Bills TE Dawson Knox growing into starring role

Each week through the 2021 season, we’ll study our NFL draft steal of the week — a first-, second- or third-yr participant whose NFL success has surpassed the place he was drafted. We’ll attempt to look again on the why and the way of the place he was chosen and what we considered that prospect previous to the draft.

Buffalo Bills
6-foot-4, 254 kilos
2019 NFL draft: Round 3, No. 96 general

The Bills’ win Sunday night time at Arrowhead Stadium was an enormous one for a group that has reputable Super Bowl aspirations. The Kansas City Chiefs had crushed the Bills twice final season by two scores every time, together with within the AFC championship recreation.

It was after that recreation that Bills GM Brandon Beane lamented that his group’s tight finish place had been “up and down” through the 2020 season. Knox had a TD catch within the AFC title recreation and completed the season robust however was set again final yr by numerous accidents and a bout with COVID. He additionally was tormented by dropped passes (10) as a rookie in 2019.

Meanwhile, Knox’s counterpart, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, had an enormous AFC title recreation (13 catches, 118 yards, two TDs) in opposition to the Bills to elevate the Chiefs to the Super Bowl. Beane’s feedback learn like a problem to Knox previous to his third NFL season.

“Dawson began to get his groove, nevertheless it was by no means the place the opposing protection was like, ‘Man, we have got to cease their tight ends from going off,'” Beane stated. “We’d like to have a man like what we simply confronted in [Kelce]. They do not come [around] fairly often. But that is what we would like.

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“We’ve obtained some guys right here we need to proceed to develop and see what occurs.”

Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox celebrates a big win at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Buffalo Bills tight finish Dawson Knox celebrates an enormous win at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire through Getty Images)

Challenge accepted. 

Knox obtained a recent begin this season and has been improbable, catching 18 passes for 261 yards and 5 TDs to this point for the 4-1 Bills. Against the Chiefs, he caught three passes for a profession-finest 117 yards and a landing that gave the Bills a primary-half, two-TD lead.

That’s now 4 straight video games during which Knox has scored — the primary tight finish in franchise historical past to perform that — and had a two-TD recreation in Week 4 in a blowout of the Texans. A month shy of his twenty fifth birthday, Knox is now beginning to appear to be one of many vivid, up-and-coming tight ends within the NFL. 

So why are issues lastly clicking for Knox? And how did he final till late in Round 3 in 2019? We dig in on Knox as a prospect.

Why did Dawson Knox slip within the draft?

Knox’s path to the draft was a little bit of an odd one, as accidents and a place swap slowed his progress with the Rebels.

Following a season-ending damage within the first recreation of his excessive-faculty season, Knox — then a quarterback — had hassle incomes recruiting consideration. Eventually he walked on at Ole Miss and shortly switched to tight finish.

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After some bodily setbacks, he ultimately earned a beginning role over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. But in an offense that includes DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson, Jordan Wilkins, DaMarkus Lodge, Braylon Sanders and others, there have been solely so many receptions to go round.

In 18 profession video games, Knox caught 39 passes for 605 yards and nil TDs. That’s proper — he went his whole school profession with out a TD catch. That meant when he caught his first NFL TD, Knox ended and finish-zone streak that had carried over since his junior yr of highschool.

When Knox declared the NFL draft, he was hailed as a superior athlete for the place with the velocity to threaten the seam — and his school receiving common of 15.5 yards appeared to again that up.

But his lack of expertise, inconsistent blocking (good effort, shaky method) and and a few rawness to his recreation all had been causes Knox wasn’t picked larger. It was additionally a fairly robust TE class general, with 16 of them drafted (probably the most on the place since 2015), together with 4 going within the prime 50 general.

How we seen Knox as a prospect

Knox was our No. 85 general prospect, so he ended up being drafted only a bit decrease than we imagined. 

When we watched the tape of Knox, it wasn’t onerous to get enthusiastic about his potential. We noticed a excessive-power participant who lacked refinement however figured to develop within the NFL following a considerably uncommon school expertise for a 3rd-spherical decide.

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Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox (9) had some eye-opening moments in college but never caught a TD pass with the Rebels. (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox (9) had some eye-opening moments in college but never caught a TD pass with the Rebels. (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ole Miss tight finish Dawson Knox (9) had some eye-opening moments in school however by no means caught a TD go with the Rebels. (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire through Getty Images)

From our scouting report in 2019:

There’s additionally a aggressive hearth that reveals up in his video games, as he provides good effort in his blocking (and has room for progress in that division) and can combat by means of sort out makes an attempt on the second degree. Every indication is that Knox might be a much better professional than a school participant. He’s a difficult analysis due to the low utilization within the go recreation, however a enjoyable participant to look at and one who figures to shock some folks.

Future forecast

Tight ends are notoriously one of many slower-growing positions. There are important blocking and receiving duties, together with the expectation that the majority tight ends may even be used on particular-groups models. That’s fairly a bit to throw at a younger participant, to not point out one resembling Knox who lacked school expertise.

His points with drops as a rookie weren’t surprising both, as Knox’s palms had been a bit inconsistent in school on his restricted makes an attempt. Although we won’t name Knox a devastating blocker, he is made strides in that division within the NFL and infrequently traces up in-line.

But it is Knox’s improved chemistry with Josh Allen that has us very bullish on his future. Earning the belief of one of many league’s higher younger quarterbacks is a vital growth, and Knox might proceed to flourish as a go-catching standout in a excessive-flying offense.

As he reaches his peak age, accidents may be the one foreseeable pitfall for Knox. Otherwise, he appears like a younger star within the making and a notable draft steal.