Fitting the Bills: 2023 Buffalo Bills Draft Review
Updated: Apr 30
Pick 1:25 Dalton Kincaid TE Utah
Height: 6040 Weight: 246 Arm: 32 5/8’’ Hand: 10 1/4’’ Birthday: 10/18/99
PFWR Rank: 25 Grade: 8.33 Pick: 1:25 Value: ◎
The Bills made a bold move to trade up 2 spots to select Utah TE Dalton Kincaid in the first round of last nights NFL Draft. Kincaid will join Dawson Knox to potentially be the league's best 1-2 punch at TE and give QB Josh Allen a tall, athletic powerful target.
Kincaid is a freakish athlete with an unbelievable catch radius. Capable of making spectacular catches. He has the potential to dominate in the passing game with his combination of size, speed, athleticism and hands. I had him rated as my number 1 pass catcher (TE, WR, RB) in this class. Has little experience as a blocker, but has the size, strength and athleticism to pick it up quickly. His strengths include elite body control and catch radius. He can adjust to the ball on the fly. He is also an exceptional route runner, setting up defenders, using his long body to shield defenders and finding soft spots in zone. He is also effective getting off the line and hitting top stride quickly for a big man. He has separation speed on seam routes, and is a matchup nightmare on contested catches. Basketball background shows up on the field.
When asked if he was the best pass catching TE in the class, he answered, “I think I'm one of the best pass catchers there is not only in the tight end position but kind of just in this draft. Obviously, I think that's my biggest strength. I think I'm developing as a blocker and I kind of only have room to grow in that aspect of my game.” Brandon Beane in his press conference agreed to the idea that the Bills view Kincaid as not only as a good receiving TE, but see him as the answer to fill the big Slot Receiver role. Beane said, “When him and Dawson are in the game, you’re in ‘12 '(personnel), but it’s quasi like ‘11' anyway. He’s not your standard ‘Y’ tight end. He’s going to be flexed out a lot more than necessarily you would do with Dawson.”
Dalton was a lightly recruited 2 star and started out as a non-scholarship athlete at San Diego. He then transferred to Utah, where he started 23 of 31 games. Entering the year, he was the Utes TE2, but when given the opportunity after the starter went down, he dominated. Bills have shown a tendency to be drawn to late bloomers like Kincaid, who grow into elite physical traits, but were forced to develop a strong work ethic to succeed. These type of athletes tend to remember their journey and have an edge and desire unlike the more natural athletes who it comes easy to at every level before the NFL. His game vs USC is one of the most dominant performances by a TE in recent memory. He racked up 16 receptions for 234 yards for a 14.6 y/c average, with 1 TD. He made some of the most amazing catches in the game and compiled a season's worth of highlights on the afternoon. Other top performances came against Oregon (11 rec 99 Yds 9.00 avg.) and Colorado (5 rec 102 yds 20.5 avg). On the year, he totaled 70 rec 890 yds 12.7 avg 8 TDs. His 3 year totals at Utah were: 26 Games 107rec 1414 yds 13.2 avg 16 Tds.
There are a few concerns with the pick, and none of them are about positional value. Dalton will turn 24 during his rookie season. That makes him a full year older than Kyle Pitts, who will be entering his 3rd season. He also had a thoracic injury at the end of the season that caused him to skip the combine workouts. He has reportedly (Golong.com) been cleared to resume football activities.
Pre-draft, I felt if the Bills were to go skill position on O over the o-line in the 1st Round, it had to be a weapon that causes opposing coordinators to quake in their boots to decide how to stop Josh throwing to that rookie, along side Diggs, Davis and Knox. Kincaid is the type of weapon teams will fear. No other weapon available later will be on tier with Kincaid as an impact difference maker. Picking near the bottom of the round, the odds of finding a weapon like there were much higher at RB or TE than at WR. Kincaid is easily one of the most dynamic offensive playmakers in the draft, and as a TE, also has value to assist the run game. While he gets knocked for his blocking, he is certainly capable of becoming an effective run blocker. However, his greatest value to the run game may come because of the threat of him as a receiver. Teams will now have to think twice about loading the box to stuff the run when Bills go to 12 personnel. If they stay in Nickle, that would open up opportunities to exploit in the run game.
The hope is the Bills have found their version of Travis Kelce. He has also been compared to Zach Ertz. Having a dominant TE will open up the entire offense and clear space for the other Receivers, Backs and Knox. Having two TE's on the caliper as Knox and Kincaid will put tremendous pressure on a defense.
Pick 2:59 O'Cyrus Torrence OG Florida
Height: 6053 Weight: 330 Arm: 33.875 5/8’’ Hand: 11.25’’ 40: 5.31 RAS:6.14 Birthday 01.20.00
PFWR Rank: 47 Grade: 8.23 Pick: 2:59 Value: +12
Cyrus O'Torrence is a mauler. A towering man mountain who projects as a power blocking Right Guard. Once engaged, he is a freight train. His massive size and weight, obviously hinders his ability to get outside on pull blocks and he can get beat with quickness inside. However, his strong hands and long reach helps cover up for some of the lack of quickness in Pass Pro.
He works well stacking combination blocks. He has tremendous recognition of delayed blitzes and can pass off one block to pick up another seamlessly. He also works well getting to the second level, where he devastates LBs and DBs. The combination of these recognition skills and second level blocking with his incredible, size, length, balance and power is rare and gives him the ability to play in either a pure power running offense or an inside zone scheme. Where his lack of athleticism does show up is when he is asked to pull outside, making his fit in a wide zone a question mark. Despite a quick first step, he simply lacks the footspeed to beat NFL defenders to a spot on the move.
Bills Fit/ Need: The Bills clearly went into this offseason hell bent of protecting Josh Allen, especially up the middle. Relying on smaller backs, it will be more important than ever to keep the pocket clean. In addition to taking O'Cyrus with their 2nd pick, the Bills doubled down by drafting Nick Broeker on day 3. They also made their largest Free Agency acquisition at Guard, in Connor McGovern, signing him to a 3 year, $23 Million deal. The also added FA Guard David Edwards. While all 4 new comers project best to Guard, this also helps depth at Center by free up Ryan Bates, who has experience at Center, to be their primary swing IOL. Broeker may also be a developmental Center, who could be groomed to eventually step in for Mitch Morse.
While Torrence, on the surface isn't a pure match for the wide zone concepts Bills O-Line Coach brought over from LA. But he has stated a philosophy of being multiple to counter how the defense lines up against them. “We need to be multiple,” Kromer said. “If you own your craft and you get good at your craft, you can do as many things as you want.”* One of the foundation aspects of Kromer's teaching is to play with a good base and balance, with your feet on the ground:
“Momentum,” Kromer said. “That’s a cuss word in our world. Momentum is a bad thing because momentum means you’re not grounded. Momentum means you’re not lifting the defender off the ground. The only way to take the strength out of the defender is to lift him up off of his strength. The only way to do that is to have your feet on the ground.”*
Here is where Torrence excels. He is an absolute anchor, with a solid base and stone hands. He utilizes subtle shifts in weight to counter pass rush moves or to pass off one defender for another, and instantly re-engages. He smoothly mirrors and guides defenders out of the way of the gap or away from the QB, similar to a Sumo Wrestlers ability to use his opponents force and momentum against them. In inside zone, designed to give blockers the leverage and angle advantage, Torrence can be devastating. While his long speed is a deficiency, his short area quickness and get off are solid. That helps him fully exploit the leverage and angle advantage in the scheme and once he gets his long arms on you and uses his natural immense power, it's over.
The Bills may need to be flexible in both their alignment gap space and play-calling to get the most out of O'Cyrus and cover up some of the athletic deficiencies. The plus traits could be dominant on Sundays and now with McGovern, Morse and Torrence manning the middle, Josh Allen has the most talented interior protectors he has had in his career. The Bills finally have seen the light that priority number one to success is protecting Josh Allen and keeping him clean in the pocket where he can rely less on his elite scrambling ability and more on his elite arm talent. Despite the highlight reel heroics Josh creates when under duress, the numbers are clearly superior when he can stay clean and calm inside the pocket and destroy defenses at every level with his arm. That will dramatically help him not only reduce the mistakes, but also should help improve his longevity.
Draft Strategy/ Value: The Bills being able to grab Torrence with the 59th pick represents one of the best value picks in the entire draft. He was almost universally rated as the number 1 Guard and projected in the first round. Many Bills fans pre-draft pushed for Torrence to be selected at 27. I was not one of them. I had and have concerns about his pure fit in Kromer's scheme, and as explained above believe adjustments should be made to get the most out of the talent and steer clear of the deficiencies. However, at 59, I am completely on board given the value and need to upgrade the line. My lone remaining criticism and fear, is the Bills may come to regret passing on a LB here. Specifically, Drew Sanders. Who, like Torrence, may not have been the best plug and play scheme fit, but represented a tremendous value and would have filled a gaping need. I had Sanders rated 14th on my board and thought he, along with Iowa MLB Jack Campbell were the only Green Dot prospects in this draft class. That being said, what they are getting in Torrence, is a potentially pro-bowl caliber Guard for a decade + and I will never object to investing in the offensive line. Something that until this year, was my greatest criticism of the Beane draft era.
Pick 3:91 Dorian Williams LB Tulane
Height: 6010 Weight: 228 Arm: 33.75 Hand: 10.25’’ 40: 4.49 20: 2.59 10: 1.52 RAS: 8.81 Birthday 06.28.01
PFWR Rank: 106 Grade: 7.39 Pick: 3:91 Value: -15
Williams is a tackle machine and is best described as a heat seeking missile on the field. He led a surprising Tulane Defense both on the field and off as Team Captain. It's hard not to fall in love with his passionate big play attacking style of play. In addition to being a stalwart in the middle of the defense, Williams logged roughly 700 snaps as a core 5 special teams player, where he may offer his most immediate value.
The Senior Linebacker was awarded the Defensive Most Valuable Player Award in the Cotton Bowl after logging in a career-high 17 tackles to help lift the No. 16 Tulane Green Wave to a 46-45 upset over the No. 10 Southern California Trojans. Williams was the unquestioned leader of a Tulane team that finished 12-2 and finished ranked #9, two years after a 2-10 season.
While Williams was MLB for Tulane, they also lined him up as a wide edge to take advantage of his quickness and long wingspan to get after the QB. Dorian had an impressive stat line, registering 132 total tackles, 8.5 TFL 5 Sacks, 2 INTs, 7 PD and 2 FF. He plays with his hair on fire, displaying a non-stop motor with the intent to seek and destroy the ball carrier, both at MLB or on STs. He is a converted Safety, and is adequate in Zone coverage vs TE's and RBs, but can struggle in man. At this point he is more effective playing downhill destroying what he sees in front of him, more than worrying about what is happening behind him.
While he is a sideline to sideline enforcer, Williams, at 228 struggles to shed blocks. His upper body has adequate strength, but he needs to greatly increase his lower body strength if he ever will be expected to man the middle of an NFL defense. His read and react instincts are a work in progress, and despite his Safety experience, his primary strength is as a seek and destroy downhill disrupter.
PFWR co-founder, Mike Watkins (Twitter: @Merk256) was extremely high on Williams from the start.
Dorian Williams from Tulane is a S/LB who is a very fluid athlete that hits like a Mack Truck. He’s a core 4 special teamer who will finish with over 500 ST snaps to his name. I also think he has value in a reserve role with his ability to cover TE’s and big slots #BillsMafia
Bills Fit/Need: The Bills have stated they will start him on the outside, where he will back up Matt Milano, but get him work inside as a possible rotational MLB. He will also instantly be plugged into special teams and could assume the gunner position. The need to find a Tremaine Edmunds replacement is huge, but with Williams slated to start out outside, this may not be the answer they were looking for. Short term, it looks like the Bills will be true to their word and let the LBs on the roster, including last year's 3rd round pick Terrell Bernard, last year's 7th Round Pick Baylon Spector, Tyrel Dotson and AJ Klein all compete for the position. Ultimately, I think we will see a platoon at MLB and Williams will add to the overall depth at LB.
Draft Strategy/ Value: While Dorian Williams was projected a little lower than where the Bills took him, after missing out on Jack Campbell and passing on Drew Sanders, few other off ball LBs made sense for the Bills. At the very least, the Bills have added a foundational piece to their core special teams, and someone who likely will where the C for the unit before long. If he develops as a LB and adds some lower body strength, this could end up being a steal.
Pick 5:150 Justin Shorter WR Florida
Height: 6042 Weight: 229 Arm: 33.75 Hand: 10’’ 40: 4.55 20: 2.63 10: 1.57 RAS: 7.94 Birthday 04.17.00
PFWR Rank: 141 Grade: 6.99 Pick: 5:150 Value: 9
Justin Shorter is a big strong possession receiver with great hands and straight-line speed. A former 5 star recruit, ranked #1 in the nation ahead of Ja'marr Chase, Amon-Ra St Brown and Jaylen Waddle. Transferred to Florida from Penn State after an injury marred start to his collegiate career.
While his production never lived up to the lofty rankings, never exceeding 577 yards in a season, he continued to improve and become a reliable receiver. Inconsistent QB play and the injuries are legitimate reasons for some of his lack of production, and it is not unreasonable to think he may be a better on Sundays than he was on Saturdays.
In a draft filled with smaller, quick slot type receivers, Shorter (an oxymoron name for the 6' 4" receiver) has great size and is a true boundary receiver. Bills fans that liked Isaiah Hodgins, will love Shorter, given their similar statures, great hands and ability to make contested throws. He also compares favorably athletically to Gabe Davis, and may offer some insurance if the Bills fail to extend him next season.
Shorter played with first round pick QB Anthony Richardson, often compared to Josh Allen for his rocket arm, elite combination of size and athleticism, and on the negative side, for his inconsistent accuracy. His experience catching laser beams, that sometimes require adjustment do to placement, will serve him well. He uses his long arms and body beautiful frame to shield defenders and he will go up and attack the ball in the air. He also will bail out his QB by aggressively coming back for the ball if the pocket collapses. According to PFF, he did not have a single dropped pass in 2023, while displaying big play ability as a deep threat with a 19.9 yards per catch average. He is effective vs press coverage, but lacks elite burst off the line. As a route runner, he displays good feet and balance underneath and the ability to change gears and get over the top on deep routes.
Bills Fit/Need: Shorter will offer depth as a boundary receiver, and gives the Bills a large target besides Gabe Davis and the TEs. Have the flexibility to attack with multiple large targets and multiple smaller quick targets would enable the Bills to better create mismatches. Shorter, having a similar physical profile as Gabe Davis and the upside potential to be a starting X down the road, offers insurance should they lose the 2024 free agent. Shorter also offers immediate value as an experienced core 4 special teams player.
Draft Strategy/ Value: While many wanted the Bills to add a WR earlier, I felt the value in this year's class was more in it's depth than at the top. Nabbing a Day 3 receiver with Shorter's potential, who also offers immediate special teams value is solid strategy. It is always a good idea to get a draft pick in the pipeline to develop at positions where you may lose impact players to free agency. That gives you a year to determine if you have an in-house replacement available when entering negotiations. Shorter was an Top 30 visitor.
Pick 7:230 Nick Broeker IOL Ole Miss
Height: 6043 Weight: 305 Arm: 32.5 Hand: 9.75’’ 40: 5.27 20: 2.96 10: 1.76 RAS: 8.23 Birthday 10.07.00
PFWR Rank: 181 Grade: 5.25 Pick: 7:230 Value: 49
Broeker is a Tackle that moved inside to Guard and offers 5 position flexibility. Is a good athlete who displays solid balance, lateral agility and exceptional technique. He is ideal in a zone scheme where his short area quickness can be maximized.
He kicked inside after discussing his best position for the pros with Coach Lane Kiffen, an unselfish move by the coach indicating the respect he had for Broeker. Regarded as a relentless worker who studies his craft. Once engaged with a defender, they will go for a reverse ride on the express train. He makes up for a lack of length with a relentless motor and sound technique. Active looking for secondary blocks and is a relentless finisher.
IOL Nick Broeker of Ole Miss started off as a OT but has moved to OG which is where his future is. He’s ideally suited for a zone scheme given his movement skills. He wins as a technician and rarely being out of position. Natural team leader both on and off the field...@Merk256
Bills Fit/Need: Bills continue the off-season focus on protecting Josh Allen by adding a valuable lineman with 5 position flexibility. Broeker is a perfect fit for Kromer's zone base blocking scheme and has long term potential to develop as an eventual starting Center.
Draft Strategy/ Value: Broeker represented exceptional value in the 7th round. While the Bills added a OG in the 2nd round they hope will be a plug and play lineman, they still had a long term need to develop a Center prospect to eventually take over for Mitch Morse, who has had multiple concussions in his career. Getting a developmental prospect with position flexibility late day 3 with the upside potential of Broeker is ideal.
Pick 7:252 Alex Austin DB Oregon State
Height: 6010 Weight: 195 Arm: 31.875 Hand: 8.5’’ 40: 4.55 20: 2.58 10: 1.51 RAS: 7.30 Birthday 05.22.01
PFWR Rank: 181 Grade: 5.25 Pick: 7:230 Value: 49
Austin is a hard hitting Corner with good size and athleticism. He has position flexibility across the secondary and may be better suited for a shift inside to Safety.
Has good hip flexibility and excels in press coverage. Can mirror and is a good match up for taller receivers. Brings the hammer when crashing downfield to break up the pass or stuff the run.
Bills Fit/Need: Austin is an underrated DB. Given the age of both Micah and Poyer, adding a developmental DB makes sense, even if Austin stays outside at CB because that would free up a move for Benford. Will need to contribute on Special Teams to earn an active roster spot.
Draft Strategy/ Value: If we have learned anything about the Bills, it is to trust late round DB draft picks. The Bills simply know how to identify and then develop DB prospects and Austin should continue that trend.