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Where Dalton Kincaid could thrive and struggle in the Bills’ offense

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Just over a week ago, the Bills made their most significant draft investment in an offensive player since selecting franchise quarterback Josh Allen in 2018. General manager Brandon Beane made Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid their top pick and traded up to No. 25 to make it happen.

Despite plenty of points and yards, it’s hard to ignore the Bills’ offense struggled to move the ball consistently down the stretch, and that came down to not having enough around Allen and top receiver Stefon Diggs.

“I was hoping on offense that we would add a weapon,” Beane admitted after the draft.

His wishes came true with Kincaid. But what are the Bills getting in him, how does he fit the role they put in front of him, and what’s the upside?

We reviewed every available game of Kincaid’s final two college seasons, 15 in total, and broke down where he’s at his best, his worst, and what to expect moving forward.

What Kincaid does well

Movement skills

The most striking part of Kincaid’s game is how easy of a mover he is for being nearly 6-foot-4 and over 240 pounds. It’s just an effortless acceleration from the line of scrimmage, and every step seems loaded with speed both in and out of his break. You can tell he had an early football background as a wide receiver because of the subtle, nuanced steps in his routes. You can see it even more when Kincaid gears up on a double move. There are no wasted steps and he sets up the defenders with the speed and fluidity of a perimeter receiver. Against press, he has the strength and movement skills to get past the defender quickly. This shows up really well on slant routes over the middle of the field. Versus off coverage, there is no wasted movement as he gets to his spot efficiently with ample separation.

That’s all before the ball is in his hands. On both in- and out-breaking routes where the quarterback hits Kincaid in stride, he does a terrific job of controlling his body, using excellent ankle flexion to lean upfield mid-catch and negating the need for a gather step that would allow a lot of defenders to close the gap. Instead, as soon as Kincaid secures the catch, he’s upfield in one swift movement to help maximize his yard-getting potential. And once the ball is in his hands in the open field, he has the build to get through arm tacklers and stay upright to gain more yardage. He won’t break away with blazing speed from defensive backs, but his size and speed combination helped him become a good run-after-catch player.

Borderline elite ball skills

When Beane addressed the media for the first time following the Kincaid pick, one of the things he kept mentioning is Kincaid’s “elite hands.” After going through 15 of his games over the last two years, it became clear Beane wasn’t being hyperbolic. Not only is it the hands, but the entire ball-winning skill set really stands out. But the excellent hands are the foundation because it comes so naturally to him. Kincaid is not a body catcher. He has enormous hands at 10.25 inches, only a quarter-of-an-inch smaller than the biggest hands at his position this year, which belong to Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave. It’s a natural snare out of the air every time, but that’s not the impressive part.

Any great receiver prospect can catch when it’s a perfect throw. But his off-body plucking skills are extraordinary — and he had a lot of practice. While Utah quarterback Cameron Rising plays an exciting brand of quarterback, his on-target accuracy is not the best. Rising routinely made Kincaid work hard for the catch, whether it was above his frame, down low, or a little too far ahead, and Kincaid passed almost every test. There was even one play where Rising put the pass so far behind Kincaid’s momentum that a defender thought he had an easy interception, only for Kincaid to somehow halt his momentum, reach behind his body and snare the ball away for a contested reception. The term “catch radius” is buzzy in football, but Kincaid makes a lot of things possible with his.

And then there are the ball skills for a receiver to combine great hands with jump timing and concentration to catch through obstacles, which is another standout area for Kincaid. He’s very good at high-pointing the ball and has the jumping skills and arm length to win. There are reps out there of him pulling a Randy Moss over the top of a defender on an underthrown pass. He can adjust to a throw, turn his entire body and still make a catch without seeing the ball for more than half a second. He also shows excellent sideline awareness and can make receptions falling away from the ball to keep his feet in bounds. The contested catches are there, too. The Athletic’s draft expert Dane Brugler has Kincaid charted with only four drops over five years of college — and that’s while making 175 career receptions. Kincaid looks exceptionally equipped to deal with a Josh Allen fastball and then some.

Versatility all over the formation

The Bills immediately mentioned they believed Kincaid could fit on the field at the same time as tight end Dawson Knox, and it’s not that difficult of a projection to make because Kincaid did a lot of it already in college. Utah utilized a 12, sometimes 13, personnel offense as their base rather than a more traditional college spread offense. And in that offense, Kincaid did a little bit of everything. He lined up more prototypically as the inline tight end or as an H-back on some snaps. But Utah also used Kincaid split out in the slot and on the perimeter, taking advantage of his receiving skills. With Knox on the team, Kincaid’s path to the most playing time is as a big slot receiver, and the Bills don’t have to wonder if Kincaid can do it. They’ve seen him do it in college and succeed in the exact ways they’re looking for out of that position.

Mismatch potential

When you combine movement skills, size and ball skills, you have a conceptually tricky player to defend for any team. For many college and potential NFL teams, it’s a catch-22 on what to do with Kincaid. If he’s on the field simultaneously with Knox as the slot receiver, it forces defenses into a decision. The options are to put either a third, likely slower linebacker on the field for base defense, a much smaller nickel corner or safety, or a player that teams don’t use on defense as often because those mismatches typically don’t exist. Against USC, one of the top programs in the country last year, they ran into this dilemma.

If it’s the third linebacker option, Kincaid has shown the physicality to deal with re-routing attempts and the movement skills to quickly get to his spot. And this example shows how easily he can uncover against those players.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid is lined up in the slot with a linebacker hovering over him just out of the frame.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid begins his approach at the linebacker, No. 53, and the defender turns his back to the quarterback to prepare to turn and run with Kincaid.

(Courtesy: Fox)

At this point, Kincaid gets square with the defender and deals with a mid-route jab attempt from the defender, all while feeling the open space and setting up the defender to use his tightness against him. Kincaid’s long stride helps angle his body so there’s no wasted movement in getting to the spot.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid’s quick turn inside instantly gains separation, and the linebacker’s lack of fluid movement skills now puts him at a tremendous disadvantage against the tight end.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Just two yards later, Kincaid is uncovered with the open space to run into and will continue to gain separation as he keeps running.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Just three yards later for the defender, he’s now trailing Kincaid by over a full yard while Kincaid prepares for a catch in traffic.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid times his jump perfectly and rises up to the ball to snare it out of the air with full extension, securing a gain of over 25 yards.

That was against the linebacker, but how about a smaller nickel corner? Kincaid once again showed his full range of skills against the competition.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid is once again lined up in the slot, this time against USC’s nickel corner, No. 19.

(Courtesy: Fox)

The defender immediately tries to get hands on Kincaid because there’s a legitimate size disadvantage. Kincaid’s strength and size advantage power through this attempt on the first few steps without slowing down.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid senses the space on the field and is set up for an in-breaking route, and while dealing with the handsy defender, gets his own left hand on the cornerback’s right shoulder. At the same time, Kincaid’s long strides without wasted steps have him ready to break inside, planting his left foot without a gather step.

(Courtesy: Fox)

The defender, focused more on getting physical with Kincaid, isn’t ready for the break and Kincaid uncovers immediately.

(Courtesy: Fox)

Kincaid completes the play with another off-body catch, this time having to deal with a fastball well above his head. These two examples typify some of the problems Kincaid, if effective, can provide to defenses at the next level.

Understands zone depths and how to make himself available

Rounding out Kincaid’s receiving profile is some of what you saw in those two examples as well. He showed a high level of understanding of what the defense is dropping into and which spots to get to in making himself available to the quarterback. His moves aren’t as sudden as smaller slot receivers, but he can get to his spots quickly, snap back and face the quarterback and provide an ally over the middle for his passer. He worked well against all three depths of a zone and showed he knew how much space his quarterback needed to feel comfortable to throw. Kincaid even dealt with a lot of double-team attention once he became the top receiving threat and still found ways to make himself available. With Diggs on the field in the Bills’ offense, Kincaid is unlikely to deal with similar attention early in his career.

Where Kincaid may struggle


For everything Kincaid does well as a pass-catcher, his blocking leaves a lot to be desired. Regardless if asked to pass block or run block in Utah’s offensive scheme, if it was a standard rep of him going one-on-one against a defender, he struggled to maintain his leverage and keep his ball-carrying or passing teammates clean. He would engage well at the start of the rep, but the opponent’s physicality could swiftly whip him aside. There were far too many times when Kincaid would end up on the ground attempting to salvage his block because he didn’t have control of it. Projecting that forward takes away some of the teeth of a more standard 12 personnel for the Bills if asking Kincaid to be an inline blocker. But the good news is Kincaid is far more effective on the move as a blocker, which is likely how they’ll utilize him on non-passing snaps.

What gave him trouble in coverage

As we laid out, Kincaid can be an outright mismatch for linebackers, nickel cornerbacks or some safeties. But he had the most trouble down the field against taller opponents with longer arms who defended him with physicality but still had the fluidity to turn and run. That specific type of player neutralizes some of the advantages Kincaid provides, but it’s also a pretty rare player compared to Kincaid’s 6-foot-4, long-limbed frame. As two-tight end looks likely become more of a factor in the NFL, teams will hunt for those defenders yearly, but most won’t have them.

Minor considerations

There were only two other minor concerns, but are not damning factors at all. The first was his breakout age, as he didn’t fully cut loose until he turned 23 in college. Most college defenders range from 19 to 22 years old, so you can argue Kincaid was far more physically and mentally developed than his competition. However, there are examples of other 23-year-old college breakout tight ends — Travis Kelce being the most notable — who had very successful NFL careers. The other minor concern is that Kincaid didn’t take over the primary tight end and top target role at Utah until his teammate, Brant Kuithe, suffered a torn ACL in late September. Kincaid erupted from then on, but that was Kuithe’s role since 2021. When healthy, Utah did use both a lot, as they favored two to three tight ends on the field most times. But the Kuithe factor is worth pointing out.

Final thoughts

Kincaid shows the necessary skills to provide the Bills with more offensive unpredictability than they possessed a year ago. Adding a player who can take advantage of the middle of the field will take pressure off of Allen and Diggs for as much as they utilize Kincaid. If the Bills can successfully execute the vision Beane has in mind for a unique player like Kincaid, and have him be one of their primary slot receiving options, this has a lot of potential to be an excellent, forward-thinking first-round pick. Getting him out of a run-heavy offense like Utah’s and away from his inline blocking responsibilities could help him hit his ceiling in a high pass-above-expectation offense like the one they have in Buffalo.

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“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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Stop comparing this guy to Kelce and Gronk. If he was known to be either one, he would have been long gone by the time the Bills made a selection. At this point he is a guy recovering from a broken back that couldn't participate in the combine. Time will tell.

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11 minutes ago, Coach'sUncle'sSon said:

Loved this part:

Dane Brugler has Kincaid charted with only four drops over five years of college — and that’s while making 175 career receptions. Kincaid looks exceptionally equipped to deal with a Josh Allen fastball and then some.

You do realize that 70% of the other players will never play professionally, right? He was also older than most players on the field.

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19 hours ago, Very Wide Right said:

You do realize that 70% of the other players will never play professionally, right? He was also older than most players on the field.

It's irrelevant. His age is also, if anything, he's wiser. The key is his ability to catch Josh's "fastballs"  and just FOUR drops over FIVE YEARS .

Heck, we have receivers dropping 4 balls in ONE GAME!

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I would not worry about him as a blocker at all. He's almost never going to be asked to be an in-line blocker. He'll be used in space to pick up LBs and DBs where he can use his size and athleticism to wall off blockers on wide runs and screens.


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