Bills Return Specialist’s Job Could Be in Danger After Draft: Report

Marquez Stevenson

Getty Marquez Stevenson runs after making a catch against the Green Bay Packers in a preseason game.

The Buffalo Bills landed a dangerous playmaker in the NFL Draft in Khalil Shakir, and his addition could put a return specialist’s job at risk.

The Bills were praised for trading up 20 spots to take Shakir with the 148th overall pick, with Pro Football Focus calling him one of the biggest steals of the draft. While the Boise State receiver is expected to compete for targets out of the slot, he also has the potential to make an impact as a kick returner. He returned punts and kicks in college, adding another dimension to his game and a potential roadblock for Marquez Stevenson to make the team.

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Stevenson’s Job at Risk

As Nick Wojton of USA Today’s Bills Wire noted, Stevenson played a very limited role with the Bills last season. The 2021 sixth-round draft pick was on injured reserve to start the season, and was inactive for a stretch when the Bills were facing difficult weather conditions and head coach Sean McDermott employed the sure-handed Micah Hyde to return kicks. The Bills also made a big commitment to incumbent kick returner Isaiah McKenzie, signing him to a two-year deal.

Wojton pegged Stevenson as one of the “losers” from the draft, noting that he sits behind McKenzie and in competition with Shakir for a roster spot.

“McKenzie proves a presence on offense, so even with the addition of Khalil Shakir in Round 5, McKenzie has a path to the Bills’ roster,” he wrote. “However, because Shakir can also return kicks, that’ll give Stevenson another obstacle to making the team.”

Stevenson didn’t stand out much in his limited return attempts last season. He returned 14 punts for a 9.4-yard average and returned seven kicks for a 23.6-yard average last season, playing only six snaps on offense. He did flash some potential in the preseason, taking a punt 79 yards for a touchdown.

Buffalo Bills radio host Joe DiBiase suggested that Stevenson could be in competition with wide receiver Jake Kumerow for the final roster spot, which could present a challenge as Kumerow is a mainstay on special teams.

Shakir Earns Praise

The Bills have gotten some good grades for their selection of Shakir. The NFL Network’s Mike Giardi said many around the league were shocked that the Boise State receiver would fall to the Bills in the fifth round.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the team liked what they saw in Shakir.

“I really like that young man. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s versatile, and I think with the ball in his hands, he’s pretty good, too,” Beane said, via ESPN. “He was sticking out. We just felt like let’s go get him. This makes sense.”

The rookie said he’s ready to pitch in any way he can, even taking some rushing attempts. Through four seasons in Boise State, Shakir had 71 rushes for 414 yards, a 5.8-yards-per-carry average, and four rushing touchdowns.

“Whatever the team needs me to do, whether that’s receiver or that’s lining up in the backfield, whatever it is, I’m going to do it and they’re going to get my all,” Shakir said.

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