UTAH UTE ON THE RISE IN THE PROS
Tight end Dawson Knox was the 4th most targeted Buffalo Bills receiver last year. He had the 3rd most receptions (48) and the 3rd most yards (517). His six touchdowns were also the 3rd best mark in Buffalo.
His pass protection was solid (10th best in the NFL per PFF.com) and his run blocking was top 5 out of qualified tight ends (PFF.com).
Knox also only averaged about 1.06 yards per route run, which sat 25th of all tight ends. Pair this with the fact his 64.3 receiving grade was in the bottom half for players at his position as well (PFF.com), you can see he lacked the explosive play ability that Buffalo sought out.
The Bills were a pass heavy team, and still are (324 pass attempts to 228 rush attempts this season so far). They sought the big hitters who were electric every time they touched the ball. Dawson Knox, as steady as he was and is, didn’t provide that.
So, when the NFL draft rolled around in late April, the Bills had their eyes on a fresh tight end to put next to Knox that could provide that big play energy that Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis were capable of.
Enter the University of Utah’s Dalton Kincaid with the 25th overall pick in the first round.
Ute fans weren’t surprised but for the rest of the NFL it said a whole awful lot about a player when a team that views themselves as a contender drafts a position player in which they already have filled.
They felt Kincaid was bound to do great things just as he did in Salt Lake City, and halfway through the NFL season that thought is already receiving validation.
Kincaid has outplayed and outgained Knox through the whole season first and foremost.
Knox: 15 receptions, 102 yards, 1 touchdown, 7 first downs.
Kincaid: 40 receptions, 339 yards, 1 touchdown, 16 first downs.
But the last three weeks have created an even more intriguing storyline for Kincaid and the Ute fans who cheer him on.
Knox injured his wrist in a week 5 defeat to the Jaguars. He played the next two games but was clearly limited recording 4 receptions and 27 yards. The injury was aggravated in the loss to New England.
Knox told the media the wrist was “really bothering him” after electing to have surgery on it.
The Bills promptly placed Knox on injured reserve October 26th. Knox has since missed two games and will miss at bare minimum two more.
In his absence, Kincaid is the clear and obvious option at the position and has created even more distance from himself and the former starter.
Kincaid isn’t just playing more; he’s a MASSIVE part of what Buffalo is trying to accomplish. A premier target. I understand those are fantasy football numbers, so let dive into the real statistics.
That’s 7.6 receptions a game with 73.6 yards per game. That’s better than Mark Andrews in both receptions and yards, and that’s better than Travis Kelce in receptions if considering the last three games alone.
The yards and receptions alone are enough to put the league on notice and if the touchdowns start to come in more often, Kincaid is on a crash course for a top player spot at his position.
In his last game out, a loss to the Bengals, Kincaid demonstrated that he’s likely to only get better on a week-to-week basis.
To assume that his rookie year has been devoid of any learning curves would be false. For as electric as he’s been, Kincaid also had a costly fumble deep into Bengal’s territory in the early minutes of the 4th quarter with his team trailing by 11.
The thought of Buffalo likely getting points on the drive plummeted when Kincaid went airborne in an attempt to leap over a defender, losing the football in the process.
Dalton owned up to the fumble, took responsibility and will look to build on his mistakes. The maturity and willingness to learn and improve will take Kincaid far, and it appears as if the Bills and quarterback Josh Allen will give him every chance to prove his worth moving forward.
Kincaid has accomplished great stuff early on, and it’s fun to call him a part of Utah, but his best professional football is still to come and we cannot wait to see what happens.