Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Which Buffalo Bills are destined for star status?
The accolade of making the NFL’s First-Team All-Pro list is considered to be one of the most prestigious honors for recognizing individual players annually. It is perceived as a much higher honor than a Pro Bowl appearance every year. The Associated Press (AP) is widely regarded as the most important list in formulating All-Pro teams. The Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) also casts votes for their own All-Pro lists. In 2019, the AP placed 11 players on offense and 14 players on defense to be selected as first-team along with five special teams players. You can find the complete 2019 list here.
In 2019, Buffalo Bills star cornerback Tre’Davious White became the first Bill to be a First-Team All-Pro member since 2014 when both defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive end Mario Williams earned the first-team honors. White looks primed to be a potential multi-time first-team representative for the Bills for the foreseeable future. Who could be the next Bills player to join him?
WR Stefon Diggs
Diggs has progressively gained more yards over the course of his career despite having four different starting quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins) throwing him the ball in five years during his tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. In addition, Diggs had to play alongside another star wide receiver in Adam Thielen who has eaten up over 4,000 yards his last four years in the league. While Diggs will have some good players around him competing for touches, he will no longer be sharing the spotlight in the wide receiver room. He is the one true star on offense for the Bills in 2020. Coming off a season with 63 receptions and 1,130 yards to go along with six touchdowns, Diggs will have a chance to take his game to a First-Team All-Pro level sooner rather than later.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Of all linebackers who played snaps in the NFL in 2019, Tremaine Edmunds was the second-youngest in the NFL (Devin Bush, Pittsburgh). Despite being drafted in 2018, Edmunds was still the second-youngest linebacker in the league during his sophomore campaign. In the 2018 NFL Draft, Tremaine Edmunds was the youngest player selected in the entire draft. In his rookie season, Edmunds took his bumps and bruises while struggling mightily with missed tackles. Edmunds would have ranked 55th in run defense among all linebackers with over 90 run-defense snaps in 2019 with how he graded in 2018 (55.7 run-defense grade according to PFF). In 2019, he graded out with a 69.2 run-defense grade, which was good for 22nd among all linebackers with over 90 run defense snaps in 2019. It was clear from watching him live he knew how to find his way in 2019 pairing production (96 tackles and ten tackles for loss and one interception) with high-quality linebacker play. While just turning 22 years old, Edmunds is on the upswing to a very promising career.
DT Ed Oliver
Oliver started his much-hyped rookie season by possibly living up to his hyped billing after being drafted ninth overall by the Bills in the 2019 NFL Draft. A First-Team All-Pro defensive tackle will likely need to produce very good sack numbers in order to be included on the list. Only two interior defensive linemen were included in 2019 (Aaron Donald and Cam Heyward) who had 12.5 and 9.0 sacks respectively. Oliver’s rookie campaign saw him gather 5.0 sacks, all of which came after the Week 6 bye. Oliver has the first-step quickness and pass-rush ability to maintain a high sack total his entire career. He will have another spike in expectations for year two and with a newly fortified defensive front, Oliver will have a chance to win one-on-ones against interior offensive linemen in front of him. However, he will need to bounce back after his arrest this past May when he was charged with driving while intoxicated and unlawfully carrying a weapon.
TE Dawson Knox
Knox showed tremendous promise as a rookie tight end in the NFL. He flashed many of the abilities the great tight ends in the league do consistently, including his great athleticism, run-after-the-catch ability, and in-line run blocking. Knox’s biggest flaw as of right now is his rather large issue with drops. According to Pro Football Focus, Knox dropped nine passes on 51 targets (17.6 drop percentage). Meanwhile, First-Team All-Pro tight end George Kittle dropped one pass on 106 targets (.9 drop percentage). Besides a near double target equity for Kittle compared to Knox in each of their offenses, Knox struggled much more with catching the ball. Some may remember Knox caught just 18 passes his entire career at Ole Miss with zero touchdowns and was still drafted in the third round by the Bills. His upside is through the roof. However, his drop issues will be a major point of emphasis for him in his sophomore season.
RB Zack Moss
A rookie makes an appearance on this list. Moss was the Bills’ third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Moss, a former bellcow at The University of Utah, touched the ball 778 times in his career with 41 touchdowns. In Buffalo, he’ll share a running back room with one of 2019’s rookie darlings, Devin Singletary. While Singletary is a feisty back in his own right, Moss trends as the bruiser who will likely get a lot of the short-yardage carries near the goal line. If Moss hopes to one day be a First-Team All-Pro, he may have to formulate his career similar to running back Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Henry rushed for over 1,500 yards in 2019 with 16 rushing touchdowns. Although he only made Second-Team All-Pro for his performance, many debated he should have been first-team over Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey. Henry only had 18 receptions in 2019. Moss, however, is a much more natural pass catcher who I would expect to have more receiving production than Henry from day one in the league. Moss’s honors may not come for a couple of years down the line. But, he has the goods for what it takes to be a future First-Team All-Pro.
Just Missed the Cut
QB Josh Allen
Allen is one of the more polarizing players in the NFL. With there being just one candidate per year at quarterback on the First-Team All-Pro list, Allen would have to have an MVP season (literally) to crack the list.
OT Dion Dawkins
Dawkins is a good player, however, he is not up there with the biggest and baddest offensive tackles in the league like Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley or New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk as it stands.
S Jordan Poyer
Conceivably, Poyer would have to have one of the highest amounts of tackles in the league or among the most interceptions in the league. It is not out of the realm of possibility. But it is not likely given his age of 29 going into the season.
S Micah Hyde
It’s a similar story with Hyde. He’s nothing short of a great player for the Bills. However, just 56 tackles and one interception hurts him for any potential First-Team All-Pro honors. Hyde would likely need a big year of interceptions to vault his way to first-team status.
There’s more talent than there has been in years for the Buffalo Bills. The depth and talent on both sides of the ball could lead to multiple individual honors for the team sooner rather than later.