick Rogers, DeMarco Sampson, Kevin Elliott, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Positional Preview, Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, Training Camp, Wide Receivers