Buffalo Bills NFL Draft

Making the Case for Ed Oliver

With the NFL Draft only two months away, there are still many questions about who the Bills might select with the ninth overall pick. Do they target an offensive tackle? Wide receiver? What about a corner?

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you know that Kyle Williams has retired. I could go on about his many contributions to the city of Buffalo and this team, but the main focus should not be on him. The Bills lost a huge factor on defense and it will need to filled.

CBS Sports’ Jared Dublin and NBC Sports’ Ben Standing have Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver going to Bills in their most recent mock drafts. Despite their other obvious pressing needs, does Oliver to Buffalo make sense? I believe so, and here is why.

Ed Oliver may be the most talented prospect in this year’s draft class. Standing at 6 foot 3 inches, Oliver has been a wrecking force throughout his three years at the University of Houston.

In his collegiate career, Oliver was a three-time First-Team All-American, three-time First-Team All-AAC (American Athletic Conference), AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman), and Bill Willis Trophy winner (top collegiate defensive lineman). Oliver was the first prospect to declare for the draft, making his decision in early March of last year.

Multiple websites have Oliver as a top five overall prospect. He is ranked #4 on Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports, #6 on Bleacher Report and sportingnews.com, #10 on walterfootball.com, and #3 on USAtoday.com.

This past season, Oliver was criticized for his behavior and overall character. In a 48-14 win over the Tulane Green Wave, a game in which he sat out for in order to prepare for the NFL draft, Oliver got into a shouting match with then head coach Major Applewhite over a dispute with Oliver wearing a jacket that was for players playing in the game. Although they have settled it, this raised concerns among many scouts about Oliver’s overall character, resulting in a slight drop down on many of their draft boards.

The Bills currently have four defensive tackles under contract, with two of them being starting-caliber players. Star Lotulelei’s first year in Buffalo was a bit of a disappointment, having  a total of 17 total tackles. Although it was an off year, he appears to be a solid player who will improve those numbers. Harrison Phillips, the Bills’ only Day 2 selection of last year’s draft, showed some promise last year and could find his way into a starting role.

Another one of the Bills defensive tackles from last season, Jordan Phillips, was a very solid role player who made big time plays in big time situations. He is a fan-favorite and an option to re-sign. Although I would like to see Phillips on this team next year, I don’t believe he is the best candidate for a starting role, as he fits more of the profile of a rotational player.

Oliver is known to be quick and instinctive player who is highly regarded as one of the smartest players in college football. According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, “Against the run, he explodes out of his stance to shoot gaps and generate negative plays. He has excellent block awareness, and he refuses to get reached/sealed. He is able to resist pressure on down blocks and spin off to record tackles.” Explosiveness is not necessarily something the Bills lack, but the more explosive the team is, the better they are statistically.

Oliver would provide a solid force on defense. Although his lack of size may be an issue, his  sheer skill level more than makes up for it. Unless the Bills make a big splash in free agency and sign a player like Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett, Oliver would be a safe pick – even a gift – if they could nab him at number nine.

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