With the NFL draft over and the Buffalo Bills finalizing their roster, it has become increasingly more obvious that there will be open competition across the roster. This competition will also include the highly touted rookies of the Bills 2019 draft class. Each of Ed Oliver, Cody Ford, and Devin Singletary are expected to contribute substantially for the team in the upcoming season. But, it will not be given to them, as Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have made clear. So let’s take a look at what reasonable expectations should be for the talented newbies.
Expectations are already incredibly high for the number nine overall pick, and for good reason. Oliver is no stranger to the hype train. Formerly one of the highest rated recruits out of high school, Oliver went to play at the University at Houston, where he quickly lived up to the billing. Compiling 38.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks in two years, Oliver became a favorite for the number one overall pick coming into his junior season. For some asinine reason, the Cougars coaching staff insisted on playing Oliver out of position at nose tackle his final year- and even there he still managed to produce some. It impacted his draft stock in the best way possible for the Bills.
The Bills can talk about open competition all they please, but it’s clear Oliver was drafted to take the artist formerly known as Kyle Williams’ spot. Now the freakishly athletic tackle is in a system where he’ll be able to play his best position as a three-technique next to Star Lotulelei. Oliver is joining a defense that was already top-three defense in the NFL last season. Furthermore, that defense fielded plenty of young, talented players that should only progress this year. Betting odds are pointing towards Oliver too, with the line currently at +800. In this particular system and defense, Ed Oliver is a solid bet to at least contend for the honor.
Prediction: Runner Up Defensive Rookie of the Year
The massive mauler out of the University of Oklahoma, Ford was another spectacular value pick for the Bills. However, unlike Oliver, Ford will be in a wild offensive line competition for a starting spot. Beane addressed the line by adding seven offensive linemen in free agency. Luckily for Ford, the 6’8″ lineman can play both guard and tackle, and presumably will excel at one of them.
The new and improved line has a ton of experience and talent among it, and will give Ford a bit of leeway to develop. The rookie’s talent is undeniable, and it’s fair to assume he will win a spot on the right side of the line. One last point: it seems like the Bills want to be a play-action offense by establishing the run. Guess what? Ford’s best attribute is run-blocking.
Prediction: Starter at Guard
Beane came to play at the 2019 draft, and made another strong pick in the third round. Yet, this one is somewhat confusing, considering the logjam currently occupying the backfield. With TJ Yeldon and Frank Gore signed in free agency, and Lesean McCoy seemingly still plugged in at starter, it is unclear as to what Brian Daboll is planning on offense.
Still, Singletary is an electric runner who’s style is reminiscent of Tarik Cohen. It doesn’t stop there- both Cohen and Singletary had disappointing 40-yard dashes in the pre-draft process. It’s difficult to imagine Singletary will establish himself as the alpha right off the bat, but he’s too talented to keep on the bench. Maybe we’ll even see him break some ankles on the return team. The Bills may have their heir apparent to Shady, but the waters are too mucky to say he’ll earn a starting position right away.
Prediction: Third-Down Back