Isaiah McKenzie was a favorite of mine heading into the off-season and I swooned harder after the Bills cut COVID Cole Beasley and inked McKenzie to a two-year deal. I may be a bit biased since I smashed McKenzie’s PrizePicks props (promo code RSJ for a 100% 1st deposit match) the morning of his 11-125-1 explosion against the Patriots and added him in the RSJ dynasty league for nothing. But just 10 days later, I was forced to settle down a bit when the team added slot maven Jamison Crowder.
Fast forward to camp and McKenzie is owning the slot with Crowder out for the last three practices due to “general soreness.” Not only is he starting in the slot, but according to The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia, McKenzie has been a “standout almost every single” day since the start of Bills’ camp. The chemistry with Josh Allen isn’t new, though. McKenzie was Allen’s favorite target during minicamp and continuously got open back in June.
Buscaglia noted McKenzie’s savvy route running and ability to get open out of the slot as his greatest attribute.
On one play Wednesday, McKenzie had nickel corner Taron Johnson lined up to his outside shoulder. McKenzie faked Johnson into doing a 360-degree turn and then burst up the field to the end zone. Allen spotted the win and lofted the ball to McKenzie for an easy touchdown. That type of deceptiveness is a significant addition to his game, considering that he has primarily won on speed in the past. And to do so against Johnson, who is one of the better nickel cornerbacks in the NFL, is another great sign.
Still, the young slot receiver needs to separate himself from the veteran once Crowder returns to action. Although Crowder has always been a quality receiver when he’s been on the field, his availability has been an issue throughout his career. He only signed a one-year deal contract with a base salary of $1.1M and a cap hit of $1.98 million. Thus, it’s a cutable contract.
Ultimately, McKenzie needs to cement his status as the team’s slot receiver and build on his rapport with Allen — who also has Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis (who you should’ve been crushing on Underdog), and Dawson Knox as reliable targets.
“He is playing at the top of his game right now, full of confidence and knowing a big opportunity awaits if he stacks good days,” wrote Buscaglia. “If he continues to play like this and Crowder keeps missing time, McKenzie could end this battle quickly. If he continues it through the first few padded practices, the Bills will have a hard time justifying keeping McKenzie off the field.”
McKenzie is going off the board on Underdog Fantasy as the WR85 and 197.5 overall. But, we’re ahead of the game, per usual. He’s our WR71 (+35 vs ECR!!) on The Wolf’s 2022 Fantasy Rankings.
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