BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Greg Rousseau had that impressive of a 2019 season that the limited number of games he played at Miami didn’t affect the Bills decision to draft him.
“You don’t just luck into 15-15.5 sacks,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said on a zoom call with reporters on Thursday.
The Bills drafted Rousseau with the 30th overall pick even though they weren’t able to see him play this past season. Rousseau, the defensive end out of Miami, opted out of the 2020 season because his mom was working on the front lines as a Covid nurse.
“You’d lose a lot of guys on your board if you ruled them all out [players who opted out]. We think Greg is a rising player that will continue to grow into his body, continue to add strength,” Beane said.
“He didn’t just sit at home, he was training and getting ready for this next step.”
His breakout season in 2019 was really his only collegiate season. In 2018 he only played two games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury but made up for his the following year.
Rousseau led the ACC in 2019 with 15.5 sacks in 13 games and ranked second in the nation behind Ohio State’s Chase Young. He also finished that season with 54 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries.
“Pass rusher is a premium position. After you get the quarterback that’s probably the next highest position is pass rusher so they’re hard to get. We liked Greg through the process and it was the pick we wanted and it fell our way,” Beane said.
One thing that is beneficial for Rousseau is time to develop. There isn’t that pressure to become a day one starter and make an immediate impact with something like double digit sacks. This is certainly a pick looking at the long-term, big picture.
But with guys like Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison still around, Rousseau has those veterans to lean on while adjusting to the NFL game.
However, Hughes and Addison are in the last years of their contract and continuing to add youth at the position is another thing this pick accomplishes. For the second year in a row, Beane drafted a defensive end with their first pick after taking A.J. Epenesa in the second-round last year.
“Hopefully he and A.J. will be our future starters, Daryl Johnson will be in the mix in there as well and he’ll have to earn everything he gets. You know how we rotate guys so this year who knows but we definitely see him affecting that rotation on the edge but also in nickel rush situations reducing down inside,” Beane explained.
And that versatility is something Sean McDermott and company value as well.
“We could have gone interior, on the edge. The thing about Greg is a lot of his sack production came from the inside, I mean they played him all over,” Beane said.
“He’s got a knack for getting to the quarterback.”
One thing was clear with this pick, they were looking to add a much needed boost to their pass rush.
“Anybody that could affect the passer.”
That was a big topic on Beane and McDermott’s end of the season zoom call when it came to areas they need to improve in. Of course winning the division is the first goal but after that the Bills are still chasing the Chiefs after they stopped them from reaching the Super Bowl.
In that AFC title game, the Bills could not get to Patrick Mahomes and really it was something they struggled with all season, which now Beane is hoping to get better in for 2021.
In Beane’s three previous drafts as Bills general manager, we’ve seen he’s not afraid to make deals but just how close was that to happening again?
“We had conversations on both sides, we could have traded back. We had one team that was really interested, 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 Greg was the guy we wanted and patience worked out,” Beane explained.