The Buffalo Bills’ selection of Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham Jr. with the No. 61 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft came as a surprise to many. After taking Miami defensive end Greg Rousseau in the first round, general manager Brandon Beane opted against filling other positional needs, doubling down with the selection of Basham, who tallied 25 sacks in four seasons with the Demon Deacons.
Defensive end certainly is a position that Buffalo needed to plan for future with, as both Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison are set to become free agents after the 2021 season, and the Bills believe they now have a quality trio of young, versatile edge players with Basham, Rousseau and last year’s second-round draft choice, A.J. Epenesa. Rousseau and Basham bring vastly different skill sets and varying levels of experience.
On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier praised Basham’s experience when asked about his pair of rookie edge rushers.
“Carlos, he’s a little farther along [than Rousseau] because he’s played more football in college, so he’s probably a little more polished in that way,” said Fraizer. “He also has the ability to play both inside and outside, much like Greg does, but he’s a heavier guy who can probably play on early downs inside, as well on the edge on early downs, so he gives you some versatility that you don’t often see in a rookie.”
It’s well known that the Bills value positional flexibility on both sides of the line and like being able to kick their edge rushers inside in obvious passing situations. Former Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson did this often, but the team didn’t really have that player on the roster last season. Buffalo’s recent free agent acquisition Efe Obada, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, is another player with experience doing exactly this.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Frazier believes Basham and Rousseau can both rush the passer from the defensive tackle position. However, Frazier was very deliberate in making the distinction that he feels Basham can play there on early downs as well. Standing 6-foot-5, 285-pounds, Basham has a stout frame that makes it hard for linemen to move him off his spot. He also has experience on the inside, taking over 90 snaps at defensive tackle alignments over his four seasons at Wake Forest.
Beyond having the body type for it, a player needs to have the right level of mental processing to play multiple positions. Knowing what the assignments are in both run and pass situations for two different roles while understanding and absorbing those responsibilities on a snap-to-snap basis is certainly not easy, especially for a rookie that is still learning all the intricacies of the NFL.
However, Frazier seems confident that “Boogie” can handle it, in part due to the early signs of how quickly he picks things up.
“Much like Greg, he’s one of those guys that when you share with him what you’re looking for, what your expectations are, he’s able to carry that out,” Frazier said. “That’s what you want when you’re talking about football players, guys that are thinking man’s players, that when stuff happens in a game, they can come to the sideline and communicate to you what they’re seeing…we’ve been very impressed that they’re both students of the game.”
Football I.Q. is one of the harder elements to judge when analyzing prospects, so it’s promising to hear Frazier believing in both of the rookie defensive ends. While Carlos Basham may lack the physical upside of Rousseau, his experience and play strength will let him make an impact right away. Looking forward, a pass-rush package of Oliver, Basham, Rousseau, Epenesa sounds like a quarterback’s worst nightmare.