When the Buffalo Bills made Ed Oliver the ninth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, there were plenty of people who thought the Bills had drafted the next Aaron Donald. While Oliver and Donald are of comparable size (they’re the same height and Oliver outweighs Donald by three pounds), their careers haven’t been remotely comparable thus far.
While the last line of that intro sounds like it may be a dig, I can assure you it’s not. Donald’s career hasn’t been comparable to any defensive tackle in the history of the game, so the comparisons to him brought completely unfair expectations for Oliver. Add in the fact that defensive tackles are often asked to do completely different things in different defenses, and anyone expecting Donald-esque production was bound to be disappointed.
Is this the year, though, where Oliver takes that next step towards becoming a consistent disruptive force up the middle? In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we’ll discuss just that idea.
Name: Ed Oliver
Height/Weight: 6’1” 287 lbs
Age: 24 (25 on 12/12/2022)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected in the first round (No. 9 overall) of the 2019 NFL NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: First-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Oliver enters the fourth year of his rookie deal, which is worth $19,565,156 overall. As a first-round pick, that total is fully guaranteed. For the 2022 season, Oliver carries a cap hit of $6,260,276 and a dead-cap number of $6,255,277. The team exercised the fifth-year option on his deal, so Oliver is under contract next year at a cap hit of $10.753 million.
2021 Recap: Oliver had another solid, if unspectacular, season for the Bills from a statistical standpoint. He totaled 41 tackles, ten of which went for a loss. Only Matt Milano had more tackles for a loss (TFLs) on the squad, and only Harrison Phillips had more tackles among the team’s defensive tackles. Oliver had 14 quarterback hits, which led the team, and he was second on the team in sacks with four. In the playoffs, Oliver had five tackles, one sack, one TFL, and two quarterback hits while playing on approximately 55% of the team’s postseason snaps. That was right in line with his total in the regular season, as Oliver played 58% of the regular-season snaps.
Positional outlook: Oliver is joined by a new-look interior defensive line grouping, as only Brandin Bryant and Eli Ankou remain from last year. Former teammate turned current teammate Jordan Phillips is back, and the Bills also added Tim Settle and DaQuan Jones via free agency. Prince Emili and C.J. Brewer are in camp as undrafted rookies.
2022 Offseason: Oliver is healthy and disrupting things in camp. He’s participated in all offseason workouts to date.
2022 Season outlook: I think this is the year where Oliver finally puts it all together. He finally has an elite edge rusher next to him in Von Miller who will help take attention away from him on the inside. He also has some legitimate options at tackle next to him, with the biggest piece (literally and figuratively) being Jones, who should be a tremendous upgrade at the one-tech spot next to Oliver. When playing next to Star Lotulelei, teams had to make a decision on which player they’d double-team in the middle, but Lotulelei was often ineffective enough where teams doubled Oliver. They also chose to double Oliver over Harrison Phillips last year. There were even times over the last few years where Buffalo was using Oliver as the two-gap guy rather than letting him attack as the three-tech where he’s most effective. That won’t have to happen anymore because Jones, Settle, and Phillips give the Bills the best group they’ve had with Oliver in his career. Buffalo’s defensive line is going to be a problem for teams come September and beyond, and one of the biggest problems in that group is going to be Oliver.