Bills GM Sends Strong Message on Unexpected Standout Rookie WR

Justin Shorter

Getty Former Florida Gators receiver Justin Shorter catches the ball for a touchdown on a Hail Mary pass against the LSU Tigers on October 16, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Following the conclusion of the 2023 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills received high praise for jumping up two spots to land pass-catching tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round. Bills general manager Brandon Beane gushed over the Utah star’s “elite hands” and his talent as a receiver.

While the Bills need Kincaid to step up right away as one of Josh Allen‘s top targets, there’s another offensive weapon looking to make an immediate impact, Justin Shorter, the Bills’ fifth-round draft pick who was dubbed “a steal” by Touchdown Wire‘s Doug Farrar.

Shorter was the nation’s No. 1 high school prospect in 2018, ahead of Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase, Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle. He started out his college career at Penn State, but transferred to Florida where he could “be developed to my potential,” he told The Buffalo News. In three seasons with the Gators, he recorded 95 receptions for 1,395 yards and 8 touchdowns.

While Shorter’s college stats aren’t blowing anyone away, Beane told reporters at the start of rookie minicamp that he immediately saw something special in the rookie and believes their coaching staff “can grow him.”

“You never know their journeys. These are not robots,” Beane said. “Life happens to people for various reasons and sometimes people hit obstacles, but we feel that his best football could and should be ahead of him if he puts in the work. We really liked him. We brought him in for the 30 visit, really felt like this was our kind of DNA being around him a little bit more. And that he acknowledged that there’s more in his game, and so hopefully working with (wide receivers) coach (Adam) Henry and (offensive coordinator Ken) Dorsey and all those guys that we can grow him.”

Justin Shorter ‘Is Unlike Any WR the Bills Have Had Recently,’ Analyst Wrote

When rookie minicamp kicked off earlier this month, it wasn’t Kincaid that caught analyst’s attention on the practice field, it was Shorter and his 6-foot-4, 229-pound frame.

The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia wrote that while Kincaid’s “movement skills were obvious,” it was “at least a slight surprise” to see him have a dropped pass during team drills after Beane’s “elite hands” comment. However, this was Kincaid’s first organized football action since he injured his back last season.

“First time out, like anything, there’s some things that are rusty and it’s the first time he’s applying things he’s been taught,” Beane said of the rookie tight end. “So you know, overall good job. He’ll be a sponge and it’ll look easier and easier for him once he gets in with the vets starting next week.”

Buscaglia wrote of Shorter, “a simple glance” made the receiver stand out due to his “physically imposing” frame and arm length of nearly 34 inches.

“Shorter has the type of build you don’t often see for a receiver. And that fits in nicely for the Bills because it offers them something they don’t and haven’t had on their roster for several seasons,” Buscaglia noted. “They’ve had taller receivers, but not physically imposing ones like Shorter, and that will help him stick with the team because it provides a potentially different look for the Bills’ offense. He also looks like a possible core-four special teams contributor, greatly enhancing his odds. In team drills, Shorter was fighting the ball a bit, and that’s something we’ll need to watch for during OTAs, though it could have just been a case of early nerves in his first professional practice for the young receiver.”

Even Beane mentioned Shorter’s stealth stature while addressing the media. “You can see he’s a pretty good-looking dude. You like the build and so we just got to work with him… We think there’s some good upside.”

Justin Shorter Is Determined to Make an Impact on Offense

According to The Buffalo News, Shorter was one of the first players to arrive at rookie minicamp and one of the last to leave each day.

“I feel like if every day I buy into this coaching staff, buy into my teammates, trust my teammates, I feel like I’m going to be able to take strides more than I can even imagine,” Shorter told the outlet. “I definitely feel my best football is ahead of me.”

The 23-year-old is also excited to utilize his massive stature to help the team. “I’m so big, if we go one-on-one, it’s going to be hard for you to guard me when I’m all up in your space, being physical, being fast, being strong. It gets scary. I’m trusting that,” Shorter said. “Every day I go out there, I’m going to catch the ball, I’m going to finish in the end zone every time I touch the ball. I’m just going to give it 100% and just take strides and get better and better every day, because at the end, that’s the ultimate goal – to help this team win.”

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