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90 players in 90 days: Wide receiver Marquez Stevenson

Can the speedy rookie make the roster this year?

Football: House of Athlete Scouting Combine Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have done a good job keeping and developing their draft picks under general manager Brandon Beane. More often than not, if a player is selected by the Bills, that player is expected to make the roster. However, that tends to happen when new regimes take over a squad. Once the roster is populated with “their people,” however? That’s when the cuts become interesting.

In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile a player selected by Buffalo this April who could add plenty of speed to a stacked positional group.

Name: Marquez Stevenson

Number: 5

Position: WR

Height/Weight: 5’10” 180 lbs

Age: 23 (24 on 3/26/2022)

Experience/Draft: R; selected by Buffalo in the sixth round (No. 203 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft

College: Houston

Acquired: Sixth-round draft choice

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Stevenson signed his four-year rookie deal, a pact worth a total of $3,652,544 overall. For the 2021 season, he’d carry a cap hit of $703,136. The Bills would be responsible for the entirety of his guarantees ($172,544) in the form of a dead-cap charge if he were to be released.

2020 Recap: Stevenson followed up a stellar 2019 season with a strong, albeit abbreviated, effort in 2020. He started and played in five of Houston’s eight games, missing time due to an ankle injury in November. He caught 20 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns, adding three catches for 16 yards to his scrimmage-yardage ledger. He was Houston’s primary kickoff returner when he was healthy, and he was good in that role once again. He returned just four kicks, but he totaled 145 yards and one touchdown on those returns.

Positional outlook: Stevenson landed in a tough spot in the sense that Buffalo is loaded with receiving talent. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Gabriel Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie all have plenty of NFL experience at this point. Isaiah Hodgins is healthy after spending last season on injured reserve. Brandon Powell has experience as a returner in the NFL. Tanner Gentry has a rapport with quarterback Josh Allen from playing together in college. Duke Williams, Jake Kumerow, and Lance Lenoir round out the group.

2021 Offseason: Stevenson is healthy and he participated in OTAs.

2021 Season outlook: Stevenson vs. McKenzie vs. Hodgins is going to be one of, if not my top, training camp battles to watch this summer. If he’s healthy, Stevenson is electric—he caught 75 passes for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018, then followed it up with 52 catches for 907 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019—but the problem is that he has difficulty staying healthy. He missed time as a freshman due to a broken collarbone, then he tore his ACL in 2017 before injuring his ankle in 2020. As a smaller player, a year in a professional strength-and-conditioning program could do him plenty of good. At the outset of camp, I have him as WR7, putting him behind the bigger-bodied Hodgins and the similarly built and skilled McKenzie on the depth chart. Will Buffalo keep seven receivers? They haven’t done it before with head coach Sean McDermott, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With a strong camp, Stevenson could find himself on the team, as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll prioritizes speed and separation in his wideouts over size and contested-catch ability. That would give Stevenson a leg up on the much larger and slower Hodgins. If the Bills don’t keep him on the opening roster, Stevenson will definitely be a priority practice-squad signing provided that he clears waivers first. Stevenson is going to bring plenty of excitement and intrigue to some otherwise dull August games. He’ll have a chance to prove himself this summer.