Brandon Beane on Bills’ returner job after drafting Marquez Stevenson

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Nick Wojton
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When thinking the NFL draft, most defer to offense and defense when pondering roster needs. The Bills are never one to overlook special teams though, and they didn’t at the 2021 event.

In the sixth round, Houston wide receiver Marquez Stevenson was selected by the Bills. A 5-foot-10 speedster, Stevenson has had successes in school returning the ball. He took three to the house during his college career.

On Tuesday, Bills general manager Brandon Beane discussed how Stevenson will factor into the team’s special teams while appearing the Howard and Jeremy Show on WGR-550.

As many predicted, it’ll be Stevenson vs. veteran Isaiah McKenzie for that job.

“Marquez Stevenson is a guy that is explosive. His 40 time was in the 4.4 range but he plays in the 4.3s. He even told me he’s been clocked in the 4.3s, but when you see him run whether he’s returning or catching a quick screen, nobody catches him, he’s got very good play speed. He’s a guy that will compete at the back end of our receiver room and then he’ll compete with Isaiah McKenzie and the guys to be a dual returner,” Beane said.

Prior to the draft, McKenzie was the favorite and still might be to replace Andre Roberts as the Bills’ return man. Roberts signed with the Texans this offseason as a free agent.

When the Bills selected Stevenson on Day 3 of the draft, McKenzie happened to take to his social media account and sent out a message which one could speculate had to do with the team drafting another return man. McKenzie did not specially say that was what the message was about, although, it appeared he wasn’t thrilled about the addition.

Even if McKenzie isn’t happy, the team isn’t disappointed him. On the contrary, Beane complimented the work McKenzie has done this offseason. He mentioned the McKenzie, who scored on a return in the Bills’ 2020 season finale vs. the Dolphins, has been working out with Bills punter Matt Haack as well.

“Isaiah’s really been working hard,” Beane said. “He’s really going to try hard to win the job. He’s been really good with the ball in his hands, it’s just continuing to work on tracking it.”

Still, in the end, Beane did admit adding competition to the return man battle in training camp was a point of emphasis for Buffalo heading into the draft. The GM said that there were up to 17 or 18 prospects that had impressed them in regard to their return abilities.

The Bills then landed on Stevenson and Beane was not shy about the pick, even adding the early pressure on the rookie to prefect his return man skills. The GM said that spot is Stevenson’s best route to make the final 53 this year.

“Position one to make the roster would be winning that return job,” Beane said.

Stevenson certainly will attempt to do just that. But one thing that is for sure… Stevenson does not lack confidence in his ability to break off home runs.

“Me being able to cut without slowing down, me being able to cut full speed and my toughness as well. Not being able to run through tackles,” Stevenson said following the draft via video conference.

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