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Analysis: Bills hope WR Kolby Listenbee, self-proclaimed fastest player in football, opens up offense

They've been here before. The Buffalo Bills have drafted track-fast wide receivers.

In 2012, they took T.J. Graham 69th overall. In 2013, they took Marquise Goodwin 78th overall. Both had speed to burn, both failed to live up to expectations with 74 combined receptions in Buffalo.

Now, it's Kolby Listenbee's turn to be that rare weapon who can take the top off a defense.

Armed with a quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) who can throw deep and a wide receiver (Sammy Watkins) who draws double-teams, the Bills hope TCU's Kolby Listenbee provides what Graham and Goodwin could not.

Moments after the Bills drafted him in the sixth round, the 6-foot, 197-pound Listenbee declared himself the fastest player in the NFL.

"Because I could go to the Olympics if I wanted to," he said, coolly.

No, he doesn't plan to go the Olympics. But he could. A four-time All-American on TCU's track team, he's been recorded at a wind-aided 10.03 in the 100-meter dash. Listenbee is quick to repeat he's a football player first. At a big-time program, he caught 30 passes for 597 yards and five touchdowns while playing through a double sports hernia suffered while catching a touchdown, as he said, "over somebody's head." The year before, in 2014, Listenbee caught 41 passes for 753 yards.

Rex Ryan has always loved speed at wide receiver. His hope is that Listenbee provides the long ball.

Expect Watkins to draw a safety over the top much, much more often in 2016 — the natural reaction to a 60-catch, 1,047-yard, 9-touchdown season. Listenbee will have plenty of opportunities to take cornerbacks deep mano a mano in Greg Roman's offense.

It'll be an adjustment. Listenbee said he'll need to learn how to run routes on the right side of the field and could use more practice in the slot. At TCU, he did his damage on the left side of the field.

Not that he's lacking confidence. At all.

"Wherever I play, I think I'm going to go out there and do whatever I can do," Listenbee said. "If I play in the slot, I can go one on one with the safety any time. I can handle him. At least nine out of the 10 times."

Despite the nagging hernia, Listenbee ran a 4.39 at the NFL scouting combine and has timed himself at 4.30 and 4.33. He's convinced he would've beaten Chris Johnson's record of 4.24 seconds if he was healthy, saying he "probably would have had a million dollars." After playing the whole season with the injury, Listenbee eventually had surgery after the Combine in March. He expects to be good to go by training camp.

One other difference here is that he had more on-field production in college than Goodwin did at Texas.

Now, the two will compete for a roster spot. Robert Woods has been a solid No. 2 receiver when healthy, if not a deep threat.

Maybe Listenbee is a weapon who helps open up Buffalo's passing attack. Hall-of-Famer Andre Reed is a believer, tweeting "Listenbee brings another deep threat opposite Sammy so they can slide coverage to one side....Great pick! Looking forward to this combo.."

Added Listenbee, "I'm a football player, who happens to be fast."

 

 

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