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Analyst takes contrarian view, bullish on Bills receiving corps

By Tim Graham

When examining depth on the Buffalo Bills' roster, many analysts find receiver to be shallow.

NFL.com recently rated the worst position groups and listed Buffalo at wide receiver. On the Press Coverage blog last week, we discussed how troubled Buffalo would be if Stevie Johnson were unavailable.

Behind Johnson, the talent is mediocre or unproven.

All that said, ESPN and Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson loves what the Bills are doing at receiver. He sees a collection of talent that can enter a game in various situations and give defenses problems.

"They're going to play a very up-tempo form of offense," Williamson said. "They want to rotate in a lot of bodies. The league is going that way, where teams want to rotate guys in, almost like hockey. They want to keep everybody fresh with a lot of bodies that have different skill sets."

Buffalo brought in three rookies -- Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Da'Rick Rogers -- to complement Johnson and sophomore speedster T.J. Graham.

But how could the Bills survive losing Johnson to an injury?

"I don't have a rebuttal to that," Williamson said, "but I like the prospects. The future's bright there. I like that they're all young, including Johnson. I like that they have a young quarterback and they can all grow up together in a new offense."

For the Press Coverage blog, Williamson shared his general thoughts on each receiver plus a couple who play other positions.

Stevie Johnson (79 catches, 1,046 yards, six TDs): "He's amongst the most underrated players in the league. It goes to show how bad Ryan Fitzpatrick is that Johnson didn't have more production. He also was the only guy in town and faced all the good corners. But he does remarkably well against them. He's a better player than everybody realizes."

T.J. Graham (31 catches, 322 yards, one TD): "He'll get surpassed by Goodwin, but they obviously want some burner guys on the edges. I didn't love him coming out of North Carolina State. I like Goodwin much better. I'd bet this new staff agrees with me."

Brad Smith (14 catches, 152 yards, two TDs): "We know what he is now, a gimmick guy, a returner. Of all the names, he's the one I'm least excited about."

Dorin Dickerson (nine catches, 117 yards, no TDs): "I actually helped recruit him to Pitt way back when. We didn't even know what position he would be. We thought he might be an outside linebacker, a big safety, a tight end, a wideout. But he's made a living in this league. He's a special-teamer, and he tries hard. Everyone in the league wants to find that wide receiver/tight end guy. Maybe there's a spot for Dickerson, but he could very well not make the team."

Robert Woods (second-round pick): "He's very similar to Stevie. He doesn't have that one trait -- size or speed -- that says, 'Wow! That's the thing we have to take away from this guy.' But he can hurt you in a lot of ways."

Marquise Goodwin (third-round pick): "Getting him where they did was remarkable. I think he's a much better all-around player than Graham was coming out a year ago. They have similar speeds. They'll be two of the faster guys in the league, but Goodwin is better. He was utilized poorly and not enough at Texas."

Da'Rick Rogers (undrafted rookie): "That's a freebie. He's a second-round pick. He's a big, strong guy that isn't much different than Cordarrelle Patterson or some of the other early picks. If he's not a knucklehead, he can be a No. 1 receiver in this league, and I almost never use that term. It's one of the most overused terms out there."

H-back Chris Gragg (seventh-round pick): "This pick could pay off. For what they've invested in the guy, he's tall and fast and can stretch the seam. I think he could be a useful player for them. He's very different from what they've been playing with at tight end."

And then there's C.J. Spiller (43 catches, 459 yards, two TDs): "Fred Jackson is a good player, and I'd bet they have all sorts of intentions of playing him with Spiller, with Spiller being that running-back-receiver joker guy like Reggie Bush. You have to mention Spiller's abilities as a pass-catcher in this offense. Bush was at his best when Doug Marrone was in New Orleans. He was a flex guy. If you counted him as a wideout, then he lined up in the backfield and he ran against nickel. If you counted him as a running back, they split him out to run routes against linebackers."

tagged

Brad Smith | C.J. Spiller | Chris Gragg | Da'Rick Rogers | Dorin Dickerson | Doug Marrone | Marquise Goodwin | Robert Woods | Stevie Johnson | T.J. Graham
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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