The Buffalo Bills have a wide open Super Bowl window with one of the league's best rosters and 25-year-old Josh Allen at quarterback. GM Brandon Beane has earned his paycheck with his moment of clairvoyance in the 2018 draft when he picked Allen and because of how he's surrounded him with the talent needed to accentuate all of his supreme skills.
After the Bills went 15-4 last season -- counting the playoffs -- with two losses to the Chiefs, a loss to the Titans, and a hail mary defeat at the hands of the Cardinals, Buffalo brought the vast majority of its team back to maximize the chances it can win the first NFL championship in franchise history this season.
Below, we will break down what Buffalo's 2021 depth chart will look like. Several players mentioned will not make the final 53-man roster, but let's take a look at what a rough depth chart would look like for the Bills right now.
Rookies will be denoted with a (*).
Antonio Williams/Taiwan Jones/Christian Wade
Marquez Stevenson*/Brandon Powell
Nate Becker/Quintin Morris*
Josh Allen returns after finishing second in MVP voting to Aaron Rodgers a season ago. He went from "parody of a draft prospect" to one of the most feared quarterbacks in football due to his immense athleticism and arm talent, and -- in 2020 -- precision accuracy. Allen was fantasy football's QB1, and he enters his fourth pro season as the best dual-threat player at the game's most vital position. After his tenure in Chicago ultimately flopped despite reasonable team success, Mitchell Trubisky signed in Buffalo to replace Matt Barkley as Allen's backup. Trubisky's running capabilities align with what Buffalo likes to do with Allen on the ground, particularly in the red zone.
The second-most pass-happy team in neutral game situations -- scoring margin within one score -- allowed John Brown to hit the free-agent market, and he signed with the Raiders. But Emmanuel Sanders, who quietly caught 61 passes for 726 yards with five scores in 2020 with the Saints, was added as an immediate replacement for Brown and the No. 2 on the outside to superstar Stefon Diggs. Cole Beasley returns as a nearly impossible to cover slot wideout, and there'll be a healthy competition to fill out the rest of the passing offense after Gabriel Davis. Isaiah McKenzie is the incumbent gadget player in the receiver group, but sixth-round pick Marquez Stevenson has a similar build and was electric with the ball in his hands when healthy at Houston. Duke Williams and Isaiah Hodgins can't be completely overlooked either.
Despite Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams' contracts expiring after the 2020 season, the Bills retained both to keep the blocking unit in front of Allen intact, and three offensive linemen were picked in the draft, mostly as long-term options at the position who will initially serve as rotational depth. Beane continued his obsession with offensive line additions by signing veterans Forrest Lamp, Jamil Douglas, and Bobby Hart in free agency.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss dodged any major push for their jobs via the draft, but the linear speedster Matt Breida agreed to a deal with Buffalo in late March. Third-year tight end Dawson Knox, who's exhibited springy athletic traits but the start to his NFL career has been marred by inconsistency, should feel similarly to Singletary and Knox. Buffalo passed on the entire tight end class in the draft but did sign lower-level free-agent Jacob Hollister.
Last year's No. 2 offense in football should again have no struggles moving the football and scoring points.
Bryan Cox Jr.
|Slot CB||Taron Johnson||Siran Neal|
Buffalo's defense took a step back in 2020 after three mostly high-caliber seasons at the start of the Sean McDermott era. It still was a respectable unit that flexed its muscle in most of the critical situations in the season -- besides the AFC title game loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City.
Why did the Bills regress defensively? Mostly due to a limited pass rush, a group that finished 15th in sacks (38) and 23rd in team pressure rate (22.2%) during the regular season. So, logically, Beane went edge rusher in Round 1 and Round 2 in the draft (Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham) even after investing a second-round pick in the position (A.J. Epenesa) in 2020.
Mario Addison took a pay cut to stay as the No. 2 rusher opposite Jerry Hughes and the underrated Efe Obada, who finished third in pressures on the Panthers last season, was acquired on the free-agent market. Beane made it crystal clear he wanted to upgrade the pass rush.
Another major development on the defense had nothing to do with an addition but a retention. Splash-play creating linebacker Matt Milano was surprisingly signed to a multi-year deal to head one of the league's most athletic linebacker tandems with Tremaine Edmunds.
The return of 2020 opt-out Star Lotulelei should work wonders for third-year pro Ed Oliver who had to take on nose tackle duties at times last season at well under 300 pounds. With Lotulelei and Vernon Butler, Buffalo has more beef on the interior, although the overall pass-rush ability of the defensive tackles -- particularly outside of Oliver -- is not a strength.
The Bills secondary boasts former All-Pro Tre'Davious White, but the depth is lacking. There's no question about it, and Buffalo waited until Round 6 to select a corner (Rachad Wildgoose) and safety (Damar Hamlin). Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer remain one of the league's finest, most multi-dimensional safety tandems, and Taron Johnson is low-key one of the better, feistier nickel corners. And then there's Levi Wallace, the former undrafted free-agent and former Alabama walk-on. He's far from a star but plays just well enough to keep his job every season. Dane Jackson is the primary Swiss Army knife insurance policy for any position.
Brandon Powell/Marquez Stevenson*
Brandon Powell/Marquez Stevenson*