How Will the Buffalo Bills Weaponize First-Round Pick Dalton Kincaid?

The Buffalo Bills went against the grain when they drafted TE Dalton Kincaid in Round 1, but Kincaid is more than just a mere tight end. He's a weapon.

The Buffalo Bills surprised many when they took a tight end in Round 1 in Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid’s positional designation may be a misnomer, however. While Kincaid’s official title is tight end, he’s more accurately described as a pass-catching weapon.

Buffalo Bills Add Dalton Kincaid to Offensive Cast

The Bills came into the 2023 NFL Draft with a plethora of needs — an unexpectedly large amount for a team that made the AFC Divisional Round in 2021 and 2022, and reached the AFC Championship in 2020.

Among the Bills’ potential needs in the draft: Offensive line, defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, and safety. But above all, Buffalo needed to find another offensive threat in the pass-catching group, to adequately complement Stefon Diggs.

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The Bills have a solid RB stable with Damien Harris, James Cook, and Nyheim Hines, and Gabe Davis has his appeal as a rotational big-play WR threat. But there wasn’t anyone to draw extra attention over the middle of the field and up the seam, to take pressure off Diggs and give him more isolated looks.

Rather than dip into the WR pool, the Bills made an unorthodox move, trading into the 25th pick to take Kincaid.

On the surface, the Kincaid selection turned heads and caused confusion for some. The Bills, after all, have Dawson Knox, who caught 48 passes for 517 yards and six touchdowns in 2022, and he was recently extended until 2027.

Buffalo didn’t need a tight end, but Kincaid is more than a TE. And in a modern NFL that’s slowly becoming more and more position-less on the offensive side of the ball, Kincaid has the physical ability to add a new dimension for Allen and Co.

Dalton Kincaid Blends the Line Between WR and TE

Kincaid is a unique TE prospect, with a truly elite receiving skill set at his maximum potential. That much was evident all throughout a 2022 season that saw him rack up 70 catches for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. In particular, a dominant outing against USC highlighted his best traits.

At 6’4″, 240 pounds, Kincaid no doubt has the necessary size to be a mismatch against defensive backs, but he’s also a superb athlete and separator for that size. It’s not just Kincaid’s high-end explosiveness out of breaks and pace attacking seams, but also his rare flexibility as a mover, bending through stems while sustaining acceleration and bleeding through zones with his steely route IQ.

Former Utah Utes and current Buffalo Bills tight end Dalton Kincaid (86) catches a touchdown pass against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium.
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Kincaid has unnatural functional mobility and flexibility as a route runner. He has the superfluous explosiveness to capitalize on that route flexibility once he gets a step on defenders, with the nuance to maximize both traits, and the hyper-elite catching instincts and hand-eye coordination to deliver at the very end of the process.

Ultimately, Kincaid’s traits serve him well in all phases. You can run him through the three-level threat framework as a wide receiver, and he passes with flying colors. He’s a tantalizing separating talent with zone awareness, a bird of prey at the catch point, and uses his explosiveness, leg churn, and contact balance to generate RAC yards as well.

Within Kincaid’s flexibility and athleticism, there’s also a flexibility of usage present. That’s something Bills general manager Brandon Beane has made clear. Speaking about Kincaid in a recent press conference, Beane divulged information on their personnel plans for him.

“Dawson will play that more traditional Y, while [Kincaid] will play the F for us. We’re more of an 11 [personnel] team, but with this guy, it’s more like 11.5 when he’s in the game. It’s not two true Ys. He’s a piece that can work the middle of the field for us, and we’re really excited to get him here.”

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The Bills’ 12-personnel packages — one RB and two TEs — will see both Knox and Kincaid hit the field, yet the latter functions more as a flex WR or big slot, than a traditional TE. That contrast can put defenses in a bind and increase the multiplicity of the Bills’ offensive attack.

I mocked Kincaid to the Bills, albeit at 27th overall, in my final 7-round 2023 NFL Mock Draft of the 2023 cycle, and echoed what Beane has said about Kincaid in my reasoning:

“Hear me out, Bills fans. You’re not drafting Dalton Kincaid as a tight end. You’re drafting him as a weapon. Kincaid has the athleticism and flexibility to split out and play from the slot. He’s explosive attacking up seams, a bull after the catch, and at the catch point, he has the best coordination and control in the entire class — something Josh Allen can utilize.”

The key was getting a weapon for Allen. A weapon that can generate RAC yards on short touches and opportunities over the middle of the field. Someone who can splice through coverages and find open space with his burst and flexibility, plus authoritatively snare high-difficulty pass attempts downfield with his length and coordination.

Kincaid can do all those things. That’s what can make him the Bills’ X-factor alongside Diggs. Buffalo will be able to split Kincaid out wide or use him in the slot, where he can either attack the seam or work the intermediate range with digs and outs. Either way, he has the tools to be an absolute handful for defenses.

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