Buffalo Bills 2021 Position Grades and Future Outlook – Receiver & Tight End

Buffalo Bills 2021 Position Grades and Future Outlook – Receiver & Tight End


2021 Grade: A
2022 Outlook: A+
Stats (through week 16)

  • Dawson Knox: 82 receptions for 1,482 yards, 18.1 avg, 8 TDs, 463 YAC, 6 100+ yard games
  • Stefon Diggs: 78 receptions for 1,471 yards, 18.9 avg, 17 TDs, 329 YAC, 5 100+ yard games
  • Ja’marr Chase: 59 receptions for 1,012 yards, 17.2 avg, 10 TDs, 387 YAC, 5 100+ yard games
  • Elijah Cooks: 18 receptions for 280 yards, 15.6 avg, 3 TDs, 119 YAC
  • Sterling Shepard: 10 receptions for 97 yards, 9.7 avg, 1 TD, 26 YAC

 

The weapons that Allen had to work with this season can make any quarterback in the league jealous. With one game still left in the season, the Bills became the first and only team right now to have THREE receivers with 1,000+ yards on the season. That is really an incredible feat, and you have to look at the person throwing the ball and the offensive scheme when trying to attribute why so many guys were able to produce week in and week out. The Bills are not the only team in the league that has three great offensive receiving threats, but no other offense was able to involve three or more guys to this magnitude this season.
At only 24, Dawson Knox is already proving that he is among the elite TEs in the league. He has the size at 6’4 250 lbs and the speed (88 speed) to be a mismatch against LBs and CBs that try to cover him. Knox was running the full route tree at multiple alignments around the field, making him very difficult to gameplan for. In one drive, it was possible to see Knox in a 3 point stance at TE, in a wing alignment, in the slot, in the backfield at FB, and out wide at WR. There wasn’t a position on the field that Knox couldn’t make an impact at, so we are very excited to see how the career unfolds for this young star TE.
Stefon Diggs is exactly who you expect him to be. He is the complete wideout capable of playing any receiver spot on the field. He can beat any CB in the league off the line against press coverage. He can create separation vs All-Pro CBs with his creative route running ability. He can catch the ball over top anyone, making contested catches look easy. And if he catches the ball in space, good luck trying to tackle him because there isn’t a receiver in the league that has better elusiveness. Diggs played both the X position in 12 and 21 personnel, but also played the H position (slot) in most 11 and 10 personnel sets. This versatility made him very hard to follow around the field, and it’s a definite change to when he was with the Vikings and Theilen played the slot. We will see if the Bills look to find a different receiver to plug into that H position or if the Bills are going to stick with Diggs as their slot in 2022. 

Ja’Marr Chase came into this season with a lot of hype surrounding him. As the first receiver drafted in the 2021 draft and every draft expert claiming he was a can’t-miss prospect, there wasn’t a ceiling high enough for the expectations of Buffalo fans to fit under. Luckily for Bills Mafia and Chase himself, he didn’t disappoint. Chase became one of the few receivers in NFL: history to eclipse 1,000 yards and 10 TDs in their rookie season, and Chase still has one more game to add to his amazing rookie campaign. Chase was only tasked with learning the Z position this season in all personnel packages, but maybe with a full offseason under his belt and a training camp with this new offense that was installed during the year, we may see Chase’s versatility utilized more in his 2nd NFL season next year.

Elijah Cooks came as a surprise to Bills fans this season. He was relatively unknown as their 2021 6th round draft pick, where most people expected him to just be vying for a spot on the 53 man roster. His rookie season started off slowly as he wasn’t awarded much of an opportunity other than special teams with the old coaching staff. However, the new coaches saw some potential in the big young wideout. Cooks found himself thrust into the starting lineup as the X receiver in 11 personnel packages in the very first game for the new coaching staff. In this new offense, the coaches wanted to utilize Diggs in the slot which meant turning to the 6’4 rookie to fill the outside receiver position opposite of the rookie Ja’Marr Chase. Cooks never had any breakout games, but he consistently contributed to the offense each week when given the chance, averaging close to 3 receptions per game in his 8 starts with 3 touchdown receptions and 4 of his 18 receptions for 30+ yard gains. We are certain that the Bills will be looking to bring in more competition to the receiver room next season, but Cooks may have flashed enough this year to warrant a hard look next season of continuing to be a starting NFL receiver. 

 

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