The Buffalo Bills front office’s efforts to improve the team’s special teams rankings has borne fruit given that, at least in the return rankings, Buffalo has ranked in the top ten for the past two years. Andre Roberts’s ability to return both punts and kick returns has been a big reason why, hence why he has been a Pro Bowler for two straight years.
Despite that, Roberts is a 33-year old free agent, and with the team’s ever-tightening cap situation he may not be re-signed. If Robert isn’t retained, the team could find some value in replacing him with not only a cheap rookie, but ideally one who would also have regular positional value. A wide receiver or running back who doubles as a kick returner saves a roster spot. Below are just a few of the players the Bills might consider, note that their rankings are determined by both their kick return ability while taking into account their talent at their full-time position.
Jaylen Waddle WR (Alabama)
DeVonta Smith WR (Alabama)
Rondale Moore WR (Purdue)
Travis Etienne RB (Clemson)
Watch any highlight of Waddle’s best kickoff returns, specifically his 2019 ones against LSU and Auburn, and you’ll know that he is the most talented returner coming out. He’s shifty, has true elite speed but also an ability to ratchet down and follow his blocks. What Waddle was for Alabama on kick returns, Smith was on punt returns. Ranking third in the country in punt return yardage, Smith excels in that area because of his stop-start acceleration. The player that resembles Andre Roberts the most is probably Moore, who’s not only a speed demon (possible 4.2 speed) but he’s also oozes core strength. Etienne maybe doesn’t have the shiftiness you want in a true punt returner, but he’s got good straight-line speed and is much tougher to bring down than almost any of the players ranked above him.
Kadarius Toney WR (Florida)
Elijah Moore WR (Ole Miss)
D’Wayne Eskridge WR (Western Michigan)
He doesn’t really have most ideal the deep speed, but his ability to make cuts at full speed and follow his blocks and his general physicality allows Toney to be effective. A returner earlier in his career, Moore similarly isn’t a true burner, but gets by on toughness and smarts in the open field. Eskridge tore up the MAC thanks to his speed, finishing eleventh in the country in kick off return yards.
Marquez Stevenson WR (Houston)
Nykeim Johnson WR (Syracuse)
Amari Rodgers WR (Clemson)
The next two players, Stevenson and Johnson are smaller, slimmer players and likely won’t contribute much at their typical positions but have the speed to be elite returners. Kind of a jack of all trades, Rodgers is just fast enough, just big enough and just experienced enough to provide value in the return game but shouldn’t be expected to really excel there.