Bills draft Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver with 9th pick
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Sean McDermott didn’t need to be reminded about the impression defensive tackle Ed Oliver made during his pro day workout at the University of Houston.
The Buffalo Bills coach got such an up-close look at Oliver last month, he almost got run over by the 6-foot-1, 287-pound player.
Joking he had no problem getting out of Oliver’s way, McDermott turned serious in discussing what he saw in the player Buffalo selected with the ninth pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
“You could feel his presence and energy,” McDermott said. “The closer you got, the more you felt the quickness, the more you felt the power, the more you felt the juice.”
It’s that type of athletic ability and power the Bills hope can fill an immediate need on a defensive line that has to replace Kyle Williams, who retired after his 13th season in Buffalo last winter.
“No one’s going to ever replace Kyle Williams, so I just want to manage expectations,” McDermott said, referring to a player who was the team’s unquestioned on- and off-field leader.
“Ed Oliver is going to come in and, No. 1, earn everything that he gets,” he added. “He’s a good player that plays hard, brings his lunch pail. And he’s a guy that fits the way we play on the field.”
After Oliver spent his three years at Houston playing directly over the opposing center, the Bills plan to shift him to an outside position, next to returning starting nose tackle Star Lotulelei. That puts Oliver in a better position to take advantage of his quick-footed ability to penetrate the backfield.
Oliver, who entered the draft after his junior season, was a three-time All-America selection and led the FBS by combining for 50 tackles for loss or no gain over the last three years.
He had his most productive year in 2017, when he was awarded the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best interior lineman, and also earned AAC defensive player of the year honors. Oliver was credited with 73 tackles, 16 1/2 tackles for a loss and 5 1/2 sacks in 12 games.
An injury to his right knee led to a drop in production last year, when Oliver finished with 54 tackles, 14 1/2 for a loss and three sacks in eight games.
The NFL’s scouting report referred to Oliver as being a “twitched-up ball of explosive fury from the moment he comes out of his stance.”
The only real knock against him was his relative lack of NFL size.
Oliver isn’t concerned.
“All I can say about that is it will all come to fruition in due time,” Oliver said. “I just want to come and help my team compete, and compete for a starting job.”
He particularly enjoyed his pre-draft visit to the Bills headquarters, and said Buffalo felt a lot like home.
The other question mark regarding Oliver, was him getting into a shouting match with Houston coach Major Applewhite on the sideline during a game against Tulane in November. Still sidelined by the knee injury, Oliver declined Applewhite’s order to take off the black jacket he was wearing because it was reserved for those who were playing.
Applewhite later released a statement saying what happened “was not indicative” of Oliver’s character, and added the two can learn from what happened.
White called it a misunderstanding, and said he respects Applewhite.
On Thursday, Oliver said, there is no lingering tension between him and Applewhite. “That’s in the past, and I’m ready to go play ball,” he added.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the team determined the confrontation was a non-issue.
The Bills were so high on Oliver, they entertained the possibility of trading up a few spots for the opportunity to draft him. That option wasn’t required after Oliver dropped several spots due to the New York Giants selecting Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth pick, and Oakland using the fourth pick to select Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell.
“You never know how it’s going to fall. There were other good players on offense, too, that were around,” Beane said. “But this was a pick that we felt fit a need as well.”
Beane had several options open after addressing numerous needs, mostly on offense, by signing 18 veterans in free agency over the past two months.
Oliver joins a defense that allowed the second fewest yards in the NFL last season. And he becomes the first defensive tackle selected in the first round by Buffalo since the team drafted Marcell Dareus with the third pick in 2011.
The Bills have nine picks left and spread over the final six rounds, including the 40th overall pick in the second round.