Bills double down on edge rushers as they pick Wake Forest's Carlos Basham

Sal Maiorana
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
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Clearly, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane wasn’t kidding when he remarked on a couple of occasions that the pass rush needs to be better in 2021.

After picking Miami edge rusher Greg Rousseau in the first round Thursday night, Beane doubled down in the second round Friday and selected Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham with the 61st overall pick.

“Pass rusher is a premium position,” Beane said. “After you get quarterbacks, probably the next highest position is pass rusher. The really premium ones always go in the top five. We’ve seen that with (Nick) Bosa and the young man last year who went to Washington (Chase Young). We were looking at different things and you only have so many cap dollars, so you try and find it in the draft.”

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In his four drafts with the Bills, Beane used a third-round pick on defensive tackle Harrison Phillips in 2018, a first-rounder in 2019 on tackle Ed Oliver, a 2020 second-rounder on edge rusher A.J. Epenesa, and now the first two picks in 2021 on Rousseau and Basham.

Buffalo’s edge rush situation consists of two starters, Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, who will be 33 and 34 years old when the season starts, and are each in the last years of their contract. They combined for just 9.5 sacks in 2020 and the Bills as a group ranked 15th in the NFL in sacks.

Epenesa is considered a big part of the future, but there really isn’t much else on the depth chart because it’s obvious the Bills don’t believe Daryl Johnson, Mike Love or Bryan Cox Jr. have much value on defense. They signed free agent Efe Obada, but he’s on a one-year deal.

So Rousseau and Basham will be thrust into key roles in 2021, and Beane believes they’ll have very good mentors in Hughes and Addison.

“We’ve got some vets in there and those are two of the best, I mean guys that are pros, tough,” Beane said. “They’re going to show (Rousseau and Basham) how to work hard, get in the training room when you have an injury, just grinders. I think they'll really help. I think those guys did a great job in helping Epenesa grow last year.”

Basham is a 6-foot-3, 274-pounder who brings plenty of game experience to Buffalo as he played four years at Wake Forest, 45 games with 33 starts. For his career he had 20.5 sacks, 11 of those coming in a 13-game 2019 season.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Basham as his seventh-rated edge rusher, and he said in his draft guide, “Overall, Basham needs to become a more creative pass rusher, but his size, explosiveness and effort are above average and allow him to rush from different alignments. He projects similarly to the Texans’ Charles Omenihu as a starting base end with scheme versatility.”

Basham showed an ability to move inside on occasion, so he will give the Bills the coveted versatility coach Sean McDermott loves up front.’s Lance Zierlein said of Basham, “His rush attack is more technical and explosive, using active hands, spin counters and a thoughtful approach. His lack of suddenness and edge speed could get him pegged as an early-down end while moving inside to become an interior rusher on passing downs. He's strong and plays heavy at the point of attack with leverage to sit down and battle for his space of turf. He's unlikely to produce headline-making production, but should be a good pro.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. 


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Round 1: Bills upgrade their pass rush by choosing Gregory Rousseau in first round

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Round 2: Bills double down on edge rushers as they pick Wake Forest's Carlos Basham

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Round 3: Bills address offensive line in third round by picking tackle Spencer Brown

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Round 5: Bills add another 6-foot-8 offensive tackle, Tommy Doyle

Round 6: Bills add to their depth at wide receiver with speedy sixth-round pick Marquez Stevenson

Round 6: Buffalo Bills address secondary with back-to-back physical defensive backs in sixth round

Round 7: Buffalo Bills draft former top 50 high school prospect with final pick in seventh round

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