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NFL Draft Notebook: Marquez Stevenson and the Need for Speed

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It was apparent after last season’s AFC Championship game loss to the Chiefs that the Bills needed to add more speed. The offense was a machine in 2020 with Brian Daboll consistently pushing all the right buttons. But with a Super Bowl berth on the line, it was the Chiefs with their plethora of slot ninjas and slippery water bugs that kept the Bills defenders trying to catch their breath. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, and Gabe Davis are as good as any foursome in the league, but none of them are game breakers. The loss of Andre Roberts also left the Bills with the need for a return man. 

Enter the man they simply call, “Speed.”

In the sixth round, the Bills selected Marquez Stevenson out of Houston. Stevenson is the former roommate of current Bills DT, Ed Oliver. Stevenson didn’t make an impact as a freshman and then missed the 2017 season with a torn ACL. In 2018, he exploded on the scene and led the Cougars in receiving with 75 receptions, 1,019 yards, and 9 TDs. In 2019, he once again led the team in receiving with 52 receptions, 907 yards, and 9 TDs. Stevenson was voted to the All-AAC first team in both seasons and considered leaving for the NFL Draft last year. He decided to return to Houston for his senior season, which was reduced to a mere five games for Stevenson and the Cougars. 

Stevenson projects as a slot receiver in Buffalo. He has good size at 6’0″, 190 lbs, and tremendous speed. At his pro day, Stevenson ran a 4.45 forty yard dash, which is fast, but Stevenson was disappointed. He reportedly had to run into the wind, which likely slowed his time. When you turn on the film, there’s no question about the speed element he brings to the game. After all, you don’t get the nickname “Speed” for no reason. 

Stevenson not only has top-end straight-line speed, but he also shows an explosive burst that allows him to accelerate to full speed quickly. Stevenson has a high ceiling, which makes him an even more attractive prospect. At this point in his career, he has gotten by on his superior speed and explosion. He’s not a great route runner yet and shows a tendency to catch the ball with his chest and shoulder pads instead of his hands. With NFL coaching, Stevenson should shore up the more technical aspects of the receiver position, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as the slot receiver of the future. Stevenson also shows instincts as a kick returner. At Houston, he had three kick return touchdowns in his career.

Expect to see Stevenson make the active roster in 2021. The top four receivers seem set in stone, but Stevenson should be able to lock down one of the final two spots due to his elite speed and return skills. The Bills will throw the ball a lot, so Stevenson should get an opportunity to make an impact early. Expect Brian Daboll to find a way to maximize the big play potential Stevenson offers. 

Brandon Beane did well to add a player with a premium talent in the sixth round. This year’s receiver class was incredibly deep. In a normal draft, Stevenson would have been off the board a couple of rounds earlier. If there was one common theme to the Bills draft, it was value. Whether it was Gregory Rousseau or Boogie Basham, or the offensive tackles in the middle rounds, Beane and the front office consistently found good college players with high ceilings. If Stevenson wins the starting kick return job, he’ll be worth the selection. If he makes some splash plays as a receiver, he could end up being a steal. 

Welcome to Buffalo, Speed!

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