ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Bills consider Dalton Kincaid to be quite the catch.
“Best hands ever,” coach Sean McDermott said about Buffalo’s first-round pick on draft night, referencing the scouting report from senior director of football research Dennis Lock, in a candid conversation captured for the team’s “Embedded” production.
“Best hands you’ve seen in eight years, at any position?” McDermott confirmed, at the urging of general manager Brandon Beane, who coveted Kincaid’s receiving ability enough to move up and select him at 25th overall. Kincaid slots in as a reliable option in the middle of the field for quarterback Josh Allen, playing a “flex” role to complement starter Dawson Knox at the traditional “Y” tight end position.
Heading into the Bills rookie minicamp this weekend, Kincaid remains an unrefined product as an in-line blocker, a necessary skill for a complete tight end. But his position coach for the past three seasons at Utah believes the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Kincaid can become more than an oversized slot receiver in Buffalo’s offense.
“The part of Dalton’s game that is underrated is his ability as a run blocker,” said Freddie Whittingham, tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Utes. “He’s not just the flex tight end that is going to be only interested in catching passes.”
Kincaid was rated as the best receiving tight end in the draft by Pro Football Focus with a sterling 91.8 score. His run-blocking grade (59.5) ranked seventh among the top 10 tight ends in a deep class. Yet in a Utah offense that regularly utilized formations with two and three tight ends, Kincaid was relied upon for varied blocking assignments, Whittingham said.
“We had him at the point of attack on every area of the field,” Whittingham said. “Our inside and outside zone schemes, our gap schemes. He was a great puller on our counter play, where he’d be the second blocker fitting up on that second-level defender, and our duo play, which is pretty popular in the NFL, it’s basically power without a puller. He did a lot of that for us.”
Kincaid has bulked up from 180 pounds coming out of high school, to 220 after two seasons at FCS San Diego, where he was used primarily as a flex tight end, Whittingham said. With the added size and strength, Kincaid’s blocking has improved over time.
“He was a late-bloomer, and he’s one of those guys who is still developing physically,” Whittingham said. “His technique is solid. We always talk about tight hands and things like that. There’s still stuff he can get better at. But that’s the thing about him, he wants to continue to improve. He never feels like he’s got it all figured out. He always feels like there are areas of his game he can get better at.”
Beane said the Bills won’t expect too much right away from Kincaid as a run blocker, but that tight ends coach Rob Boras will work with him on that aspect of his game.
“Rob Boras is a great teacher, great technician,” Beane said. “He’s not going to need to teach him how to catch the ball or run routes.”
The Bills utilized formations with two tight ends less than any other team in the NFL last season, according to Sharp Football Analysis. Kincaid’s pass-catching prowess will immediately allow offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to deploy more “12 personnel” alignments, featuring one running back and two tight ends.
“I’m just going to do whatever is asked of me,” Kincaid said after being drafted. “Whether that’s playing the true ‘Y,’ playing ‘F’ tight end, playing the slot, playing flexed out, playing in-line. Ultimately, wherever the coaches see best fit, and wherever I need to be to help the team win.”
Kincaid’s development as a run blocker would make those ’12’ packages more dynamic. Opponents would have more difficulty determining how to match up with the Bills offense, unsure whether to field a defensive back to cover Kincaid, or a linebacker to better hold up against the run.
“That’s probably the thing that we would say we want to see improvement on,” Beane said. “But we’re not going to major in that with him. It’d be more, do enough just to keep the defense honest.”
Even if it won’t be a major part of Kincaid’s rookie role with the Bills, becoming a reliable blocker would unlock his potential to be a full-time starter at the “Y” tight end position later in his career. And it would be paramount sooner if Knox were to miss time.
“In my opinion, he’s an all-around tight end,” Whittingham said. “He does have a real willingness to be physical. You see him accelerate into blocks. If the Bills do a lot of ’12’ personnel, I think it’s going to put defensive coordinators in a bind.”