Versatility, speed would make receiver Ladd McConkey ideal fit for Bills


Staff member

Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey, heading for a 41-yard touchdown against Florida in October, could be an option for the Bills at No. 28 in this month’s draft.

Envision this, Buffalo Bills fans.

Last year’s first-round draft pick, tight end Dalton Kincaid, lines up in the slot receiver position. Outside of him is Ladd McConkey, who should be a potential option to take in this month’s first round.

At the snap, Kincaid runs a short or intermediate route to draw two defenders and the eyes of the deep safety, allowing McConkey to run a deeper pattern to win in man coverage.

Advantage, Bills.

Disadvantage, rest of the AFC.

As the Bills rebuild their receiver room after letting Gabe Davis depart in free agency to Jacksonville and trading Stefon Diggs to Houston, McConkey joining Khalil Shakir and newcomers Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins could be (should be?) in the offing.

McConkey would bring speed (4.39-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine) and versatility to the Bills’ offense.

“His ability to separate is probably one of his key things,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters at the Bulldogs’ pro day March 13. “In the NFL, there is less (allowed contact by the cornerback) and you’re able to run routes, and that’s going to be advantageous for him.”

The AFC’s superpowers – the Bills at No. 28, Baltimore at No. 30 and Kansas City at No. 32 – could all be interested. Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken was Georgia’s play-caller from 2020-22.

McConkey will make history when he plays in his first game. He said at the scouting combine he believes that North Murray High School in Chatsworth, Georgia, (population of 4,871 in the 2022 census) has never produced an NFL play

McConkey played quarterback in his final prep season, and 247 Sports ranked him as the 187th receiver nationally and the 126th overall player in the state of Georgia. His only Power 5 offers were from Vanderbilt and the home-state Bulldogs.

“We go after the players we think fit our culture,” Smart told reporters in January 2023. “That’s more important than where they are from.”

McConkey redshirted in 2020, followed by 119 catches for 1,687 yards and 14 touchdowns in three seasons (39 games).

“That first year (’20), I was on the scout team and didn’t play, and I think that made me a better player,” he said. “I got so many good reps against so many good players, so it was just working, working, working, and when I got the opportunity, I feel like I made the most of it.”

After totaling 31 catches for 447 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, McConkey broke out in 2022 (58-762-7) and helped Georgia win a second consecutive national championship.

Last year, McConkey played only nine games, slowed by back and ankle injuries, but when healthy, the video of his catches showed why he is generating late first-round/early second-round buzz.

Breaking down his 30 catches (for 478 yards and two touchdowns) by where he lined up, McConkey’s top locations were wide left (nine), wide right (five), slot right (five) and slot left and motion (two apiece). His touchdowns came from slot right and tight right.

How Georgia game-planned McConkey and tight end Brock Bowers working off each other should be of note to the Bills, who could use Kincaid and tight end Dawson Knox in similar ways.

Against Vanderbilt, McConkey gained 31 yards from wide left when Bowers – who is projected as a top-10 pick next week – in the left slot ran an out route to draw two defenders, and McConkey used a stop-and-go move to win.

Against Ole Miss, McConkey scored a 29-yard touchdown from a tight right formation when a safety accounted for Bowers and the cornerback responsible for McConkey played outside leverage. Oops. McConkey darted inside.

And on other plays, Bowers ran a second-level route, leaving McConkey open for a first-level crosser.

The video showed McConkey could run away from tacklers, but he also showed good physicality on bubble screens.

“I think I can win on the outside and inside,” he said. “Obviously, the (receivers) in this draft class are ridiculous. But when it comes to doing a little bit of everything, I think I stand up there with all of them.”

McConkey earned a role at Georgia as unheralded recruit by showing a willingness to grind and do anything. He intends to do the same in the NFL.

“(Georgia) kind of moved me around and schemed me up and whatever (an NFL team) needs me to do, I feel like I can do it,” he said. “If you can move around, it’s hard to be (taken) off the field.”