Fresh off an AFC East title and an appearance in the AFC Championship game, the Buffalo Bills’ roster is stacked in year five of head coach Sean McDermott’s regime. The team comes into the 2021 season as among the most talented in the NFL. With such a well-stacked, veteran-laden roster, any of the newly drafted rookies and undrafted free agents may find it difficult to make positive contributions to the team, barring injury. Below, we take a look at which rookies—including a few undrafted free agents—should be expected make immediate contributions to the team, and which ones should expect to find themselves firmly planted on the bench.
As was the case last year, none of Buffalo’s draft picks are projected to walk in as starters on either side of the ball. The days of high picks being able to immediately walk in and start without competing are largely over, thanks to the talent the front office has accumulated over the years and picking at the back end of the first round.
- DE Carlos Basham Jr.
This is a bit of a projection, but not without evidence. Beane has already suggested that Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes would be more effective with less snaps and Basham would appear to be the beneficiary of such a situation, given his being more experienced and “pro-ready” than is classmate Rousseau. The coaches should even decide to start Basham over Hughes when facing off against more run-heavy offenses.
- DE Gregory Rousseau
- OT Spencer Brown
- S Damar Hamlin
- CB Rachad Wildgoose Jr.
The team’s first-round pick, Rousseau should expect to see similar time on the field that A.J. Epenesa saw last year. Mainly, however, he’ll be a clear backup. The runway is clear for Brown to come in and compete with Bobby Hart for the role of swing tackle. Brown has the sheer talent to beat out the veteran. Similarly, with Dean Marlowe in Detroit, Hamlin will be competing with only Jaquan Johnson and Josh Thomas for the primary backup role at either safety position. Don’t be surprised if he sees the field in a limited capacity. Dane Jackson and Levi Wallace stand a better chance of starting, but the team’s lack of depth at cornerback behind Tre’Davious White virtually ensures a spot for Wildgoose.
Back of the roster/Practice squad
- WR Marquez Stevenson
- OT Tommy Doyle
- OG Jack Anderson
- TE Quintin Morris
- CB Olaijah Griffin
Stevenson will likely emerge as the team’s primary kick returner, but there are just too many veterans standing in his way for him to see many meaningful offensive snaps. In what should be a redshirt year for him, Doyle will spend his rookie season learning while being inactive on game days. Anderson has the look of a developmental project on the practice squad, similar to Ike Boettger. The two undrafted players with the most pedigree are Morris and Griffin, who should earn themselves spots on the practice squad thanks to a lack of depth at their respective positions.