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Sophomore Spotlight: Buffalo Bills TE Nick O'Leary

Nick O'Leary needs a strong camp and preseason to stick on Buffalo's 53-man roster.

The Buffalo Bills had six picks in the 2015 NFL draft. One year after being selected, it’s time to look back on their careers before joining the Bills, their rookie seasons, and what’s in store for them in year two.

With the 18th pick in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, the Bills selected tight end Nick O'Leary. At the time, Charles Clay was Buffalo’s only sure thing at the position so it seemed that O’Leary was entering a good situation.

Before the Bills

O’Leary had a productive career at Florida State. The tight end appeared in 51 games with the Seminoles and saw his receptions and yards increase each season.






















O’Leary was a Consensus All-American and Mackey Award winner in 2014. As a receiver, O’Leary’s three best games in 2014 came against Clemson (6-77-0), Syracuse (8-97-1), Louisville (6-76-0), and Georgia Tech (3-97-1).

The tight end was a reliable pass catcher, but there were questions as to whether or not O’Leary would be athletic enough to make it in the NFL.

What the Analysts Said

This pick is interesting because O'Leary brings a similar skill set to two tight ends already on their roster in Charles Clay and Chris Gragg. He's not the same type of athlete, but he is a reliable hands catcher and will compete for a roster spot.

Mark Dulgerian, NFL.com

O'Leary has the competitive spirit and toughness that teams look for in a dual-threat tight end, but he lacks the physical traits. Based on how Florida State used him, he is an easy projection to an H-back spot where he should be an effective move-blocker and pass-catcher.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

O’Leary projects as an H-Back/utility player rather than as a pure tight end due to his measurables and deficiencies as an in-line player. If I drafted him, I would be interested to see if he could line up in the backfield as a fullback in some offenses to see if I could get more value out of him. Although he doesn’t project as a TE1, his versatility, outstanding hands, and instincts as a receiver will make him a solid asset. He also projects as a willing and capable special teamer both as a blocker and on coverage units.

Jason Staples, Scout.com

2015 Season

Nick O’Leary was a non-factor at training camp and didn’t do anything to stand out for the Bills during the preseason. The fact that O’Leary couldn’t beat out the likes of MarQueis Gray, Chris Gragg, or Matthew Mulligan did not bode well for him. By early September, O’Leary was waived by the team and placed on Buffalo’s practice squad. He remained on the practice squad until December 8. The tight end was drawing interest from other teams who were looking for injury replacements and Buffalo decided to promote O’Leary rather than risk the possibility of losing him.

O’Leary ended up playing 41 snaps in his rookie season with Buffalo according to Pro Football Reference. He saw time on the field from Week 13 to 16 but was only targeted once during this time. O’Leary also played 12 special teams snaps.

The tight end did not make an impact during his rookie season.

2016 Outlook

O’Leary’s roster spot is far from guaranteed this season. Charles Clay has the first tight end spot locked down and O’Leary will compete against the likes of Jim Dray, Chris Gragg, and Blake Annen for backup jobs. Although he’s not a true tight end, Glenn Gronkowski could also make it difficult for O’Leary to win a roster spot. The rookie Gronkowski could play an H-Back role with the Bills which crowds the tight end field further.

Jim Dray has the inside track at the second tight end spot after being signed in free agency. He’s a blocking tight end with previous knowledge of Greg Roman’s offense.

That may only leave one spot left at tight end so O’Leary would have to show significant improvement in his second season. Unless he turns heads in OTAs and training camp, there’s a chance that O’Leary’s tenure in Buffalo ends in 2016.

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