Bills Trade Up To Take TE Dalton Kincaid 25th In NFL draft

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The mere presence of Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid still being available as the Buffalo Bills’ late first-round selection approached was enough to convince general manager Brandon Beane to switch gears.

Rather than follow through on trading back in the order or out of the first round entirely, Beane moved up two spots to select Kincaid with the 25th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.

“Well, I lied. We traded up,” Beane said with a laugh in reflecting back to last week, when he said the odds were better he’d trade back. “Well, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t know he’d be there.”

The Bills traded their 27th overall selection and their fourth-round pick, 130th overall, in a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars in making Kincaid the first tight end selected. The move allowed Buffalo to jump ahead of Dallas, with Beane saying he had “a good feeling” the Cowboys were going to select Kincaid.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, Kincaid was Utah’s top receiving threat in finishing with 70 catches for 890 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games last season. Kincaid’s eight touchdowns led FBS tight ends last season and led him to be a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award while also earning third-team All-America honors.

The pre-draft book on Kincaid had him as agile athlete with excellent body control, good hands and quick feet to avoid tacklers, but needs to refine routes and gain strength.

He spent three seasons at Utah, where he also scored eight touchdowns in 2021, after playing his first two seasons at San Diego.

While the Bills already have an established tight end in Dawson Knox, they did fill a pass-catching need for their Josh Allen-led passing attack. Among the Buffalo’s more pressing needs was receiver with Gabe Davis entering the final year of his contract, and coming off an inconsistent season in starting opposite Stefon Diggs.

The chances of the Bills filling that need ended with receivers being taken with four straight selections. The run began with Seattle picking Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 20, followed by the Chargers drafting Quentin Johnston, Baltimore selecting Zay Flowers and Minnesota taking Jordan Addison.

“It’s not like we had to do it tonight, but we felt strongly about Dalton and his skillset, and what he can do in this offense,” Beane said. “Any time you can add a weapon for your quarterback and your offense, you don’t pass that up unless there’s just someone clearly better.”

Kincaid began attracting attention as his production increased through last season. He topped 100 yards receiving three times, including a 16-catch, 234-yard and one TD outing in 43-42 win over Southern California on Oct. 15.

Barring trades, Buffalo is scheduled to make the 59th and 91st picks on Friday.

From Las Vegas, Kincaid watched the draft from home with family, friends and his position coach on hand.

“It’s awesome. Trading up to get me goes to show that they wanted me that much more,” Kincaid said.

Aside from meeting with Buffalo officials at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month, Kincaid said his final pre-draft Zoom meeting was with the Bills on Monday.

“You save the best for last and I feel that’s what I did,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid said he’s fully recovered from the shoulder and back injuries which prevented him from playing in the Rose Bowl, and expects to be able to participate fully once the Bills open their rookie camp next month.

Buffalo won its third straight AFC East title last season and finished second in the conference with a 13-3 record — with its game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2 canceled after safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field. Despite the success, the Bills showed signs of regression in having their season end in the divisional playoff round for a second consecutive year, this time following a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati.

Salary cap constraints led to the Bills not only losing several key parts in free agency, while also handcuffing the team’s ability to spent to fill needs.

Among Buffalo’s most notable free agent losses were starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who signed with Chicago, running back Devin Singletary (Houston) and slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie (Indianapolis). As for additions, the Bills most prominent free agent signings were guard Connor McGovern (Cowboys), safety Taylor Rapp (Rams) and running back Damien Harris (Patriots). ___

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