The last two times the Buffalo Bills addressed the tight end position in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft was back in 1983 (Tony Hunter, first round) and 1994 (Lonnie Johnson, second round). Although they neglected it again in 2014, had they stayed at their original draft position there was a solid chance they would have ended that streak.
However, they didn’t stand pat in the draft order. They made a trade with Cleveland to move up and get Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, leaving the tight end position to be decided amongst the men already on the roster.
Outside of quarterback and defensive tackle, tight end is really the only position that didn’t see many changes from the start of the 2013 season up to the start of the upcoming training camp. The only change is that the incumbent starter might have to stave off another player that has had former success in the league.
The Starter (1) Scott Chandler
- Chandler is a bit undervalued in the offense mostly because fans will look at his lack of athleticism, compare him to a Rob Gronkowski or a Jimmy Graham, and many will scream for an upgrade at the position. While that line of thinking isn’t exactly out of order, Chandler has been dependable for the Bills over the course of the past three seasons. The team can likely do better than him as a starter, but they can (and have in the past) also do far, far worse. If we’re to take the offseason words of both head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley seriously though, Chandler could face some competition from a member of “the depth.”
The Depth (2) Tony Moeaki, Lee Smith
- The man to watch from this group will be Moeaki, who isn’t assured a roster spot at this point in time, but he has a much better chance to make the 53-man roster than others. While Chandler was away for personal reasons during mandatory minicamp, Moeaki got some valuable reps and made some nice plays in the process. He’s had past success in the league, and the Bills are willing to find out if he can do it again after his fair share of injuries. Smith is essentially a sixth offensive lineman that they’ll use to help the run game. There is usually room for a blocking specialist like him on a run-heavy team.
The Bubble (1) Chris Gragg
- This could be surprising to some because he was a draft pick in 2013, but let’s face it. He’s a seventh-round pick that couldn’t get on the field outside of garbage time situations last year. The hope will be that athletic tight end progresses enough to the point where he can warrant a roster spot, but with a lot of talent being added to the roster at other positions, space could get tight. The 24-year old is firmly on the bubble, and the ultimate decision will be based on how effective he is in practice from July 20 through the end of August. He very well could force their hand and make them go with four tight ends. Or, they could to go with only the top three. Either way, Gragg needs a strong month.
The Longshot (1) Mike Caussin
- Caussin has been around the Bills for a while now ever since signing with the team in September of 2010. This will be his fourth training camp with Buffalo, entering Felton Huggins territory for training camps attended without ever making the 53-man roster. Before, the Bills had the advantage of being able to put him on the practice squad and maintain his rights. He’s even had a pair of injuries that has taken away the past two seasons which has also maintained his status with the Bills. 2014 may serve as his last chance though, and he’ll have to unseat at least one and maybe even two of the tight ends already ahead of him.