There was a passing of the torch Thursday night when the Buffalo Bills drafted defensive tackle Ed Oliver with the No. 9 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft as the heir apparent to longtime great Kyle Williams, who retired at the end of the 2018 season.
Much is expected of Oliver, the explosive pass rusher out of the University of Houston who from day one should slide into a starting role in Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 defense.
Oliver should step into the three-technique position that Williams occupied for the Bills. Replacing the on-field productivity and leadership in the locker room Williams displayed is a tough task, but after he was drafted by the Bills, Oliver received some words of encouragement from none other than Williams himself.
Williams—the former fifth-round draft pick out of LSU who developed into a beloved team captain—was a six-time Pro Bowler and the most popular and well-respected player in the locker room during the drought era.
In a story reported by Tim Graham of The Athletic, Williams revealed that he contacted Oliver through a series of text messages to share his advice to the talented pass rusher.
“Kyle Williams here. I’m sure you are sleeping after enjoying your night last night. Wanted to reach out and tell you congratulations and that you’re about to play for a city, organization and coaches who are the best in the business. Give all you got, and that city will open up for you! I’m pulling for you and can’t wait to watch you play. I’ll be around some. Let me know if you need anything!”
Oliver addresses a major concern for the Bills, giving Frazier a disruptive and athletic defensive tackle who can get after the quarterback and cause havoc in opposing backfields.
During his three years with the Cougars, Oliver totaled 53 tackles for loss to go with 13.5 sacks. Oliver is that rare talent who is extremely athletic with the requisite size, strength, and quickness needed to strike fear into opposing offensive linemen for years to come.
Oliver won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top defensive interior lineman during his sophomore season, and earned All-American honors after each of his three seasons in Houston.
How well does Williams think Oliver will adjust to life in the NFL?
“He’s one of the rare ones that’s really talented, but he’s got a hot motor, can run plays down from behind and can play sideline to sideline,” Williams said. “That gives me the thought that it’s important to him. He wants to play hard. When he comes into a culture built around team, I think he’s going to flourish.”
Why did Oliver slip out of the top five and into Buffalo’s lap with the ninth overall pick? Some teams had concerns about Oliver’s size (6’2”, 290 lbs) and maturity, according to Gil Brandt, the former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and a Hall of Fame scout.
Under general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills have created a team-first culture, where the individual success comes second to the team’s success.
How well does Williams think his heir apparent will fit into the process-centered locker room in Buffalo?
“They’re going to push the guy,” Williams told Graham in his article, “and if you don’t meet the expectations of the room and that building as far as matching the intensity of the way those guys work, they’re going to let you know about it.”
“There’s going to be a lot demanded of him. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to perform because that’s what the NFL is. The expectations that are set, you’re either going to rise to those, or they’re going to push you to them.”