When it came time to identifying the college football players who would make up the Buffalo Bills’ eight-man NFL draft class, general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott appeared to judge the prospects on their overall bodies of work, and not just on how they fared (or if they played) in 2020.
While five of the team’s draft picks enjoyed productive 2020 seasons, three rookies, including two of the team’s top three draft picks, opted out of all or most of the 2020 college football season and still found their way onto Buffalo’s roster.
That list includes: First-round selection Gregory Rousseau (edge rusher from the University of Miami), third-round pick Spencer Brown (tackle from the University of Northern Iowa), and sixth-round pick Rachad Wildgoose Jr. (cornerback out of the University of Wisconsin).
Rousseau, a 6’7”, 266-lb edge rusher, was Buffalo’s selection with pick No. 30 based primarily on the strengths of a disruptive 2019 season that saw him record 15.5 sacks with 19.5 tackles for a loss. The 2019 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-ACC player ranked second in the country in sacks and ninth in tackles-for-loss during his one season of college football, but opted out of the 2020 season due in part to COVID-19 concerns, and to protect his mother, Anne—a COVID-19 nurse at Florida Medical Center in Broward County.
Brown, the 6’8”, 311-lb tackle, was drafted with the 93rd overall selection. When the Northern Iowa football program pushed back the start of its season from the fall to the spring, Brown opted to forgo his final season with the Panthers to prepare for the NFL Draft. After starting 31 games at right tackle for Northern Iowa, Brown impressed the Bills’ brass with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl.
Wildgoose, a 5’11”, 197-lb cornerback, was selected with the 213th pick in the sixth round. Unlike Rousseau and Brown, Wildgoose actually saw the field in two games for the Badgers, but after suffering a shoulder injury, he opted out of the rest of the 2020 season. Wildgoose, who can play at both outside cornerback and in the slot, broke up 14 passes with one interception in 26 collegiate games.