Breaking down the Buffalo Bills' post-draft roster (2024)

  • Breaking down the Buffalo Bills' post-draft roster (1)

    Alaina Getzenberg, ESPNMay 1, 2024, 06:00 AM ET


      Alaina Getzenberg is a staff writer who covers the Buffalo Bills and the NFL. She joined ESPN in 2021. Alaina was previously a beat reporter for the Charlotte Observer and has also worked for CBS Sports and the Dallas Morning News. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. You can follow her via Twitter @agetzenberg.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The hope for the Buffalo Bills going into the 2024 NFL draft was to get a wide receiver in the first two rounds.

The need was obvious. Sitting at No. 28, Buffalo was willing to move up on a smaller level if certain highly rated players fell. Being aggressive in the first round became a trend for the Bills, with trades up in each of the last two drafts.

General manager Brandon Beane, however, did not want to give up the team's second-round pick (No. 60) this year, due to the gap in picks the team had and the areas to be addressed throughout the roster. The Bills used their third-round pick in part of a trade to acquire cornerback Rasul Douglas just before the 2023 trade deadline.

"It would have had to have been something that just made way too much sense for me to give up that two because it would have been really hard for us from the fourth to get up that far," Beane said. "The value of those picks start dropping dramatically."

The Bills instead made two trades in the first round with the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers to ultimately select Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman with the No. 33 overall selection -- someone the team may have otherwise picked at 28 -- while also adding to the haul later in the draft, including a third-round selection courtesy of the Chiefs.

Wide receiver was a need for the roster before the trade of Stefon Diggs, but it became even more glaring after moving on from the player with the second-most targets in the NFL since 2020.

The Bills addressed the turnover by selecting Coleman, who immediately slots in as the team's starting X receiver, while deciding not to mortgage significant elements of the team's future. For a team "in transition" as Beane described it, the Bills focused on improving throughout the roster for 2024 and beyond, which will put a wide receiver room with some lingering question marks to the test -- and plenty of expectations on this draft class.

Why not make a big move up for a wide receiver? Beane felt the value in doing one of those moves for that position doesn't pay off.

"It's dangerous to say you're one player away. If you're going up for a quarterback, or some elite pass rusher, I totally get it," Beane said. "But it's just really hard from as far back as we were to go into the top 10 where a couple of those top receivers were. What you're going to have to mortgage, I've never found that to make complete sense.

"I just feel like the way our offense is set up, the pieces we already have, let's just add to it and make sure we have the depth in other places because we all know you have some years where you get injured and if you don't have viable pieces ready to come in, it doesn't matter what you did. ... You can have Jerry Rice and all the great receivers out there, if Josh is running for his life it won't matter."

Coleman, who turns 21 in May, said he scored three imaginary touchdowns when the Bills took him on a tour of Highmark Stadium after he was drafted. On the field, the team liked that he was a dual-sport athlete, most recently playing basketball at Michigan State. Beane noted many times how the 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver can play "above the rim" and make highlight-reel catches to support Allen.

His 4.61 40-yard dash time contributed to his drop, but the Bills put in the research and believe it isn't representative of his game speed. He reached 20.4 mph top speed in the gauntlet drill -- which tests how receivers catch multiple passes and maintain speed while running in a straight line -- the best by any receiver over the past two seasons, per Next Gen Stats.

"I don't think I've ever been caught from behind. I don't think I've ever had the chance to not be able to run by somebody," Coleman said. "More so than that, I don't think there was ever just one DB that just sat when I was running at them, so that pretty much tells you all you need to know."

Coleman was the only receiver selected of the team's 10 picks. Following the draft, multiple receivers were signed as undrafted free agents, including Ohio State's Xavier Johnson, and the Bills added former Detroit Lions receiver Quintez Cephus, who is coming off a season-long gambling suspension.

Beane has highlighted the likes of 2023 fifth-round pick Justin Shorter, Tyrell Shavers, who spent most of last season on the practice squad, and KJ Hamler, who signed to a reserve/future contract, when discussing the depth at the position. Outside of Coleman, the room is highlighted by veteran free agents Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins, and Khalil Shakir, the biggest contributing returner from the room last year.

Outside of the receiver room, the Bills have options for catching the ball with second-year tight end Dalton Kincaid expected to see an increased role alongside Dawson Knox. It is worth noting that the amount of 12 personnel decreased under now full-time offensive coordinator Joe Brady last season (22.4% to 12%), but how much of that will carry over is to be seen as this offense will have a new look in 2024 for a variety of reasons. Another running back that can catch the ball in Ray Davis was selected in the fourth round to complement James Cook, who more than doubled his receiving production from year one to two.

"We like who we have ... and to me, you gotta remember to count tight ends," Beane said. "Don't forget we got Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox, [Quintin] Morris, like those guys can catch the ball. We got some backs who can catch the ball, people are just looking at just the receiver room. Look at those guys. There'll be very integral parts as well, along with the receivers."

Beane emphasized that right now, a big trade for a receiver isn't happening, despite the many external connections, due to cap constraints -- he estimated the team having under $3 million in cap room -- describing it as "not realistic." Continuing to add to the room (or other parts of the roster) is a possibility, though, with the team receiving $10.2 million in cap space after June 1 when the release of cornerback Tre'Davious White is processed.

The Bills certainly aren't strangers to adding after the draft in free agency and Beane mentions often how he'll always work to improve the roster. He signed Leonard Floyd in June 2023, who led the team in sacks (10.5).

There's plenty of questions still to be answered for the Bills, even with the draft completed. But Coleman, who has the potential to develop into a long-term starter for this offense, was a significant step for a team that is building for the next phase in 2024 and beyond.

Breaking down the Buffalo Bills' post-draft roster (2024)


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