NFL draft preview: WR options abound for Bills in first two rounds


Staff member

Texas' Adonai Mitchell, gesturing to the crowd after a touchdown against Alabama, checks a lot of boxes as a potential Bills draft target.
Vasha Hunt, Associated Press

This is the first in a series of position previews for the 2024 NFL draft. Today: Wide receivers.

Let the arguments rage.

For the next four weeks, Buffalo Bills fans can watch, study and debate which wide receivers would be the best fit for the team in the 2024 NFL draft.
There will be a good receiver available for the Bills to take with the 28th overall pick in the first round. There likely will be a good receiver available when pick No. 60 comes around in the second round, should the Bills stay in that spot.

“It’ll be interesting to see how teams approach drafting WRs in this class,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “There are definitely elite talents but there’s also a ton of depth. Do you bypass the position, knowing there are still high-quality players available in the net two rounds?”

“It’s a really deep group,” agrees ESPN analyst Mel Kiper. “So you can wait. I think six wide receivers go in the first maybe seven, another six or seven in the second, I think six or seven in the third. So it’s 27 total with grades inside of the fourth round. So wide receiver is a position where you can get help if you wait.”

If Kiper is right, those are big numbers. Over the past six years, an average of five WRs have gone in the first round and an average of 14 have gone in the first three rounds.

How long can Bills general manager Brandon Beane afford to wait?

The Bills lost starting outside receiver Gabe Davis in free agency. No. 1 wideout Stefon Diggs could be entering his last year with the Bills. He’s under contract through 2027 but an advantageous time to part with him from a salary cap standpoint comes after the 2024 season.

Beane isn’t backed into a corner from a first-round perspective. The signing of free agent Curtis Samuel gives the Bills a good looking top three (with Khalil Shakir). And there are two options with size on the roster in young Justin Shorter and free-agent addition Mack Hollins, who is a No. 5 or No. 6 option.

But getting an elite talent with size could make an already outstanding Buffalo passing game great – for this season and the long haul.
Overall position ranking: 9/10.

Bills view. Buffalo does not need another slot receiver candidate, because Shakir is good in the slot, so is Samuel, and Diggs played there 32% of his snaps last season. A big outside receiver would be ideal but that doesn’t rule out someone who has the versatility to play in the slot, especially if you’re planning for 2025 and beyond.

Bills need ranking: 9/10.

The best. Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze are the top three and are likely to go in the top 12 picks.

“I think you could make a case the three highest-graded players in this draft are the three receivers,” Jeremiah said. “They are outstanding. I think they’re all going to be No. 1 guys where they

Names to know. No. 4 on the list arguably is LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr., who’s 6-foot-3 and runs 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. It would be an upset if he made it to No. 28 but if he gets within range, he may be worth a move up. The next group includes Texas’ 6-2 Adonai Mitchell (4.34), Georgia’s 6-0 Ladd McConkey (4.39), Florida State’s 6-3 Keon Coleman (4.61) and South Carolina’s 6-1 Xavier Legette (4.39). Leave out Texas’ 165-pound Xavier Worthy (4.21) because he’s too small for the Bills’ needs.

Texas’ Mitchell would seem to be an ideal fit in Buffalo as an X receiver (where Davis has played). He’s a transfer from Georgia with good hands, size and toughness. He’s a good route runner for a big guy. He can separate. He’s not a big tackle breaker after the catch. He’s not a lock to last to No. 28.

Georgia’s McConkey isn’t as big as Mitchell but has great short-area ability, gets instant separation and is a great route runner. He’s not a prototypical X receiver. Are the Bills locked into that category? Beane talked at the NFL owners meetings about how much they value WR versatility. You’d like to use McConkey in the slot some of the time, where he excels, but he can play and win outside, too. An argument can be made that he could step into Diggs’ role in 2025 and be effective.

Coleman is an ideal X WR. Big, physical, contested-catch guy. He’s a little tight in and out of his breaks. His 40 time at the combine wasn’t great. However, he plays faster than the timed speed. He also was the fastest WR at the combine on the GPS (20.36 mph) in running the gauntlet drill (catching passes the width of the field) and showing pristine hands. Is No. 28 too rich for him?

“Coleman has kind of some freaky ball skills,” Jeremiah said. “He can really contort himself and adjust down the field. Kind of a physical guy.”

No. 28 might also be a tad high for Legette, who impressed with his fast time at the combine. But the Bills could trade back a few spots and get him early in the second round. He needs more polish as a route runner and his separation is a question. But he’s a contested-catch boundary receiver who has some tackle-breaking ability.

Opinions vary. Ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum ranks them Mitchell, McConkey, Legette, Coleman, with the latter two second-round values.

Intriguing. Could Davis’ alma mater, Central Florida, produce another Bills’ WR? Javon Baker has pretty good size (6-1, 202) and superb ball skills. He’s an outside WR who averaged 21.9 yards per catch. He’s probably a third-round value, so Beane may have to move around to get him.

What about at No. 60? North Carolina’s 6-1½ Devontez Walker is an X-WR who stretches the field and has 4.36 speed but whose underneath game needs work. He’s a No. 60 candidate, and he has a pre-draft visit scheduled with Buffalo, according to Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline.

Florida’s Ricky Pearsall (6-0, 189) is a fluid athlete with 4.41 speed who separates quickly. Kind of a lesser version of McConkey. Oregon’s Troy Franklin (6-1, 189) is a vertical threat and a second-round prospect. Washington’s sure-handed Ja’Lynn Polk (4.52) gives off some Robert Woods vibes and could become a good No. 2 WR if he lasts to No. 60.

Sleeper. There’s a lot of them. Pittsburgh’s Bub Means started as a cornerback at Tennessee. He has huge hands (10 1/8), a big catch radius and makes contested catches. He ran 4.43 but doesn’t quite play that fast. He’s a late-rounder.

Rk. Player, School Ht. Wt.

Marvin Harrison Jr.*, Ohio State 6-3 209
Malik Nabers*, LSU 6-3 212
Rome Odunze*, Washington 6-0 200
Brian Thomas Jr.*, LSU 6-3 209
Adonai Mitchell*, Texas 6-2 205
Ladd McConkey*, Georgia 6-0 186
Keon Coleman*, Florida State 6-3 213
Xavier Worthy*, Texas 5-11 165
Xavier Legette, South Carolina 6-1 221
Ricky Pearsall, Florida 6-1 189