We haven’t seen them in a preseason game yet, but the training camp reports suggest Isaiah McKenzie is beating out Jamison Crowder for the slot role with the Bills. With the kind of numbers Josh Allen should put up, that makes McKenzie a potentially relevant player.

McKenzie, recall, had the one big game late last year, catching 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown at New England. He was their key mismatch option in that game plan. And he’s always been good on jet sweeps – he carried the ball in all three of their playoff games.

But with Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders gone, the Bills are looking for a receiver who’ll play a meaningful role. They’ve got Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis (and also tight end Dawson Knox), but they need somebody else. And right now, it’s looking like it will be McKenzie rather than Crowder, who’s more experienced but has been slowed by injuries thus far and is in his first year in this offense.

“ There’s no denying, his physical attributes, his speed, he’s extremely tough for a little guy. He’s a little muscle hamster,” Allen says. “He’s determined to help this team win football games — whether that’s at punt returner, kick returner, slot, the gadget guy that he’s kind of been in the role in this offense in the last couple of years. But like you said, that position is up there and he’s taking advantage of it early in camp, had some really nice plays. His intensity’s up, his focus is up. And he’s going out there and continuing to make plays.”

McKenzie started his career returning kicks for the Broncos. After they released him in 2018, the Bills claimed him on waivers. He was benched last year after fumbling a punt return against the Colts but rebounded to play well down the stretch (in a limited role).

One gets the feeling that some third receiver on this roster will put up numbers good enough to merit a roster spot in typical fantasy leagues. Beasley caught 82 passes in each of the last two years.

Buffalo played 19 games last year including the playoffs. If we set aside Diggs and set aside the more productive receiver between Davis and Sanders in each of those games, the team’s next receivers in those games combined for 102 catches, 950 yards and 4 TDs.

I will have an eye open for picking McKenzie late in drafts.

BeasleyPitt.L 16-2313860014.0
Beasleyat Mia.W 35-0443607.6
BeasleyWas.W 43-21131198020.8
BeasleyHou.W 40-0221603.6
Davisat K.C.W 38-20111602.6
Beasleyat Ten.L 31-349788121.8
BeasleyMia.W 26-111310110021.0
Beasleyat Jac.L 6-911833011.3
McKenzieat NYJW 45-17312919.9
BeasleyInd.L 15-41542306.3
Beasleyat N.O.W 31-6554609.6
SandersN.E.L 10-14632205.2
Beasleyat T.B.L 27-3311964015.4
BeasleyCar.W 31-14843507.5
McKenzieat N.E.W 33-211211125129.4
BeasleyAtl.W 29-15622206.2
BeasleyNYJW 27-10543107.1
SandersN.E.W 47-173236111.6
Beasleyat K.C.L 36-428660012.0

—Ian Allan