Next on the list, a rookie defensive end out of Wake Forest.
Every year, we keep track of the development of the youngest Buffalo Bills through our “25 and under series.” The Bills take care of their part by refreshing the group of players through the NFL Draft. Ideally, a few of their rookies land on this list in some fashion. Next up at ninth overall is this year’s second-round draft choice, one of two defensive ends picked in this year’s draft.
Number 9: DE Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. (turns 24 on December 16)
It’s always tough placing the rookies, since we haven’t really seen them play against NFL competition or in their NFL scheme. Not everyone adjusts right away, and sometimes you need to make projections based on a perceived ceiling. That’s why Basham lands on this list, and Epenesa doesn’t. Both were second-round picks, and both play the same position. But Epenesa had trouble adjusting to a new weight class as a rookie, and rarely flashed on the field. With Basham, on the other hand, we have no idea how he’ll perform in his first season, but that means there’s more room to dream on his potential.
A three-year starter at Wake Forest, Basham emerged on the scene with 11 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss (TFL) in 2019. He could’ve turned pro after that, but returned for his senior season and played despite the upheaval of a pandemic. In seven games, he had five sacks and 5.5 TFLs.
Basham is shorter and thicker than a typical edge rusher—almost a hybrid defender like Michael Bennett. His strength in the trenches allows him to be an excellent run defender on the edge, or to rush the C gap and push between the guard and tackle for a sack. While his draft profile is appealing, and some dubbed him the “pro ready” rookie from this year’s class, the fact is that Basham hasn’t played a professional game yet. We don’t know how he’ll adjust to the new level of competition. As a rookie with an advanced age, Basham will only be eligible for this list for one more year, so he’d better make this one count!