Bills Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 5, 2021

Bills Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills attacked their biggest need with their first two selections in the 2021 NFL draft.

    The reigning AFC East champion added Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. to its pass rush before the rest of its eight total selections.

    Buffalo was able to make those moves because it re-signed linebacker Matt Milano and offensive linemen Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano.

    The retention of Williams and Feliciano could make it hard for third-round pick Spencer Brown and fifth-round selection Tommy Doyle to get on the field right away.

    The same could be said for sixth-round pick Marquez Stevenson, but he may have a chance to break into the bottom of the team's wide receiver rotation to provide Josh Allen with yet another effective target. 

Gregory Rousseau

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Buffalo needed to add help in the pass-rush after Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison combined to record 9.5 sacks in 2020.

    Two years ago, Rousseau earned 15.5 sacks at Miami, which is a promising sign for the franchise's potential improvement at that spot. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, and he was projected to be a high first-round selection back in the summer.

    The first-round pick will have to compete with Hughes, Addison, 2020 draft pick A.J. Epenesa and others for snaps.

    If his pass-rushing ability shines through during training camp, he may boost over his competition on the depth chart.

    There could be concerns that Rousseau has not played a down of football in two years, but that did not deter many teams in the first round. Rousseau, Ja'Marr Chase, Penei Sewell and a handful of others in a similar situation were not punished much as they were still chosen in the first round.

Carlos Basham Jr.

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Basham may be involved in a competition with Rousseau for playing time.

    The second-round pick recorded 10 sacks in the same season in which Rousseau tore through the ACC.

    Basham's production flew under the radar because Wake Forest achieved far less success than Miami. Basham finished his college career with 35.5 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks.

    If his pass-rushing ability translates to the NFL, Basham could overtake the incumbent defensive ends at some point in the season.

    The best-case scenario for the Bills has Basham, Rousseau and Epenesa playing well together for years to come.

    That would allow the Bills to shed some contract weight with three standouts on rookie deals and look elsewhere to improve in free agency, or open up more space for Josh Allen's expected new contract.

Marquez Stevenson

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    Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

    Stevenson has a tough road ahead of him to earn playing time.

    Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie are all ahead of him on the depth chart going into training camp.

    Stevenson's top competition will be McKenzie, who was used as a return man and in some trick plays because of his speed.

    The Houston product has a chance to land the No. 5 spot on the depth chart. He had 2,269 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in college.

    Stevenson could make his biggest impact on deep throwing plays since he does have scoring potential, but he will not be a high volume player unless injuries occur.

    Even with a small role projected for him, Stevenson could have a bigger impact on the team than the offensive linemen selected above him because of his big-play potential.


    Statistics obtained from Sports Reference and Pro Football Reference.