The gadget player made a big impact when called upon last year
The Buffalo Bills boasted one of the NFL’s best passing offenses in 2020. The team finished third in both passing yards and passing touchdowns even though they were only 11th in passing attempts. Obviously, strong play from quarterback Josh Allen was the main factor in that success, but the pass-catching group had a tremendous impact that cannot be ignored.
We’ve already covered the leader in the receiver group, but he wasn’t the only player at his position whose contract value and production value weren’t necessarily equal. The Bills had four wideouts count for at least $1 million last season, but the subject of today’s profile wasn’t among them.
The eighth spot on our list of the top-ten salary-cap values is a receiver, a returner, a jet-sweeper, and an all-around weapon for one of the league’s best offenses.
WR Isaiah McKenzie
2020 Salary-Cap Figure: $962,500 (.44 percent of the team’s overall cap)
2020 Stats: 34 targets, 30 receptions, 282 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns, 10 rushing attempts, 9 rushing yards, 2 kickoff returns, 32 kickoff return yards, 1 punt return, 84 punt return yards, 1 punt return touchdown, 1/1 passing, 12 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown
Isaiah McKenzie was, in terms of overall snaps, the Bills’ fifth receiver, playing just under a quarter of the snaps on offensive (270 total snaps; 24.8 percent). Given that information, he was incredibly productive on a per-touch basis, given that he was third on the team in total receiving touchdowns. Sure, most of his production came in the season’s final two games, as he caught ten passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns in Weeks 16 and 17, but that’s because those games were the ones where he played the most. Given that McKenzie’s job as a role player was to be prepared to produce when called upon, I can’t knock him for saving his best games for the ones where he saw the most opportunity.
McKenzie’s placement on the Bills’ depth chart is less a reflection of his ability than it is a show of the team’s strength at the receiver position. With veteran Andre Roberts gone in 2021, it’s very possible that McKenzie will slide into a larger role as the team’s return specialist if he can show that his past issues with muffed punts are just that—a past issue. Regardless of what happens moving forward, McKenzie’s contributions to the 2020 team are worthy of recognition, as he certainly outperformed his contract last year.