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Nate’s Notebook: Ed Oliver Shows No Mercy

“With the 9th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select…” These were probably some of the most suspenseful moments for Bills’ fans in the past year. A roster undergoing a talent overhaul, a promising head coach, a young franchise quarterback, and a GM committed to building a contender.



But so much hinged on this one pick. Inexplicably, the best overall player in the draft was still on the board… defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Would the Bills reach for positional need like the bumbling New York Giants? Would they outsmart themselves and take a workout warrior whose talent was far less than his combine numbers? Or would they take the blindingly obvious choice? A man so fearsome and powerful that my friend, and Buffalo Fanatic, Adam Nannini refers to him as “Captain Insano,” because he shows no mercy.

“…Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston.” What followed was pure pandemonium. Elation. Disbelief that a franchise that has seemed cursed on so many occasions had finally struck gold.

Captain Insano

Ed Oliver may have played his college ball at Houston, but his success didn’t catch anyone by surprise. When Oliver committed to the Cougars he became the first 5-star recruit to ever commit to a school outside of the Power 5 conferences. He had offers from every major program but decided to stay at home in Houston where he’d only be 20 minutes away from his family.

Defensive tackles don’t produce as college freshman. Heck, they rarely even play. Fellow 2019 draftee Quinnen Williams, who was taken several spots before Oliver, played only in mop up duty as a freshman. Ndamukong Suh, the best college defensive tackle I’ve ever seen, played in 1 game as a freshman and had 1 tackle because freshman defensive tackles don’t produce.

Check that, freshman defensive tackles don’t produce unless they’re Ed freakin Oliver. Oliver didn’t just play as a freshman. He dominated. He was often the best player on the field. Oliver had 65 tackles, including 22 TFLs, and 5 sacks. The 22 TFLs was 2 more than Suh put up in his historic senior campaign that landed him as Heisman finalist. Oh, and Oliver put up his stats in 12 games compared to Suh’s 14.

Hello, Captain Insano.

Why 9th?

It’s shocking to me that Oliver fell to the 9th in the draft. After his crazy good freshman year, Oliver was the easy choice as the best draft prospect and even entered his sophomore season as the favorite for the Heisman trophy as a defensive tackle. After another dominating season, it was assumed Oliver would be the first overall pick in 2019.

Then, Houston struggled. Oliver missed a few games with injury and had an unfortunate interaction with head coach Major Applewhite during a game for wearing a jacket on the sideline. It wasn’t a big deal, but, to some, Oliver got labeled a potential character concern.

With his draft stock slipping a bit, Oliver blew everyone away at the combine and his Pro Day workouts. His numbers were staggering.

  • He ran 4.73 in the 40 yard dash, seven hundredths of a second slower than Devin Singletary
  • He matched Suh’s legendary strength with 32 reps on the bench press (225 lbs)
  • His shuttle time, which tests agility and change of direction, was 4.22. That’s faster than most running backs. It’s unheard of at 290 lbs.
  • His vertical jump of 37 inches is what you’d expect from a skill position player.

In short, the man is a physical freak. A quarterback-destroying cyborg forged in the center of the earth and released to wreak havoc on the NFL. And now, he wears a Bills jersey.

Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bill

Oliver’s season got off to a strong start. While his stats were relatively modest (2 tackles, no sacks), he was consistently pushing the pocket and making Sam Darnold uncomfortable. Oliver is similar in size, stature, and playing strength as two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald. There’s no guarantee that Oliver will have the same impact as Donald, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he does.

The Bills have had a good defense for the past several seasons. But the trajectory of this defense and this team went straight up when Roger Goodell stepped to the podium, lifted that index card, and uttered the words “Buffalo Bills select Ed Oliver.” Buffalo got a generational talent, a future All Pro, and the cornerstone of their defense for the next decade.

He’s Ed Oliver. Captain Insano. And he shows no mercy.