EDGE Fits For The Buffalo Bills

Number of EDGE Rushers Drafted Last 4 Years: 21, 19, 21, 22

A look at the Bills’ Visits List from 2019 [ my spreadsheet is here ] gives you a pretty good idea of what Brandon Beane is looking for in an edge rusher. Of the ten who visited with the Bills in 2019, all were either 6-4 or 6-5, weighed an average of 256 lbs., and ran the forty in an average 4.69. Only one player beat Jerry Hughes’ 6-2, 254, 4.69 in all three of these measurements, and they drafted him, Darryl Johnson. According to my records, DJ was also the only edge guy that Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frasier went to visit (Full disclosure; I had to look to see where NC A&T was –Greensboro, NC).

At 6-6, Johnson was the tallest of all the visitors, which seems to be a trend. Beane likes a larger body of work, and, after Maxx Crosby of Eastern Michigan, DJ had the second-highest games played per year (36 games over 3 yrs.). All ten of the EDGE-rush visitors played the majority of their careers in a 4-3 or 4-2-5 base defense –no 3-4 guys were invited to the party. Finally, seven of the edge rushers had .7 sacks per game or higher. Only half of them came from Power Five schools. Six of the ten were at their schools for less than four years.

In 2020, the same criteria seemed to be in play when the Bills drafted A.J. Epenesa [ my spreadsheets are here ]. Epenesa (6-5, 277) was top 4 in sacks per game, and top 9 in TFLs per game. Again, size mattered. He outweighed Zach Baun by 52 pounds. Games played mattered. A.J. played in an impressive 37 games at Iowa, and led the Big Ten Conference in sacks in both 2017 and 2018. Epenesa led the Hawkeyes in tackles for loss (16.5), quarterback hurries (8), and forced fumbles (4) in 2018.

Both DJ and AJ are team-first players, both are quiet, and both prefer to let their play do the talking.

Using these criteria, let’s gauge the fit of the 2021 draft-eligible EDGE rushers. The number before the name is their spot on my own big board as of this writing. All of these played in a 4-3 or 4-2-5 base except Rousseau and Roche at Miami.

Photo of Miami EDGE/DT3T Gregory Rousseau from miamiherald.com.

4 Gregory Rousseau EDGE / DT3T Miami
6’5″ 260 4.57 beats all 3 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Sophomore – Opting out of 2020 season for NFL Draft
19.5 TFL, 1.39 Tackles for Loss Per Game (FLpG, #1 in Draft Class)
15.5 sacks in only 14 games, 1.39 Sacks Per Game (SKpG, #1 in Draft Class)
35 Tackles, #29 in Draft Class
Stats
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Highlights
Rousseau has declared for the draft. He ranked second in the CFB out of the gate as a redshirt freshman with 15.5 sacks in 2019, also notching 19.5 TFL (529 defensive snaps). He’s the very definition of high ceiling, but if you read the article I’ve linked, you’ll find that Mel isn’t sold on him yet. Says Kiper: “I thought some of them were coverage sacks. I’d like to see him improve his technique and have a little bit better get off at the line. We’ll see what he does. A lot of these guys (need to) get more consistency. We want to see a jump up in production.” It’s a moot point; he’ll be gone before our pick at #32. I dislike Hurricanes almost as much as hurricanes, and don’t see them fitting well with the Bills’ D-scheme. I had already been a Bills fan for 20 years when the last Miami Hurricane DE was taken in the first round (Jerome McDougle in 2003, 3 career sacks and 3 career TFL), but it’s been awhile. At my age, I don’t buy green bananas.
Fit For Bills: B-

Photo of Miami EDGE/OLB Quincy Roche from sun-sentinel.com.

15 Quincy Roche EDGE/OLB Miami
6’4” 235 4.54 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Senior – Not opting out as of 8/20/20
Stats
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39.5 TFL, 1.13 TFLpG (#2 in Draft Class)
26 sacks in 35 games, .74 SKpG (#3 in Draft Class)
102 Tackles, #1 in Draft Class
Roche was a graduate transfer from Temple who had a pretty good 2019: 49 tackles and 13 sacks in addition to a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He finished fifth in the nation in sacks per game (check), had the highest career tackles among EDGEs with 102 (check check), was 2nd in TFLs per game over his 35-game career, and 3rd in career average in sacks per game. I could be persuaded to like Roche as a pass-rushing OLB. Roche has the game experience Rousseau doesn’t have. Rousseau has the higher ceiling, but Roche has the higher floor.
Fit For Bills: A-

Photo of Western Kentucky EDGE/OLB Deangelo Malone from sports.yahoo.com.


27 Deangelo Malone EDGE/OLB Western Kentucky
6’4″ 230 4.49 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
Junior –  will await a ruling from C-USA to determine if games will be played
Stats
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31 TFL, 0.59 TFLpG (#5 in Draft class)
18.5 sacks in 31 games, 1 1.59 SKpG (#6 in Draft Class)
94 Tackle, #2 in Draft Class
When I started watching Malone, in early October of 2019, he led the nation in tackles per game among D-Linemen, was top-30-overall in total sacks, and more tackles than any other D-Lineman in College Football. He had a remarkable 2019 season, spending lots of time in the opponents’ backfields, logging 11 sacks and 20.5 TFLs. Malone is a quick and fast speed rusher with an excellent get-off and quick hands, so he’s more like Jerry Hughes or Mike Love than A.J. Epenesa. The Bills haven’t scouted Western Kentucky since… ever. But you could feel good starting with Malone, who I think will be more successful than Brian Burns.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Wake Forest EDGE/DT3T Carlos Basham Jr. from roanoke.com.

32 Carlos Basham Jr. EDGE DT3T Wake Forest
6’5″ 275 4.74 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Senior – ACC will play games as of 8/20/20
Stats
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31 TFL, 0.38 TFLpG (#12 in Draft class)
14.5 sacks in 38 games, 0.82 SKpG (#21 in Draft Class)
77 Tackles, #3 in Draft Class
2019 (Redshirt Junior) Explosive, not fast, Basham logged double-digit pressures in two games last year and finished the season with 60 total pressures his senior season. Basham excels at setting up the tackle up outside, then giving a quick swim move inside the tackle’s shoulder. You’d like to see more of a toolkit, but the Bills EDGE group is perfect for that. I equate Basham’s high motor to that of iDL pet cat, Harrison Phillips. Like Epenesa, he gets sacks and pressures due to unrelenting effort. He’s a nice scheme match with the Bills, as he’s used to playing cover-4 and cover-2 zone defense with CBs pattern-matching. He has an elite inside counter to complement his outside speed rush. Wake Forest would be the Bills’ 3rd Wake Forest player ever (CB Eric King, DT Tony Garbarczyk). Bash ’em if you like (pun intended).
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Duke OLB EDGE Chris Rumph from 247sports.com.

46 Chris Rumph II OLB EDGE Duke
6’3″ 225 4.67 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Junior
Stats
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21.5 TFL, 0.39 TFLpG (#7 in Draft Class)
9.5 sacks in 24 games, 0.89 SKpG (#18 in Draft Class)
31 Tackles, #32 in Draft Class
Dimukuje and Rumph will benefit each others’ stats, so a scalpel will be necessary in dissecting their games. Rumph’s entering his third, possibly final, season at Duke after posting 47 total tackles, 13.5 for a loss, and a career-high 6.5 sacks. pound-for-pound the best pass-rusher in the country last season (but that’s easy to say when you only weigh 225). What I see is a quick closer when he beats his man. Rumph has those 21.5 tackles for loss playing patchwork duty with only 2 starts). The sky is the limit. Duke is loaded. Seven of the top nine tacklers are expected back, and the top two pass rushers return.
Fit For Bills: A+

Photo of Ohio State EDGE Jonathon Cooper from lettermanrow.com.

57 Jonathon Cooper EDGE Ohio State
6’3″ 250 4.47 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Senior – season that will not be played this fall as of 8/8/20
Stats
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11.5 TFL, 0.22 TFLpG (#40 in Draft Class)
6.5 sacks in 29 games, 0.39 SKpG (#34 in Draft Class)
33 Tackles, #31 in Draft Class
Cooper didn’t get the senior season he wanted: he suffered a high-ankle sprain midway through preseason practice. The injury lasted longer than he expected. He decided to come back to the program for one more year, and as of now, that season won’t be this fall. He’s never really gotten his chance to show what he can do, so if he lasts until RD2, he’s a trade-up target. He’s shorter than the Bills like, and the numbers don’t match past Bills EDGE players.
Fit For Bills: B

Photo of Baylor OLB EDGE William Bradley-King from SicEm365.com.

59 William Bradley-King OLB EDGE Baylor
6’4” 248 4.75 beats only 1 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
Junior – was grad transfer, Baylor is scheduled to begin play Sept 12
Stats
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Highlights
24 TFL, 0.54 TFLpG (#8 in Draft Class)
14.5 sacks in 27 games, 0.89 SKpG (#8 in Draft Class)
44 Tackles, #17 in Draft Class
A relentless pursuer and edge-setter, WB-K is a grad transfer from Ark State, so he does have the small-school inflation of stats. He keeps his eyes on the ball, but up to this point has some difficulty separating from his blocker, and he seemed hesitant at times and late to the party. He will be Baylor’s JACK OLB (hybrid role, expected to both rush the passer and play linebacker), so that’s a fit, and he’s going to be the most crucial playing piece for Baylor’s first-year head coach Dave Aranda (Baylor’s front six in a 3-3-5 lost five starters and a combined 59 tackles for loss between them, and they’ll be converting to 4-3). The productive All-Sun-Belt pick from Arkansas State combined for 82 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks across his final two seasons. The Sun Belt Conference just brought Tyler Bass to the Bills, but the last Baylor players to join the team were Cyril Richardson in 2014 and WR Robert Holt in 1981. The last defensive player was 1976, DE Leslie Benson, an afterthought in the draft that brought G Joe Devlin and DE Ben Williams to Buffalo. But that was before your time, young grasshopper.
Fit For Bills: B

Photo of Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh from daytondailynews.com.

64 Jayson Oweh EDGE Penn State
6’5″ 260 4.33 beats all 3 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Sophomore, but Big Ten won’t play in the fall as of 8/20/20
Stats
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7 TFL, 0.54 TFLpG (#33 in Draft Class)
7 sacks in 13 games, 0.54 SKpG (#7 in Draft Class)
17 Tackles, #47 in Draft Class
Woah. Jayson Oweh is speedy. He reportedly runs a 4.33-second forty-yard dash — which, if he could match that in the NFL Combine, would make him the fastest front-seven NFL player in at least two decades. He made BruceFeldmanCFB’s “Freaks List” in 2019 for having that much size moving at that speed. He was even effective when Gross-Matos was out. Overall, of 207 pass-rushes, Oweh has 31 pressures & a hefty 20% win rate. Oweh received Big Ten freshman of the week accolades after forcing two fumbles and recording two sacks against Michigan State last October. Penn State was #3 in Total QB pressures among power-five defenses in 2019, but remember to factor in Yetur Gross-Matos and Robert Windsor. Hopefully he and Shaka Toney stayed away from this unmasked gathering, which I saw as I wrote this article. Oweh was named the player who’ll be most affected by no Big Ten football. If he remains at Penn State, he’ll be a RD1 pick down the “lion”. The lack of game experience won’t appeal to Beane, but it’s Terry Pegula’s college… but that doesn’t alma “maters”.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Ohio State EDGE Tyreke Smith from 247sports.com.

64 Tyreke Smith EDGE Ohio State
6’3″ 267 4.65 beats all 3 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
Junior – season that will not be played this fall as of 8/8/20
Stats
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5 TFL, 0.2 TFLpG (#45 in Draft Class)
3 sacks in 15 games –Dealbreaker, 0.33 SKpG (#38 in Draft Class)
10 Tackles — #49 in Draft Class
Smith’s size-speed combo plate will have to show some production when he FINALLY plays at Ohio State to move into Day Two consideration. Beane won’t like the 15 games played so far. I include him only because he’s on some draftnik’s radar screens. I don’t see it.
Fit For Bills: C

Photo of Penn State EDGE/OLB Shaka Toney from collegian.psu.edu.

87 Shaka Toney EDGE/OLB Penn State
6’3″ 240 4.62 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Senior – Big Ten won’t play in the fall as of 8/20/20, Toney’s reaction here
Stats
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Highlights
21 TFL, 0.47 TFLpG (#24 in Draft Class)
15 sacks in 32 games, 0.66 SKpG (#11 in Draft Class)
36 Tackles, #26 in Draft Class
Shaka would’ve been the sack leader among Penn State’s returning players. I guess he’ll be the leader for a year. Mustipher: “He’s going to have your best interests at heart because he really cares about you and cares about the team as a whole.” Leader par excellence. He’s the type of guy that would stay away from this unmasked gathering, which I saw as I wrote this article. If you care about your team, it’s “unmaskuline” to endanger others.
Fit For Bills: A

95 Rashad Weaver EDGE Pittsburgh
6’5″ 260 4.74 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
RS Senior
Stats
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20 TFL, 0.38 TFLpG (#14 in Draft Class)
9.5 sacks in 25 games, 0.8 SKpG (#22 in Draft Class)
48 Tackles, #10 in Draft Class
Weaver’s return from knee surgery to a stacked Pitt defense makes them scary. I can guarantee Beane will be watching several of Bills CB Dane Jackson’s teammates at Pitt again this year. Weaver’s 2018 was impressive, with 6½ sacks, 14 TFL, and 3 fumble recoveries. He’s a calm and collected guy off the field, emotionally similar to A.J. Epenesa. But he’s anything but when he steps across the sidelines. Pitt led the nation in sacks per game last season (3.9), and returns all but one player from that unit. Oh yeah. Beane will be watching.
Fit For Bills: A+

Photo of Duke EDGE VIctor Dimukeje from 247sports.com.

102 Victor Dimukeje EDGE Duke
6’2″ 265 4.72 beats 2 of Jerry Hughes’ numbers
Junior – ACC will play revised schedule
Stats
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24 TFL, 0.38 TFLpG (#25 in Draft Class)
14 sacks in 37 games, 0.65 SKpG (#23 in Draft Class)
58 Tackles, #6 in Draft Class
Dimukeje has some legitimate NFL tools. He has a nice get-off, a power bull rush, some twitch, he’s done work from a 2-point stance, has been productive (3rd among Returning ACC Edge Defenders in Pass Rush Productivity), and needs to work on fixable things, including balance and strength. He ended up with Second Team All-ACC honors after finishing with 41 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and 10 quarterback hurries last season. His 8.5 sacks were the most by a Blue Devil in a season since 2002, In 38 career games, all starts, Dimukeje has a career portfolio of 122 tackles, 24.5 TFL, 14.0 sacks, one INT, 3 caused fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 PBUs and a whopping 23 QB pressures. His only liability is height. Should he declare, he won’t be there in RD3 when the Bills pick in the #90-96 range..
Fit For Bills: A+

Editor’s babble: Just open up one of my veins and inject all of this info from our draft guru Dean Kindig. We are so grateful for his tireless work bringing us all we need to know about what/who to watch in college football. If there is college football. Such a strange season. You can also find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.