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Top 3 things we learned about the Bills | 2021 NFL Draft night one


1. A first rounder with elite physical traits

Bills first-round draft pick Greg Rousseau, taken with the 30th overall pick, is a player who addresses one of Buffalo's primary positional needs on the edge of the defensive front. Picking so low in the round it was unclear at the outset what would still be on the board as the Bills picks approached.

But with 12 of the first 15 picks being offensive players it pushed some of the top defensive talent further down the board. It left Buffalo in the rare position to land an edge rusher with elite physical traits.

"I'll be honest, it's a steal," said University of Miami head coach Manny Diaz of Buffalo's selection at 30. "Greg is a top 10, top 15 pick. You never know how these opt outs are really going to go. It's funny that he went to Buffalo because I had an inkling that if he were to fall because of the opt out maybe he would fall at the end of the round to a team that's really built to win with a great culture. It's a great organization and one that normally wouldn't be able to pick a player of Greg's caliber because he'd usually go much, much higher. To see a team like Buffalo recognize an opportunity is great for the Bills and I know it's going to be great for Greg."

Rousseau's elite traits are rooted in his size and length. At 6-6 ½ and 266 pounds, the defensive end has 34 ½ inch arms a wing span of almost seven feet and one of the largest hand sizes in the entire draft at 11 1/8 inches. He often used that length to not only win against offensive linemen, but to dive at the feet of ball carriers and quarterbacks that tried to escape.

The result was 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Only two players in college football had 15 sacks or more in 2019. Rousseau and the second pick in the 2020 NFL draft, Chase Young who had 16.5.

"The length and the ability to bend and move at that size, those are all things that are elite," Diaz said. "I think his upside is without limits. I really do. There's no telling what a 2020 Greg Rousseau would've looked like. All we saw was a 2019 version and that was really his first year of playing defensive end. I wish we would've had him for 12 games, but we have to respect his decision to opt out this year. We had those same conversations with him. He knew very well the things he would have to improve on. But the relentless motor, he's a phenomenal human being. I think the version you saw in 2019, there will already be a better version that shows up in training camp and the growth potential beyond that is off the charts."

2. Rousseau's usage in Bills scheme will mimic where he lined up at Miami

Bills GM Brandon Beane explained that Rousseau will begin his pro career at defensive end and learn the ins and outs of that position in Buffalo scheme first and foremost. But as the first-round pick gets acclimated, Beane believes the way in which he's used will be expanded.

"The thing about Greg is a lot of his sack production came from the inside. I mean, they played him all over. They played him in the zero (head up on the center). They played him on the edge. They played him in the three-technique (outside shade of the guard), so we see him starting on the edge, but in pass rush situations you'll see him reduced down and rush from the inside."

The Bills typically bring along their rookies steadily and don't overload them with too many responsibilities so their natural playing ability can carry them in the early going. With two veteran defensive ends in Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison the expected starters, the rookie won't have a lot on his plate right away.

But don't think that Rousseau won't be eager to push the veterans for time on the field.

"We think Greg is on the come," said Beane. "A rising player that will continue to grow into his body, continue to add strength. I told you he added 20 pounds (during his opt out). He didn't just sit at home, he was training and getting ready for this next step.

"He's a great a young man, very mature for his age. He has the intangibles that we look for a guy that's going to work, very competitive, wasn't looking for a year off. He'll come in here and work. He's not going to think he's done anything. He knows he's still a young player, and still has some rawness to his game, but we like who he is and we think he's a guy that in time will reach his potential."

Take a look through our first round pick Gregory Rousseau's career from college to the NFL Draft. Presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York.

3. The Bills could've traded back

Just a few hours before the start of the draft, Beane said on the 'Bills Draft Special' that he had received more calls from teams behind him than in front of him. Buffalo's GM said there were a couple of solid offers that were on the table that they considered.

"We had conversations on both sides," said Beane. "We could have traded back. We had one team that was really interested in moving up where we were. Another called late. I don't know what their final offer was, but I think we could have gone back. I don't know if there was a perfect opportunity to go up, but we were playing it close to the vest and again, Greg was a guy we wanted, and our patience worked out."

As it turned out none of those teams were successful in moving up into the bottom of round one because Baltimore kept their two picks at 27 and 31. New Orleans at 28, Green Bay at 29, the Bills at 30 and Tampa Bay at 32 all held onto their round one selections, with four defensive ends coming off the board in the final five picks counting the Bills' Rousseau.

Scroll through to take a look inside the Buffalo Bills draft room, presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York.

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