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The Spy: The Draftees & Expectant Decrees

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The 2021 NFL draft class is in the books, yet there is much to be written. Those drafted this year, as well as what they ultimately come to mean in the annals of Buffalo Bills history; the ballads sang and lore discussed by the next generation of fans. Whether or not you approve of the Bills’ future-focused draft and the intention to prop open the winning window, it is for certain that what’s done is done. In that spirit, let us spy into the near future and gain some insight on the new Bills and what may become of them.

Introductory note: The NFL schedule is due to be released on May 12th at 7:30 EST. In the coming months (up to the pre-season), Spy content will focus on breaking down the games on Buffalo’s schedule, providing specific intelligence on those teams in the order of the schedule. Teams shall be assessed based on their off-season additions in totality.

SPY 1: “Loot for Groot & QBs to Uproot”

Greg Rousseau simply was a steal at pick 30. Make no mistake about it, had this player not opted out in 2020 due to the COVID situation, his stock would have been much higher. This is simply based on the concept of growth. In 2019, Rousseau’s trajectory was utterly meteoric. Opting out in 2020 had the impact of diffusing and somewhat eroding Rousseau’s elite athleticism and consistency of play. However, now being a part of the Bills, those problems will be rectified in short order via working with elite peers, elite coaches, and in an elite facility.

The ceiling for Greg is a vaulted one and his true potential has no limit as things currently stand. Due to his size, power, and particularly his ability to rush from the inside, the Bills will use him in specialized tactical scenarios aimed at maximizing his skill set. He exhibits flexibility, which is a heralded and sought-after trait for the Bills staff and evaluators. Stunts and variable gap attack points are strategies that can and will be used specifically as it pertains to Greg. This is to say that he can be used to attack a known weak point of the opposing team in a situation that can create the ideal model of success, on a given play.

GM Brandon Beane has said that Rousseau will likely affect the rotation, which further evidences this idea of tactical usage. A tactic is employed when (1) it can be employed and (2) its use will yield a benefit that outweighs the potential risk involved. The complexity, frequency, and duration of his playing time will steadily increase as the season progresses.

Expectation: Rotational Contributor, 15 Tackles, 3-5 sacks, 1-2 FF, 10+ penalties

2021 Season Start STATUS: Rostered-Active

SPY 2: “Do the Boogie Bash and Make the Pocket Crash”

Boogie Basham has been speculated to be the more “NFL-Ready” prospect of the two DEs that Brandon Beane doubled down on. The Spy is here to affirm that, that is the case. That said, it is still likely that Boogie Basham affects the rotation in a similar manner as Rousseau likely will. The Bills 4-3 defensive scheme is a perfect fit for Basham and he can rotate in on either end as needed. It is important to point out that with three young and “high-ceiling” DEs on the roster, trial-by-fire play can be implemented to great effect and is accompanied by the benefit of keeping opposing teams on their heels and guessing.

It is not likely that preparation for any combination of Bills DEs is as effective as any other combination one can come up with. Depending on the variables at play in each matchup, Basham may be elevated in usage in some situations and relegated to the bench in others. Like Rousseau, Basham can rush from the interior and will excel in this role. Additionally, rushes on long downs and known passing downs will be juicy bashful situations! Refinement and improvement in Basham’s athletic standing are necessary but this is not exactly an insurmountable obstacle. It is a no-brainer, in fact, this will absolutely be addressed with haste.

Expectation: Rotational Contributor, 20-25 Tackles, 4-7 sacks, 1-2 FF, 5+ penalties

2021 Season Start STATUS: Rostered-Active

SPY 3: “East Brown and Down… Through a Table”

The tackle gem, already in the hearts of Bills Mafia per his table thrashing display, the product of the great State of Iowa, is now a Bill. One can wonder if this is the long-sought-after swing tackle or simply a long-term investment. One is right to wonder both things. Spencer Brown is the most athletically gifted offensive lineman in the history of the NFL. This is not a bold claim but rather a fact. Keep in mind that Brown boasts a PERFECT RAS score of 10.0.

Spencer Brown is the long-term successor to current standout Darryl Williams and will present a challenge to him come training camp. What Brown also provides is insurance, which is crucial considering that the Bills were extremely thin at the tackle spot prior to the draft and still could be depending on who you were to ask. Should a key tackle be indisposed due to injury or some other conflagration of factors, the Bills now have a response that does not necessarily require the pressing of a panic button.

There has been some conjecture that Brown could kick inside to play the guard spot, but his long and strong profile and lack of midriff heft do not exactly support that conjecture. At this point and moving forward, it is likely that Brown remains a pure tackle. Furthermore, some offensive linemen have had their progression and play interrupted or deteriorated by too much “role reversal” and/or position switching (Cody Ford, Darryl Williams IN CAR).

Lastly, a fun fact, BF Film Expert Clay Troia has expressed a forecast that, perhaps, Brown is a good candidate to facilitate a Lee Smith style role by reporting eligible in goal-line scenarios. Fun stuff!

Expectation: Rotational Contributor

2021 Season Start STATUS: Rostered-Active

SPY 4: “Doyle Rules in Blocking Duels”

Tommy Doyle was, indeed, a somewhat perplexing second positional double-dip among Brandon Beane’s selections. Bills Mafia was starting to go into X-Files mode on Twitter wondering what exactly the strategy was. Suffice it to say, Doyle is added coverage to the Spencer Brown insurance plan. (I wonder if Brandon Beane saved 15% by switching to tackle insurance?) While not being as athletic as Spencer Brown, Doyle is no slouch. He is a powerful blocker with significant practical ability in the running game but does need polishing in the Bills dynamic, high-tempo, and quick passing centric offense. His aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage and quick recognition of the point of attack is extremely attractive. There can be no doubt that it is a reason for his selection. He will have time and tutelage in spades. His time will come.

Expectation: Developmental Contributor

2021 Season Start STATUS: Practice Squad

SPY 5: “Need for Speed”

Marquez Stevenson was an excellent selection in the sneakiest of ways. There is one thing that Stevenson is ELITE at, and it is scorching down the field leaving a cloud of dust and confused defenders in his wake. That said, his catch skills are fairly developed and when paired with his speed, he presents a credible threat. As I have stated previously, even if not targeted on a given play, Stevenson still is a credible threat as a decoy by stretching out the defense. If nothing else, he can always provide this capability.

At Houston, Stevenson suffered under the weight of an inconsistent passing game. The same is unlikely to happen in Buffalo given the ascension of Josh Allen. Return game functionality is another possibility for Stevenson as well, although, returns happen less and less with each passing season of NFL action. While important, they are increasingly infrequent.

Stevenson has potential as a slot receiver so long as his route running, coverage defeat tactics, and movement techniques improve considerably. This is not necessarily a long shot however and will not be as promising peers and mega mentors loom large. Stevenson finds himself now part of (arguably) the best receiver room in the league and someone should remind NFL on CBS of that. (They seem to have forgotten.)

Expectation: Rotational Contributor

2021 Season Start STATUS: Rostered-Active

SPY 6: “Wham Bam Safety with Ham”

The Bills strategy-in-practice of pursuing depth and longevity insurance continued with Safety Damar Hamlin. With Dean Marlowe sadly departed, a significant hole had been opened in the Safety room. Furthermore, the already legendary Bills Safety tandem of Hyde-Poyer will not be active Bills forever and time does march on (unless you are Tom Brady apparently). The bottom line is that Hamlin is a complete Safety. He brings four years of experience from his time at Pitt. He is best classified as a jack-of-all-trades defender and does most everything reasonably well. On the other hand, it is hard to say that any part of his game is “elite”. Learning from his peers and mentors as well as an incremental increase in playing time and responsibilities could facilitate a metamorphosis of Hamlin’s game.

Even though Hyde and Poyer play 95%+ snap rates in games, it certainly does not hurt to have Hamlin at the ready to rotate in. Again, we see this theme come back into play. One intangible Hamlin brings that is inarguably stellar is his leadership and athleticism. This will pay dividends for a team with such a strong culture that the Bills have.

Expectation: Rotational Contributor

2021 Season Start STATUS: Rostered-Active

SPY 7: “There’s a Wildgoose on the Loose”

Just based on name alone, Rachad Wildgoose Jr. has secured DROY according to BF’s own Casey Reed. In all seriousness, The Goose represents yet another stimulation of depth for the Bills team. The Goose lacks collegiate playing time in a substantial amount and role. Because of this, I cannot pragmatically suggest that Wildgoose will have a substantial active role on the team this year. Of all the Bills draft picks in the 2021 class, Wildgoose arguably needs the most development. Not to say he does not have promise (he does), but he is not NFL ready. Though it should be noted that he possesses a high level of aggressiveness and a knack for closing on players around the ball and the ball itself.

Wildgoose will need to hone his coverage abilities considerably to compete with peers and those above him on the depth chart. Interestingly, Wildgoose and Taron Johnson are the same height and separated by only 5 pounds of weight.

Expectation: Developmental Contributor

2021 Season Start STATUS: Practice Squad

SPY 7: “Jack-O-Matic”

Jack Anderson is a capable and reliable Right Guard specifically. During his collegiate play, this was the only role he played. Anderson is yet another long-term and depth addition. It remains to be seen if position flexibility can be coached into his game but, eventually, that question will be answered. Anderson requires considerable development in his athletic profile to be more competitive as a member of the offensive line. This will also help him to be both more reliable and far more effective at the point of attack. Anderson lacks plant strength, drive push, and overall high order movement dynamics (AKA agility). The technical aspect of his game, combined with athletic shortcomings, will be the biggest improvement targets.

Expectation: Developmental Contributor

2021 Season Start STATUS: Practice Squad – CUT possible (Pending Performance)

DARKHORSE BONUS POINT: “Don’t sleep on The Regulator”

Signing CB Olaijah Griffin as a UDFA is an excellent pickup. It is surprising he was not drafted and he is intriguing to watch as a literal dark horse. If he can mature and elevate his play, he can blossom into a viable depth corner on the outside.

In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process and go Bills.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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