Buffalo Bills Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa – Round 3
Under general manager Brandon Beane and director of college scouting Terrance Gray, Buffalo has drafted one of the better rosters in the NFL, finding quality depth to go with starting talent that has the franchise knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. The Bills’ selection of Brown in the third round follows that pattern, as he is a high-upside athlete with a ton of potential for the NFL. He also needs some developmental time, so going to a loaded team like the Bills was a perfect landing spot, because he can be groomed as a backup before being expected to take on a starting role.

As a pass blocker, the 6-foot-8, 314-pound Brown is tough for edge rushers to beat. To go with quick feet and athleticism, Brown has excellent length that makes it tough to get around him. He uses his feet to get depth in his drop, and his long arms keep pass rushers from getting around him. Brown’s length really ties up edge rushers, and they struggle to get free from Brown once he engages them. Brown possesses unique athleticism for a big blocker, showing the ablity to bend at the knee and the agility to glide along the edge. Like many tall linemen, Brown gets in trouble when he stands up too high. He also can overset some times as well, but that is something he can fix with pro coaching.

Brown really gets after defenders in the ground game, and he show a physical mentality, looking to finish them off with violence. Brown has developed strength and uses his length to tie up opponents. He twists, turns and manipulates his defender to keep them from getting in on tackles. Brown also shows his quickness and athleticism on kick-out blocks or firing to the second level. He could stand to get in more control in the open field, but his skill set is there. Brown has the strength to function in a power man-blocking scheme and the athleticism to work in zone.

Team sources said Brown is a great kid, and they gave him rave reviews for his character. They feel he is a project and needs development, having his best football a few years down the road. They think he will need a patient approach and should not be forced onto the field quickly, but in time, he could be a good pro edge blocker. Teams are projecting Brown to right tackle in the NFL.

With veteran right tackle Daryl Williams already in place, the Bills were an excellent landing spot for Brown. He can sit behind Williams for a year or two and then replace the aging veteran in the starting lineup. In a year or two, I think Brown will become a quality starting right tackle for Buffalo.

2020: A.J. Epenesa, DE
2019: Cody Ford, OT
2018: Harrison Phillips, DT
2017: Dion Dawkins, OT/G
2016: Reggie Ragland, LB
2015: John Miller, G
2014: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT
2013: Robert Woods, WR

Most Likely To Bust

Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami – Round 1
For a lot of the leadup the 2021 NFL Draft, Rousseau was a consensus high first-round pick. It wasn’t until later on in the process that Rousseau slipped to the back half of the first round in my projections. Numerous team sources said Rousseau was the most overrated player in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Rousseau (6-7, 265) was very good pass rusher in college, but for the NFL, he lacks explosion and is not a speed rusher. For the professional ranks, he is a bit of a one-trick pony, as a pass rusher, relying on his length to make up for not being a fast defensive end. Rousseau is not going to blow by pro tackles because he does not have the burst to run by them. What made Rousseau effective in 2019 was length. His long arms kept blockers away, and he made the most of his sack opportunities. However in the NFL, offensive tackles have more length and he won’t be able to live on just being a long defender.

In 2019, Rousseau showed an ability to use his hands and feet at the same time while also keeping his eyes on the quarterback. He displayed an effective bull rush, a rip move, and length to get off blocks, but against pro tackles, he will need to get stronger for those moves to be effective. Some team sources think Rousseau will have to become a power player to be a good pro, and he might need one or two years of development in a strength and conditioning program before that happens. Rousseau will also have to show serious dedication and work ethic to make that happen. While Rousseau showed some flashes, down in and down out, he was not a physical player and team sources were disappointed in his consistent lack of physicality.

Rousseau showed some instincts as an edge rusher and an ability to read-and-react. With good vision and feel, Rousseau adjusts to the quarterback to chase them down as they move in the pocket. For a young player, it was very impressive to see Rousseau keep his eyes on the quarterback while working through blocks and executing moves to shed blocks. Even though he is a tall defender, Rousseau is not stiff and has the agility to sink his hips to redirect.

In run defense, Rousseau is solid and is at his best when he works upfield to cause disruption in the backfield. He has the potential to develop into a pro defender who can hold his gap to stop the run. For the NFL, it would help him to get stronger, which would improve his ability to defend downhill runs coming straight at him. Rousseau is young, so he has the time and frame to add strength. As stated above, he needs to get stronger and become a power player to make up for his lack of speed.

To add to his developmental issues, Rousseau sat out the 2020 season. That is a lost year of reps to develop his pass-rushing moves, improve at getting off blocks, and get better in all phases through more experience. Rousseau barely played in 2018, so he enters the NFL having played only one real season of college football.

With Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison aging, the Bills needed another long end to go with A.J. Epenesa. However, I would not be surprised if 2021 second-round pick Carlos Basham ends up being a better player than Rousseau and starts over him. I am not convinced Rousseau has the work ethic to develop his strength enough to become a power player at the NFL level. His flawed skill set could lead to him having serious bust potential for the Bills.

2020: Gabriel Davis, WR
2019: Dawson Knox, TE
2018: Josh Allen, QB
2017: Tre’Davious White, CB
2016: Cardale Jones, QB
2015: Karlos Williams, RB
2014: Ross Cockrell, CB
2013: E.J. Manuel, QB

Potential Boom Pick

Carlos Basham, DE, Wake Forest – Round 2
After taking A.J. Epenesa in the second round last yer and then Gregory Rousseau in the first round this year, it was a surprise that Buffalo drafted another defensive end in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Basham, however, was an excellent value late in the second round, and he could end up being the best player from those three young defensive ends.

In the pass rush, Basham (6-3, 281) was a steady presence who came through with some clutch rushes for Wake Forest in 2019. While Basham has a big and strong frame, he is faster than one would think from the eyeball test. He fires off the ball with a good get-off and the first-step quickness to get upfield. He shows active hands to fight off blockers with a repertoire of moves, including a rip and spin to go along with bull rushes and cuts to the inside. Basham possesses nice vision to keep his eyes on the quarterback while using his hands and feet at the same time to work off blocks. When Basham gets free, he shows a burst to close with impressive pursuit skills for a big defensive end.

Another added value that Basham brings in the pass rush is the ability to move inside to tackle in the sub package. He has the strength to battle guards, and his speed provides a mismatch on the inside of the line. This ability was given further proof at the Senior Bowl, where he had an impressive werk showing the versatility to rush from end or tackle. As a pro, Basham could be a nice chess piece for his defensive line coach because he could attack slow right tackles and guards or be a problem for finesse left tackles who lack physicality.

In the ground game, Basham is gap sound and strong at the point of attack. He can stand up offensive linemen and hold his ground when runs come downhill at him. With his surprising burst to close, Basham does a nice job of flowing down the line to make tackles after shedding blocks. He is a well-balanced defender who should be an asset in the ground game as a pro.

Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison are aging veterans who are probably in their final seasons in Buffalo. I could see Basham being the most dangerous edge rusher of the Bills young trio with Epenesa and Rousseau platooning across from him. Buffalo has a good coaching staff to develop Basham’s upside and potential, it would not surprise me if Basham ends up being a boom pick for the Bills.

2020: Zack Moss, RB
2019: Ed Oliver, DT
2018: Tremaine Edmunds, LB
2017: Zay Jones, WR
2016: Adolphus Washington, DT
2015: Ronald Darby, CB
2014: Sammy Watkins, WR
2013: Marquise Goodwin, WR

Future Depth Player

Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston – Round 6
The Bills lost John Brown in free agency, so it made sense for them to add some speed receiver depth to take advantage of Josh Allen’s cannon of an arm, and defenses sending extra coverage to defend Stefon Diggs. Stevenson was viewed as a second-day talent for a lot of the 2021 NFL Draft process, but a disappointing postseason sent him to Day 3. Still he is a fast, explosive wideout who could be a dangerous vertical threat across from Diggs. Stevenson may not have the size and toughness to be a starter in the NFL, but he could be a valuable backup receiver who provides some big plays in spot duty for Buffalo.

2020: Jake Fromm, QB
2019: Jaquan Johnson, S
2018: Siran Neal, S
2017: Nathan Peterman, QB
2016: Jonathan Williams, RB
2015: Nick O’Leary, TE
2014: Seantrel Henderson, OT
2013: Duke Williams, S

Walt’s 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

30. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami – B Grade
This pick makes so much sense. The Bills need to beat Patrick Mahomes, and they can do that by placing as much pressure on him as possible. Rousseau should be able to help the Bills do that. However, some teams were concern with Rousseau’s lack of explosion, and they believed that he would go in the second round. That’s where I had Rousseau, but I can understand why Buffalo would pick him here, as he projects to be a solid player for them.

61. Carlos Basham, DE/DT, Wake Forest – A Grade
Buffalo’s top priority is beating Patrick Mahomes because he stands in their way of a Super Bowl victory. Getting all the pressure possible on him is the way to do it, and Carlos Basham should help. Basham was very productive at Wake Forest, though he doesn’t have great athleticism or upside, which mirrors their first-round choice of Greogry Rousseau.

93. Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa – A Grade
Wow, what a steal! Some teams thought Spencer Brown would be chosen in the middle of the second round, so this is tremendous value. Brown has a couple of issues. He’s raw, and he has an extensive injury history, but the Bills are doing well to take a shot with a prospect with huge upside at this juncture.

161. Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami of Ohio – A Grade
Protecting Josh Allen is the most important thing, so I love this pick from that perspective. Here’s another positive: I know some team was targeting Tommy Doyle in the fourth round. Perhaps they didn’t take him because an unexpected player fell to them, but the Bills did well with the athletic and large Doyle, regardless.

203. Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston – A Grade
I’ve had Marquez Stevenson going earlier than this in every mock draft update, so I’m a huge fan of this pick. John Brown left, so it makes sense that the Bills would obtain a speedy receiver.

212. Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsburgh – B Grade
With Patrick Mahomes standing in the way of winning a Super Bowl, the Bills had to find as many talented defensive backs as possible. Damar Hamlin is someone I’ve had going in this range, so he’s a fine pick as someone who can provide quality depth at safety.

213. Rachad Wildgoose, CB, Wisconsin – C Grade
Another defensive back to help the Bills stop Patrick Mahomes and his receivers. I like this pick less, as I didn’t have Rachad Wildgoose as a draftable player.

236. Jack Anderson, G, Texas Tech – B Grade
Jack Anderson nearly made the cut in my final mock draft. It makes sense that the Bills would add more offensive line depth to protect Josh Allen. Outside of an injury to Allen, a season could derail if there are multiple injuries to the blocking group.

2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: A. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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