State of the Bills: Tight end could be a focus in NFL Draft

They added more productive receiver Jacob Hollister after letting go of Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith, but would like to be more dynamic overall.
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The good news is that the Buffalo Bills replaced tight end Tyler Kroft and his 18 receptions over the previous two seasons with Jacob Hollister and his 66 receptions in the same span as a regular for the Seattle Seahawks.

The bad news is that the Bills replaced Kroft and his outstanding blocking in the run game with Hollister, who is not as good as Kroft in that area.

Nevertheless, general manager Brandon Beane pulled off an upgrade there as Hollister gets set to join Dawson Knox, Nate Becker, Reggie Gilliam and perhaps Tommy Sweeney, who missed last season because of a post-COVID-19 myocarditis condition, in an interesting but incomplete meeting room that could have a new member or two after this year's NFL Draft.

Veteran Lee Smith also has departed following a March trade that netted a 2022 seventh-round pick from the Atlanta Falcons.

So in this second of a series examining the Bills' strength at each position group heading to the draft, we first must ask how equipped they would be to head back into battle in 2021 without any further moves?

They're certainly not in bad shape with starter Knox (13.0 yards per receptions for his first two seasons), Hollister and Sweeney, who was drafted along with Knox in 2019 and caught eight of 14 targets for 114 yards as a rookie before his growth was stunted by missing all of last season.

Becker and Gilliam are young projects who will have to battle for roster spots if everyone else is healthy.

But there is little question the Bills would like to get their hands on another impact player at that position by the end of the draft. The only question is how they go about it, whether it be with a premium pick, a third-day pick, an undrafted free agent or a combination.

The consensus top tight end in this year's draft, Florida's Kyle Pitts, will be off the board long before the Bills first pick at No. 30. None of the other top tight end prospects, which include Penn State's Pat Freiermuth, Miami's Brevin Jordan and Notre Dame's Tommy Tremble, may be worth expending a second-round pick to obtain.

But could they be interested in the third round or beyond?

Freiermuth is likely the top prospect at the position behind Pitts, but his stock could be dropping because of shoulder surgery that ended his final season after just four games. That limited his testing at his Pro Day in a year that featured the cancellation of the NFL Scouting Combine.

However, he did feel he answered questions about his route-running when catching passes for scouts that day.

"I think I did all I could do today to show teams I’ve recovered from my shoulder and I’m good to go," he said. "I ran very crisp routes, in my opinion.

"... I was able to show teams I was recovered from my shoulder. I think one of the misconceptions is I’m a one-speed route runner. I think that’s completely false. I think I showed that today where I can accelerate and decelerate. I showed teams I can do those double moves."

How impressed were the Bills?

We could find out by the end of the draft, in which it's a good bet they'll address the position by the end of Day 2.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro.