NFL Draft Notebook: First Round Busts
The 2021 NFL Draft is coming, and the Buffalo Bills will be looking to add pieces that can push them over the top in the 2021 season. For the past several weeks, I’ve been breaking down players that the Bills could target at each defensive position. Today, we’re going to change it up a bit. We’re going to look at some potential first-round defensive targets that the Bills would be wise to avoid.
Busts. Every draft has plenty of them. With the Bills looking like a perennial playoff contender for the foreseeable future, these late first-round picks are important building blocks. NFL teams aren’t built through free agency; they’re built through the draft. Let’s take a look at three players who will likely be first round picks but carry a high bust potential. To be clear, I’m not declaring these young men are likely to bust or won’t be good NFL players. But there is reason to be nervous about their ability to justify a first round draft pick.
DE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Oweh is the quintessential boom-or-bust player. He gushes athletic ability, and his ceiling is as high as any player in the draft. The problem is there’s very little production to go along with the potential. We’re talking about a defensive end prospect that didn’t record a sack in 2020 yet is expected to be drafted in the first round.
Oweh left Penn State after his redshirt sophomore year, and he would have been wise to return to Happy Valley to continue to work on his craft. Any team that is drafting Oweh knows they will likely not get much production out of him in his first two years. He needs to get bigger, stronger, and learn the more technical aspects of the position. For a team like the Bills that is in “win now” mode, I want a guy who can contribute from Day 1.
The NFL is an unforgiving league for players who enter before they are physically ready. Oweh may ooze athletic potential, but this league chews up and spits out players who come in too early. The Bills once selected a redshirt sophomore defensive end from Penn State that was an athletic marvel: Aaron Maybin. We all know how that worked out.
LB Nick Bolton, Missouri
Don’t get me wrong. I think Bolton is a fine football player. He’s a tough, instinctive linebacker who lays the lumber with the best of them. My issue with Bolton is that he doesn’t have the upside I want in a first-round player. He feels like he’s much closer to a finished product than some of the other linebackers like Chazz Surratt.
Bolton had a good 2020 season with Missouri but not a great season. He’s shown some decent pass coverage skills and is a solid tackler. But he’s short, doesn’t have great length, and has average to decent speed. If Bolton is available at the end of the 2nd or early in the 3rd, then you consider taking a chance on him. But at #30, you’re not getting a lot of bang for your buck. If he goes in the first, he’ll have a hard time living up to that draft slot.
DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Earlier, I mentioned Aaron Maybin and Rousseau gives me a similar vibe. Rousseau had an incredible 2019 season with 15.5 sacks. He was a dominant force. But he hasn’t played a competitive football game in well over a year now and will enter the NFL Draft as a one-hit wonder.
I’m not writing Rousseau off as a bust, but I think it’s fair to point out that he has a higher bust potential than a more proven defensive end like Carlos Basham. His ceiling is high, and he could become a perennial Pro Bowler, and it wouldn’t surprise me. But he lacks polish and is a bit of a project. Like Jayson Oweh, Rousseau has tremendous potential, but he isn’t ready for the NFL game. He opted out of the 2020 season, which was probably a mistake and he missed a chance to show that 2019 was no fluke.
What do you think, #BillsMafia? What defensive players do you think the Bills should avoid in the first round?