Dawson Knox Has One Incredible Comp, But Is It Enough for a Year 2 Breakout?
Image Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Dawson Knox.

So it’s another rookie season you want to look back on, is it? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This time around, the object of our attention is Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox. Knox came into the NFL without too much fanfare. He’d hardly been a mega-producer in college.

In his defense, Knox was competing for targets with D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown. So his apparent lack of production can be partially explained away. He was a decent athletic prospect. But it would be a stretch to say his combine measurables were enough to knock anyone off their seats.

Knox was drafted by the Bills with the 96th overall selection. Many felt he would be a complement to free agent Tyler Kroft, who they signed after he left the Cincinnati Bengals. Kroft endured an injury-riddled campaign, however, and much more was asked of Knox than previously assumed. Let’s see how he got on.

By The Numbers

Not breathtaking numbers, I’ll admit. But it should be pointed out that Knox was second in receiving yards among all rookie TEs. Only Noah Fant had more than the 388 Knox amassed.

Knox had two top-12 weeks in PPR scoring in 2019. He finished as the TE7 in Week 3 thanks to his 16.6 points against the Bengals. He was also the TE12 in Week 11. Knox took 11.2 points off the Miami Dolphins. They would be the only two games all season in which Knox crossed the double-digit threshold.

Knox drew four or more targets in a game eight times, although he never had more than the six he saw against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. That game also saw him snare a season-high four receptions. Knox was used as a downfield option by the Bills and drew 10 deep ball targets. These were the sixth most at the TE position. This would go some way towards explaining his 13.9 yards per reception (No. 3), whilst also providing some context behind his six drops (No. 4). The Bills did not view Knox as a red-zone weapon, as they only targeted him inside the 20-yard line six times all season.

Historical Comps

In order to find players who enjoyed comparable seasons, I did what we’ve done in the past when carrying out this series. I set the RotoViz Screener to find rookies from 2010 to 2019 and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player — in this instance, Knox.

Two names immediately jump off the page at me here if we are looking for positive comparisons. They are of course George Kittle, who is now undoubtedly one of the premier TEs in the NFL. The other is Ian Thomas, who has performed well whenever called upon but has seen his progress hampered by Greg Olsen. Olsen will be a Seahawk in 2020, leaving the path clear for Thomas to emerge. However, we are talking about Dawson Knox here.

None of the players among this cohort, with the exception of Thomas, could lay claim to being efficient receiving options as rookies. So Knox doesn’t stand out as particularly bad here. He doesn’t stand out as great either, but you take my meaning.

To get a range of outcomes for Knox’s 2020, let’s look at how these players fared in their second seasons.

We should not see the leap in efficiency Tyler Eifert made from Year 1 to Year 2 and begin jumping for joy. He only played once in 2014. Jace Amaro failed to get on the field at all in his second season. Clive Walford saw a small uptick in opportunities but his efficiency failed to improve. Thomas’s numbers must be taken with a large pinch of salt, bearing in mind the list of gas station night shift workers the Carolina Panthers rolled out at quarterback last season, not to mention the presence of Olsen.

2020 Outlook

The fantasy community is not exactly high on the idea of Knox busting out as a sophomore. The current FFPC data has Knox going off the board on average as the TE25. This is behind players like Irv Smith, Blake Jarwin and 2019 tease Chris Herndon. I don’t ever want to say a young TE can’t breakout. But the Bills reliance on the ground game 1, a stifling defense and praying that Josh Allen doesn’t have a game like his second half against the Texans in the Wild Card round make it hard to truly bank on any Bills pass catchers. He’ll have his weeks in 2020, but he’s not a set and forget option at TE.

Image Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Dawson Knox.
  1. the Bills averaged the 6th most rush attempts per game in 2019 and the 24th most passes  (back)

Neil Dutton

Lead Writer, soft spot for the tight end position. Will never stop loving Duke Johnson.
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