What kind of edge rusher do the Buffalo Bills want?
As draft month begins, it’s time to start narrowing down the list of prospects we, as fans, are interested in, and instead, focus on the ones we believe fit the Buffalo Bills. Since the moment the Bills were bounced from the playoffs by the Kansas City Chiefs, it became abundantly clear that the defense had to improve at applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
For a bit, it seemed as if the Buffalo Bills were going to go into the 2021 NFL Draft without adding anyone on the edge to rush quarterbacks. Then in comes Efe Obada, yet another former Carolina Panther. Obada provides the Buffalo defense with a similar type of versatility that they had envisioned getting from Quinton Jefferson when they signed him last offseason. At 6’6″ and about 265 pounds, Obada has ideal size to play on the edge, but he’s actually big enough to reduce down and play defensive tackle on passing downs.
Coming into the offseason, this was exactly the kind of prospect that I envisioned the Buffalo Bills drafting. Prospects like Carlos Basham Jr, Dayo Odeyingbo, and Payton Turner are three edge rushers that come to mind. However, after singing Obada, I think it is less likely that the Bills target one of these types of edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft. This isn’t to say it won’t happen because there’s a lot of value in edge rushers that are stout against the run with the ability to set the edge while still being able to bend around offensive tackles to get to the quarterback.
With Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison both set to become free agents after this season, there is an obvious need to get younger on the edge. The Buffalo Bills drafted A.J. Epenesa in the 2nd round of the draft last year but asked him to shed some weight. My assumption is that they wanted to see if he could be the heir apparent to Jerry Hughes. I think it’s safe to say that Epenesa plays better with the element of power that he had to his game in college. This isn’t to say that Epenesa was bad last year, because he did improve a lot down the stretch. However, it seems that the Bills are comfortable kicking the tires on Epenesa as the power rusher opposite of Hughes this year. If this hypothesis holds true, the Buffalo Bills should be looking for a leaner and more naturally bendy edge rusher in the draft.
Prospects that initially come to mind when I think about bendy speed rushers that can fit the Bills defense are Jayson Oweh, Ronnie Perkins, Joseph Ossai, and Joe Tryon. After running a 4.37 40 yard dash, Oweh will likely go shooting up draft boards, so it will likely cost the Bills their 30th overall pick to grab him. On the other hand, Perkins, Ossai, and Tryon are all prospects that could be around for the Buffalo Bills 2nd round pick at 61st overall. Out of these three, Tryon is the one that sticks out as being the least bendy around the edge, but it’s still something he’s capable of doing although it isn’t his bread and butter.
In our most recent episode of The Air Raid Hour, I came on the show at about the 40-minute mark to defend why I think the Bills should draft Tyron if it’s between him, Perkins, and Ossai. Sure enough, when we ran our mock draft at the end of the show, that was the exact decision we had to make. I think any of these three prospects would fit the Buffalo Bills defense, but personally, I believe Tryon fits what McDermott wants in an edge rusher more than the other two. At 6’5″ and about 260 pounds, he tested really well at his pro day, which should suggest that he is capable of molding into a speed rusher around the edge despite his tendency to bull rush tackles. That being said, whoever it is that the Buffalo Bills decide to draft on the edge in the 2021 NFL Draft, they’ll have a year to learn from seasoned vets like Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.
To answer the question posed in the title, I think the Buffalo Bills will be looking to add an edge rusher that leans more towards the speed element rather than power. However, I think prospects like Jayson Oweh and Joe Tryon are two prospects in particular that are right in the middle of that spectrum and can give you a little bit of both.