The Buffalo Bills traded up on Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft to target Utah’s, Dalton Kincaid. General manager Brandon Beane only sent a late fourth-round pick to move up two slots and guarantee the franchise got their guy.
Kincaid is one of the most fascinating stories from this year’s draft. The superstar tight end never played football growing up, instead serving as a top player for his AAU basketball squad. At the behest of his friends, Kincaid decided to give football a shot as a senior.
Humble Beginnings For Dalton Kincaid
To the surprise of many, Kincaid earned All-State honors in his only year of organized football. He eclipsed the 700-yard mark and hauled in eight touchdowns for Faith Lutheran High School. Unfortunately, due to limited exposure and experience, Kincaid failed to receive any college offers to continue his burgeoning football career.
Nonetheless, the Nevada native decided to pursue a future in the sport by walking on to the University of San Diego football team. Kincaid hit the ground running by corralling 11 touchdowns as a freshman and nearly 400 yards through the air. While his touchdowns dipped a bit (8), the budding superstar set career marks in every other category.
His 44 receptions and 835 yards ranked second on the team, and his 18.9 yards per catch led the entire country for tight ends. Following a successful stint at San Diego, the FCS All-American earned a scholarship offer from a D1 program. Utah came knocking, and Kincaid was happy to oblige.
The big-bodied pass catcher essentially redshirted during the COVID-shortened 2020 season but began his breakout in 2021 with the Utes. Kincaid ranked first on the team in touchdowns (8), flexing his remarkable prowess in the red zone.
The former zero-star recruit continued his ascension in his final season with Utah. Kincaid led the offense with 70 receptions, 890 yards, and eight more touchdowns. If folks hadn’t taken notice of the rising star in Salt Lake City before then, they were now.
Dalton Kincaid Becomes The Apple Of Buffalo’s Eye
Kincaid parlayed his collegiate success into an NFL Combine invite. At the event, the versatile pass catcher did not work out due to a late-season back injury. Still, Kincaid interviewed well and measured out like a prototypical new-age tight end, mitigating some of the concerns.
The rumors of Kincaid vaulting into Round 1 began months before the 2023 NFL Draft, and when the time came, all the talk came to fruition. The journey that started with a high school senior who never played a snap of football culminated in a multi-million dollar, first-round NFL contract.
So, what made the Bills want Kincaid bad enough to trade up for him? How does he slot into the lineup in Year 1?
The answers to the first question are easier to find. Kincaid boasts strong and reliable hands, having only dropped two passes in 165 career targets. Furthermore, the Utes standout posted an impressive 58.8 percent contested catch rate in his collegiate career, solidifying his standing as one of the best pass catchers in the class.
As you can tell from earlier in the article, Kincaid is a maestro in the red zone. He possesses the height to go get the ball at its catch point and the frame to box out smaller defenders in jump ball situations. Kincaid is also underrated after the catch and can create matchup issues by aligning in multiple spots for the Buffalo offense.
The most redeeming quality of Kincaid and his NFL projection is how new he is to the sport. The soon-to-be 24-year-old is an older prospect, but considering his minimal time in football pads, there is reason to believe he is just scratching the surface. The Bills must see the same vision since they wanted Kincaid so desperately.
Tight ends are notoriously slow starters in terms of production. Only two tight ends in NFL history have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as rookies, Mike Ditka in 1961 and Kyle Pitts in 2021. Five players at the position have posted 60+ receptions in Year 1. Ditka and Rob Gronkowski are the only two that caught 10+ touchdowns, too.
Bills: Dalton Kincaid Could Become First TE To Win Offensive Rookie Of The Year
All this stat spewing to say this: Dalton Kincaid has a realistic path to reaching each of these marks as a rookie. Not only does Kincaid possess the talent and upside, but the offense also is begging for a steady No. 2 option behind Stefon Diggs. Gabe Davis is better in theory than he is in actuality, and should never be more than a third option on a Super Bowl contender.
Khalil Shakir will see more action in his second season with the Bills, but looking at the depth chart, it would be shocking if Kincaid didn’t log the most snaps from the slot this year. Josh Allen is never shy to throw the ball downfield, and if you thought Dawson Knox was a menace in the red zone… just wait until you see Kincaid.
My pick for NFL MVP in 2023 is Josh Allen. For this to become reality the Bills must lean heavily on their rookie tight end. Kincaid is a big slot with high-end pass-catching ability, and he might be the final push this roster needs to get past Kansas City and Cincinnati and compete for a Super Bowl title of their own.