ESPN ranks Bills' starting lineup among NFL's best (2024)

What a difference a quarterback makes.

The Buffalo Bills made uncharacteristically significant alterations to their roster in the 2024 NFL offseason, bucking their typical modus operandi of continuity with a few tweaks here and there in favor of sweeping changes that saw the departures of stalwart starters like Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Tre’Davious White, Mitch Morse, Gabriel Davis, and perennial Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs. Buffalo executed these maneuvers in hopes of elongating its championship window, moving on from these veterans in favor of younger contributors who it hopes will lead the team into a refreshed phase of sustained success.

And the team’s roster, though not as stout today as it was a few months ago, is still generally regarded as one of the league’s strongest thanks to the presence of otherworldly quarterback Josh Allen. The 28-year-old is objectively one of the most dynamic players in professional football, a 6-foot-5 rhinoceros of a man who is as likely to run over or through a defender as he is to launch the ball 80 yards over their head. He’s fresh off a 2023 campaign in which he tallied a league-high 44 touchdowns, earning NFL MVP votes for the third time in four years.

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Given the importance of the quarterback position in the modern NFL, the presence of Allen lifts what is an otherwise largely pedestrian Buffalo roster into the league’s upper echelon. This sentiment has been echoed in a recent ESPN article in which the outlet ranks each NFL starting lineup entering the 2024 season; the company slots Buffalo in at No. 9, noting its signal-caller as its “biggest strength”

“The departure of [wide receiver] Stefon Diggs will place more on Allen’s shoulders, but the 28-year-old has shown he can carry the load,” analyst Mike Clay wrote.

ESPN ranks Bills' starting lineup among NFL's best (1)

ESPN identifies the Bills’ revamped receiving corps as its biggest weakness, with Clay writing that “Buffalo has potential reinforcements in place, but the group has plenty to prove.” This is objectively true—the Bills’ receiving corps is headlined by rookie Keon Coleman, third-year contributor Khalil Shakir, and free agent signee Curtis Samuel, none of whom are proven primary weapons at the professional level. There are reasons for optimism for all three of these players—Coleman showed promise as a big-bodied pass-catcher at Florida State, Shakir shined down the stretch of the 2023 season, and Samuel is reuniting with the offensive coordinator (Joe Brady) who previously led him to his best professional production in Carolina—but the group obviously is lacking in the way of demonstrated production in the NFL.

The general inexperience of the unit is why analyst Seth Walder lists Coleman as the team’s X factor, writing “It would be incredibly hard for the Bills to find offensive success without one of these receivers – most likely Coleman or Shakir – breaking out. If not, Buffalo will have a hard ceiling.”

Aaron Schatz rounds out the outlet’s analysis by touching on cornerback Kaiir Elam as a “nonstarter to know,” writing “Former first-rounder Elam is the first man up if one of the starters [at cornerback] gets hurt, but he had a 21% success rate in pass coverage last season and a 31% success rate the year before. He will have to do better if forced into the lineup this season.” Elam, as Schatz notes, hasn’t had the best go of it as a professional, being relegated to largely a depth role in his sophom*ore season after again failing to earn the consistent trust of the Bills’ coaching staff given his aggression and knack for taking untimely penalties. That said, he appears to be positioning himself for a year-three breakout, reportedly impressing at the team’s recent mandatory minicamp.

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The actual lineup ESPN projects for Buffalo seems fair—the only qualm we see is its listing of Austin Johnson over DaQuan Jones as a starter at defensive tackle. The general placement seems fair, as well—the Bills’ retooled roster has a lot of question marks throughout, but the presence of Allen is enough to make it a top-10 unit. Per ESPN, Buffalo has the sixth-best roster in the AFC and second-best in the AFC East (behind the New York Jets, who come in at No. 4 on the list).

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ESPN ranks Bills' starting lineup among NFL's best (2024)


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