Following a recent NFL Draft trend, the wide receiver group is plentiful and dynamic

This is the first in a series of NFL Draft preview stories focused on position groups the Buffalo Bills may address. This installation looks at wide receiver.

Among the many reasons why the Buffalo Bills became Super Bowl contenders the past two seasons was the mostly incredible good fortune regarding their team-wide health.

Last season the Bills’ starters missed a combined total of just 36 games due to injury or COVID-19, the second-lowest total in the NFL behind the Patriots (23). By comparison, the Lions starters missed 134 games. In 2020, the Bills had the fifth-lowest total of man games lost in the league.

It’s a testament to the Bills’ medical and strength and conditioning staffs, but also, just some really good luck, and the question now becomes, can that continue in 2022?

This is a strong roster which really doesn’t have a glaring weakness, but there are some depth issues at certain positions and wide receiver is one of them.

Ohio State’s Chris Olave could be available at the Bills’ No. 25 pick in the first round.

The Bills are strong at the top with Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder and Isaiah McKenzie, but if any of those players were to miss an extended period of time, that would be problematic unless the position is addressed early in the draft.

Cornerback is probably the biggest need, but the Bills should give serious consideration to using the 25th overall pick in the first round on a wide receiver, and if not there, then certainly with their second-round pick at No. 57.

Top of the Bills WR depth chart

Stefon Diggs

Age when season starts: 28

Contract status: Just signed a four-year extension that takes him through 2027 and includes a salary cap hit in 2022 of $11.7 million.

Inside the numbers: Diggs’ 230 receptions are the most in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons with a new team, and his 2,760 yards are fourth-most.

Projected 2022 role: the no. 1 receiver on the team and one of the best in the NFL.

Gabriel Davis

Age when season starts: 23

Contract status: In the third year of his original four-year rookie contract carrying a cap hit of $1,069 million.

Inside the numbers: Davis caught 35 passes in each of his first two seasons for a total of 1,138 yards and 13 TDs, but is coming off a historic 201-yard performance against the Chiefs in which he became the first player in NFL history to catch four TD passes in a post-season game.

Projected 2022 role: With Emmanuel Sanders done, he should be the starter on the outside opposite Diggs.

Stefan Diggs'  new contract has him locked up in Buffalo through 2027.

Stefon Diggs’ new contract has him locked up in Buffalo through 2027.

Jamison Crowder

Age when season starts: 29

Contract status: Signed a one-year free agent deal with the Bills that carries a cap hit of $1.98 million.

Inside the numbers: Crowder spent the past three years in a dysfunctional Jets offense yet still caught 188 passes for 1,979 yards and 14 TDs despite missing nine games because of injury.

Projected 2022 role: He should step right into slot receiver position vacated by Cole Beasley.

Isaiah McKenzie

Age when season starts: 27

Contract status: Re-signed with the Bills for two years and has a 2022 cap hit of $1,860 million.

Inside the numbers: Saw his least amount of time on offense since he joined the team, but did have a huge game at New England on Dec. 26 which proved that he could handle the slot if called upon.

Projected 2022 role: Will probably share the slot with Crowder and perhaps be used on more jet sweeps than he was the past three years.

Potential players Bills could draft

Beyond the top four, the Bills also have second-year man Marquez Stevenson, who probably isn’t ready to become a reliable contributor on offense and will have to make the team as a return man. There’s Jake Kumerow, who re-signed with the team for one year but is likely to remain a core member of the special teams. And then they have Isaiah Hodgins and Tanner Gentry, who may never be anything more than practice squad players.

As has been the case the past few years, wide receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft and even if there is a lengthy run in the first round, there will still be some intriguing prospects in Buffalo’s first-round range at No. 25, and then other in rounds two and three.

“I just think more receivers are being developed,” Bills GM Brandon Beane said. “There’s not two receivers, now there’s three- and four-wide, so more players are getting the opportunity to do that. There’s so many various passing camps, 7-on-7 (camps) that you see. It used to be when I played and we all played, if you threw the ball three times a game in middle school, you threw it a lot. And now they hardly run the ball. Most of them are throwing it.”

Here are four wide receivers the Bills may consider.

Jameson Williams, Alabama

Round Bills could take him: first, no. 25 overall pick.

Age when season starts: 21

Height/Weight: 6 feet 1, 179 pounds

Inside the numbers: Had a huge 2021 season with 79 catches for 1,572 yards and 15 TDs, and 11 of those TDs came from 30 yards or longer, most in FBS.

the skinny: Williams is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the national championship game in mid-January and may not be ready to play at the start of the season and for a team like the Bills. That’s fine. He is exactly what this offense needs, a true vertical threat and a big play waiting to happen, something they don’t currently have on the team. If he’s sitting there when the Bills go on the clock, they should pounce, but it seems pretty certain he’ll be gone.

what they’re saying: “In a world where he doesn’t get hurt, he’s a top-10 pick.

But coming off of an ACL you would think there would be a full recovery there, and that could end up being a tremendous value for somebody towards the bottom of the first round if he ends up sliding down there.” – Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network.

Chris Olave, Ohio State

Round Bills could take him: first, no. 25 overall pick.

Age when season starts: 22

Height/Weight: 6 feet, 187 pounds

Inside the numbers: Olave is Ohio State’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 35, and that goes along with ranking third all-time in receptions (176) and fifth in yards (2,711).

the skinny: Like Williams, Olave would give the Bills the deep threat they need. He ran a 4.39 in the 40 at the Combine, and that might make him unavailable to the Bills at No. 25, but if he slips, it would be tough to pass him up. He averaged 15.4 yards per catch during his 47-game college career and last season he had 11 catches of at least 20 yards, eight of those going for TDs.

what they’re saying: “He’s one of the best deep threats in this class – he averaged 14.6 air yards per target in his career – and is an improved route runner with great hands, though he did have a few drops this past season. Olave can make defenders look silly in coverage; there are lots of plays on tape in which he doesn’t have a player within five yards of him.” —Mel Kiper, ESPN.

Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Round Bills could take him: first, no. 25 overall pick.

Age when season starts: 22

Height/Weight: 6 feet 2, 225 pounds

Inside the numbers: He caught 146 passes for 2,399 yards and 18 TDs during his 32-game college career.

the skinny: Burks is a big man yet he still ran a 4.55 at the Combine. He doesn’t have the same explosive deep speed as Williams or Olave, but he’s fast enough to make big plays and he would give the Bills a huge, physical target in the AJ Brown mold and who wouldn’t want that? At Arkansas, Burks often played in the slot and excelled on quick passes and that raises some questions about his route-running ability, but the physical talent is impressive.

what they’re saying: “He was the focal point of Arkansas’s offense and their leading receiver every year he was on campus. If Arkansas ran a screen or schemed a target, it was going to Burks. Because of that, he accounted for 37.2% of Arkansas’ receiving yards the past two seasons. He was a man amongst boys, as defensive backs bounced off his 225-pound frame after the catch and at the catch point routinely.” – Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus

Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

Round Bills could take him: second, no. 57 overall pick.

Age when season starts: 22

Height/Weight: 5 feet 10, 195 pounds

Inside the numbers: Caught 171 passes for 2,482 yards and 16 TDs in his 30-game college career. After his 2020 was cut to five games because of the pandemic, he returned in 2021 and made 95 catches for 1,292 yards and 10 TDs in 12 games.

the skinny: The Bills love versatility and Moore has the ability to line up inside or outside and be productive in both places. He plays a little the way Andre Reed did back in the day in that he runs crisp routes, he’s not afraid to go over the middle, and he makes contested catches. The difference is he might be a little quicker than Reed as he ran a 4.41 at the Combine.

what they’re saying: “Productive three-year starter with decent athleticism and good ball skills but just average separation potential. His ball skills and toughness create opportunities as a reliable target and capable route-runner from release to whistle. His best fit is from the slot, but long-term success will depend on his ability to keep fine-tuning his craft.” —Lance Zierlein,

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills 2022 NFL Draft preview: Wide receiver is position of need

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