How good will the Bills' receiving corps be in 2020?
With the addition of Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings, many athletes are putting the Bills among the best groups in the league. The Bills return John Brown and Cole Beasley, who will be in their second seasons in the offense, and have an emerging tight end in Dawson Knox. Plus, the concerns about running back Devin Singletary as a pass catcher that dogged him out of college because he was rarely used in that role have subsided.
Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson told The News earlier this offseason that the Bills' trio were the best 1-2-3 combination in the league.
"This is an incredibly balanced receiving corps who can win everywhere on the field and get open consistently," Monson said. "They will paint a better picture for their quarterback than pretty much any other group in the NFL, particularly because they all excel at generating separation."
It also depends on how you slice it. PFF's Ben Linsey ranked the top receiving corps in the league, including receivers, tight end and backs using PFF’s play-by-play grading and signature stats. He ranked the Bills at No. 5.
"Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley all excel at creating separation, and they complement each other well, specializing in different areas of the field. That trio alone bumps the Bills into the top five on this list," he wrote. "Dawson Knox will be an interesting player to watch at the tight end position in 2020. He struggled with drops as a rookie (nine compared to just 28 receptions), but he showed some big play and after-the-catch ability with six forced missed tackles on those 28 receptions."
Slicing it even further, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller was among several writers who ranked the top quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL. Miller used what he termed a composite, a number grade assigned to each player that is a combination of Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders data, his own evaluation and conversations with NFL scouts.
He ranked the combination of Allen and Diggs as tied for No. 13 in the league. Allen got a 77 out of 100 on his composite and Diggs got a 93 for a total of 170. They were tied with the Steelers' pair of Ben Roethlisberger (84) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (86).
The top tandem was the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes (99) and Tyreek Hill (96) for 195.
Not surprisingly, Allen and Diggs did not make Gil Brandt's list of the top 10 tandems.
So what are reasonable expectations for the numbers for the Bills' offense? A clear goal of the offseason was to provide more weapons for the Bills to be able to score more points. Buffalo averaged 19.6 points per game last season, which is in the bottom third of the league and the fewest among playoff teams.
The News' Jay Skurski in his most recent Bills Mailbag projected a reasonable statistical jump for Allen in Year 3.
"Let’s start with completion percentage. Allen improved that number from 52.8 as a rookie to 58.8 last year. Another 6-point jump might be asking a lot, but that’s a good goal to set. His touchdown passes went from 10 to 20. Another increase of 10 should again be the goal. His passing yards jumped from 2,074 to 3,089. Let’s stick with the theme and add another 1,000. If Allen hits those three marks, based on last year’s numbers, he would finish in the top 15 in completion percentage, the top 10 in yards and the top five in touchdowns. In other words, he’d resemble the franchise quarterback the Bills hoped they were getting when they traded up twice in the first round of the 2018 draft to get him. Allen’s interceptions dropped from 12 to 9 from his rookie year to sophomore season, which was impressive after he started five more games in 2019. I’m good if he keeps that number to 10 or less.
"As for Stefon Diggs, I’ll go with 70 catches, 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns as a good place to start for his numbers. If he reaches those, it means the offense is doing good things."
The News' Mark Gaughan recently looked at how Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll could deploy the new pieces on offense, notably how the Bills could use three wide receivers more often, after already being among the league leaders last year.