The 2020 Buffalo Bills will go as far as Josh Allen is able to take them. And the more help Allen has, the farther he’ll be able to take the Bills. Part of the help he needs comes from the wide receiver position. Adding John Brown and Cole Beasley last year helped. Adding Stefon Diggs this off-season should help. And the two wide receivers the Bills added via the 2020 NFL draft should also help. One of those wide receivers was sixth-round pick Isaiah Hodgins. The rookie brings an amazing pair of hands and a red zone presence with him into camp. And he’ll lean on those attributes in his effort to make the team.
Camp Spotlight: Buffalo Bills Rookie Isaiah Hodgins
The Buffalo Bills were near top of the league in 2019 in passes dropped. That’s bad. That makes life hard for a quarterback. Surrounding Josh Allen with targets that make his life easier was a priority this off-season for the Bills. Adding Stefon Diggs was a big step in that direction. Rookie wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins is also a step in that direction. Hodgins comes into his first year in the NFL with a proven track record of making life easier for his quarterback. And while making the final roster is far from guaranteed for him, what he potentially brings to the team is intriguing.
The Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen need wide receivers that can catch the football. It’s been a concern in Allen’s first two seasons and it shouldn’t be. With Isaiah Hodgins, catching the football is of no concern.
Out of the all the wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft class, Isaiah Hodgins had the lowest drop rate at 1.1%. Of the 179 catchable passes that were thrown his way his entire three-year college football career, he only dropped three. That’s a 1.7% drop rate over three years. That’s a good start.
Also, he’s strong at the point of contact in contested catches. Over the last two college football seasons, Hodgins finished with a 67.4% contested catch conversion rate. That was tops in all of college football for those two seasons. Better than any other wide receiver that suited up. Catching the football should be a given for a wide receiver. For Isaiah Hodgins, it is.
Threat in the Red Zone
Isaiah Hodgins excels at catching the football. But his real value comes in the potential he brings in the red zone.
In 2019, Hodgins led the nation in red zone catch percentage. Hodgins was targeted 13 times in the red zone and caught 12 of those targets, good enough for a college football leading 92% catch rate in the red zone.
Hodgins also scored at a high rate in the red zone. Of those 13 targets and 12 catches mentioned above, he scored nine touchdowns. That comes out to a 69% touchdown percentage on his red zone targets. That 69% was second in the entire nation in 2019.
Another fun red zone stat for Isaiah Hodgins is his receiver rating in the red zone. This rating is defined as the passer rating the quarterback earns when targeting a particular receiver. Hodgins’ receiver rating when targeted in the red zone in 2019 was 141.2, which was second in all of college football.
Overall, Isaiah Hodgins put up strong red zone numbers in his three seasons in college football. 21 catches on 22 catchable balls thrown his way in the red zone. 173 yards, 16 touchdowns, no drops, and 18 first downs is not too shabby.
When the Buffalo Bills drafted Hodgins, they got a wide receiver who knows how to succeed in the most critical area of the field. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone instead of kicking field goals can win games or lose games. The Bills found that out the hard way in their playoff loss to the Houston Texans. Drafting Hodgins was a step towards being more efficient on offense in the red zone.
Every prospect coming out of college has flaws and Isaiah Hodgins is no different. So what are his? Most of them boil down to overall physical limitations at this point in his career.
At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, Hodgins has a large catch radius and the frame to make contested catches. However, that frame is a bit on the thin side for his height and he could be outmuscled in the NFL. His nine reps in the bench press at the scouting combine are a testament to concerns around his strength.
Furthermore, his 4.61 in the 40-yard dash is less than desired for a wide receiver, and may limit his vertical game in the offense. Also, because of that lack of strength and speed, Hodgins has struggled when facing press coverage.
One of the underestimated parts of Isaiah Hodgins’ game is his route running. But despite being a quality route runner, Hodgins can struggle to get separation. His lack of deep speed can allow cornerbacks to sit on shorter routes because they don’t have to honor him as a vertical threat.
Last Word on Isaiah Hodgins
Isaiah Hodgins is a very intriguing player to watch for the Buffalo Bills. The areas of his game in which he excels are areas that the Bills have needed help in. He catches almost everything thrown in his direction and he’s been extremely successful in the red zone. His hands, technical prowess as a route runner, and ability to high point the football when making catches allow him to win contested catches. His current value is hindered by a lack of speed and strength and may prove to be his biggest hurdle. With a deep squad at wide receiver for the Bills, Isaiah Hodgins has his work cut out for him in training camp.