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Do the Buffalo Bills have a rookie-of-the-year candidate?

The team’s first two picks could be expected to contribute and excel

Immediately following the 2021 NFL Draft, in which Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane decided to double-up at defensive end and offensive tackle, the opinions from draftniks immediately declared this class more about the team’s future development than having an immediate impact. For various reasons, the selections of Greg Rousseau, Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle were seen as developmental picks—players needing some seasoning at practice but sporting high ceilings. However, do those reviews truly mean that the Bills won’t have any viable rookies competing for Rookie of the Year award by season’s end?

Now, it is worth conceding the fact that the team’s three newly drafted offensive linemen will not be in serious contention for the award. Only one offensive lineman has won it since 1980: Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Richmond Webb in 1990. But among the rest of the team’s eight selections, which players can be considered actual Rookie of the Year awards candidates? Let’s discuss the pair of defensive ends the Bills selected in this past April’s draft.

DE Carlos Basham Jr.

The rookie from Wake Forest is unequivocally the most likely candidate, given that his skillset is more pro-ready than fellow classmate Greg Rousseau and his versatility to play snaps inside may allow him to slide right in to Quinton Jefferson’s role on defense as a third-down specialist. Not only that, but Boogie Basham’s overall motor and no-quit attitude on the field means he will be involved in most plays while his history of forced fumbles in college should translate well to the pros. Basham should see the field early and may end up having decent production.

DE Gregory Rousseau

Because of his youth, lack of experience and recent conversion from wide receiver, Rousseau has much to learn in his transition to the NFL. However, the early reviews from rookie minicamp and OTA’s have been positive and there is no reason to think the rookie can’t hit the ground running in training camp. Meanwhile, similar to Basham, the path to the field for Rousseau is equally as clear, given his usage all along the defensive line during his time at Miami. With the coaches essentially declaring open season at the position by indicating they want to reduce Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison snaps, Rousseau has just as good a chance as anyone to start and excel on the field.