It becomes difficult to drum up quality Buffalo Bills content for the loyal Bills Mafia during the down days of the offseason. However, making predictions on the final roster will never get old for me. This time it comes with a bit of a twist. Instead of highlighting players that are on the bubble, I will be identifying players that are locked in to make the final roster, in my opinion.
I will be going through position by position. Within each position, I will identify the players that I believe (with at least 99% certainty) will make the final roster. This is entirely prediction-based and opinionated. Therefore I am expecting a decent bit of disparity between my predictions and others out there.
This is probably the easiest position group to break down now that the Buffalo Bills have found their franchise quarterback. I will only be locking in two players at the Quarterback position. These two are Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky.
I can understand why someone could argue that Jake Fromm is a lock, but he also hasn’t shown us anything. Without an NFL rep under his belt, it’s tough for me to be certain about anything regarding Fromm. In my opinion, the Buffalo Bills will try to keep only two quarterbacks on the final roster. This can create room to add to another position group. At the end of the day, I’m pretty confident that Davis Webb and Jake Fromm will be battling it out for a practice squad spot, should they both clear waivers.
The Running Back room is another easier position group to forecast in regards to roster locks. After a somewhat underwhelming season from the position group in 2020, it’s understandable to be uncertain about the position for the Bills. However, Zack Moss and Devin Singletary are both very safe in my eyes.
Both Moss and Singletary can certainly improve in 2021, but neither have true competition coming for their 1A and 1B starting gigs. Antonio Williams is someone I’m hopeful can make the roster, but I don’t think he would beat out Moss or Singletary. Furthermore, Taiwan Jones and/or Christian Wade certainly won’t supplant Moss or Singletary isn’t on the Buffalo Bills in 2021. For those reasons, I believe that they are both safe and therefore locks to make the roster.
To be short and sweet, I think most people can agree that the Buffalo Bills have no questions about their top four Receivers. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, and Gabriel Davis are all locks for the final roster.
The bigger debate is centered around the final two or maybe three spots within the position group. Fans want the Buffalo Bills to keep seven Receivers. That way, Isaiah McKenzie, Isaiah Hodgins, and Marquez Stevenson can all be kept. However, it is likely that the Bills elect to keep just six. Is there one of these three players that I just mentioned that you think is a lock? I’m not confident enough in any of these three to say they are locks. The return specialist battle will have a large impact on these final spots.
Without a ton of experience within the Tight End room, it’s tough to project a bunch of locks. The Bills have typically kept four Tight Ends on the final roster. However, there are only two that I’m confident enough to label as “locks”. Dawson Knox and Jacob Hollister are those two.
Knox is the clear lock for me, but Hollister on the other hand is a lock with just a bit of doubt. Hollister has a clear path to compete with Knox for TE1 and, at worst, end up as TE2. With that being said, all it takes is a good training camp from Tommy Sweeney, Reggie Gilliam, and/or Quintin Morris to lower Hollister’s chances. However, it’s tough for me to speculate on the TE depth competition. It’s far more likely (95% likely) that Hollister ends up as TE2.
The Offensive Line is probably the toughest position group on the 2021 Buffalo Bills offense to predict. When looking at the offensive linemen, I could only identify five locks. These five are Dion Dawkins, Daryl Williams, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, and Spencer Brown. To some, it may be odd that I left out Cody Ford, and to others, they may feel some sense of affirmation. Either way, I cannot bring myself to label Ford as a lock for the 2021 Buffalo Bills.
He has been far too inconsistent during his unfortunately small sample size of play in the NFL. I definitely think it’s more likely he makes the roster than not. However, I’m split somewhere around 80%/20%, which isn’t confident enough to make him a lock. If he doesn’t play up to standards or someone like Forrest Lamp/Ike Boettger/Jack Anderson plays really well during the preseason, Ford could find himself on the trade block.
Surprisingly, I thought I would have more locks within this position group, but there was too much possible variance to ignore. I ended up with only three Edge Rushers as locks to make the final roster. Those three are Gregory Rousseau, Carlos Basham, and A.J. Epenesa.
Some may find it surprising that I didn’t include Jerry Hughes on this list and, for the record, I really wanted to. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it because of possible scenarios involving cap space. At the end of the day, I believe Hughes and Mario Addison will both make the final roster. But there are enough circumstantial possibilities that dampen my confidence. Therefore, I can’t make either of them locks.
If a bidding war takes place for a recently cut player, Hughes could be cut to gain additional cap space to partake in the bidding war. On the other hand, if Brandon Beane doesn’t mind eating some dead cap, maybe Addison will find himself as the odd man out. The bottom line is that there are too many possible scenarios that frighten me from making either a lock.
The list is short for Defensive Tackle, but that makes sense considering the Buffalo Bills typically keep only four players at the position. Star Loutlelei and Ed Oliver are my two locks at defensive tackle. I really wanted to include Harrison Phillips because I strongly believe he will have a breakout year this season. However, my personal beliefs cannot be the primary reasoning for someone being a roster lock. There needs to be more certainty.
Phillips will be competing for one or two roster spots within the Defensive Tackle position. The others competing for the(se) spot(s) are Vernon Butler, Justin Zimmer, Treyvon Hester, Eli Ankou, and Nazair Jones. Given the volume of players competing for one to two spots, it makes it difficult to declare anyone as a lock beyond Lotulelei and Oliver.
The Buffalo Bills have kept six Linebackers on the final roster for the most part of Sean McDermott’s years in Buffalo. I don’t expect much different this year. If anything, maybe he finds a way to keep five and sneak one onto the practice squad. Regardless of the final number, I think we can all agree that Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are locks.
Although his play was concerning at times last year, A.J. Klein is also a lock to make this roster. He’s still a decent Linebacker in this league, but his contract (and the dead cap tied to it) is what makes him a lock in 2021.
Beyond those three, it’s tough to predict any other Linebackers as locks for the final roster. However, if I was forced to add a fourth onto this list, it would have to be Tyler Matakevich. I say this for two reasons. Firstly, he is a core special teams player and this was exemplified on various occasions last year. Secondly, the Bills restructured his contract this offseason. Matakevich technically took a pay cut, but it also makes it more difficult to cut him because that pay cut increased his dead cap figure. The financials and his special teams contributions are the main reasons I’m considering Matakevich as a lock for the 2021 final roster.
Although we’ve all been complaining about adding talent to the Cornerback group, I actually managed to identify five players as locks for the 2021 final Buffalo Bills roster. These five players are Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson, and Siran Neal.
The first four shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I think that Siran Neal deserves to be on this list. You could argue that Neal is a Safety rather than a Corner. But, regardless of his position, I still think he’s a lock for the final roster. The main reason for this is his prowess on special teams. Neal may not contribute much on the defensive side of the ball, but he is a budding star on special teams with his play in kick and punt coverage. At this point, he might make the roster on his special teams abilities alone. Any other value added on the defensive side of the ball is a nice bonus.
After losing Dean Marlowe this offseason, the Buffalo Bills did their best to fill the void he left as valuable depth behind Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Obviously, both Poyer and Hyde are locks to make the final roster. Behind them are four late round draft picks or undrafted free agents. These players include Damar Hamlin, Jaquan Johnson, Tariq Thompson, and Josh Thomas. I’ve gone on and on about how much I like Tariq Thompson and his chances to make the final roster. However, he is in no way a lock to make the roster.
Of the four I just mentioned, I believe Damar Hamlin is a lock. Prior to the draft, I felt that Hamlin was a fourth or fifth round talent, and I still feel that way. The Bills could be looking at another diamond in the rough draft pick out of Pittsburgh. I’m very excited to see how Hamlin looks this preseason.
Air Raid Hour recap
On the most recent episode of the Air Raid Hour, Judge and Tilt went through this very same exercise. They identified their roster locks within each position group and gave their evidence as to why they picked certain players.
If you enjoyed this article then you will definitely enjoy the most recent episode of the Air Raid Hour. If you didn’t catch us live, you can watch the replay linked and embedded above. Hope you enjoy!
As always, Go Bills!