When the Bills made Tremaine Edmunds the 16th pick in the 2018 draft after a bold move up the board for a second time in round one, it provided them with a legitimate starting option at middle linebacker. The move was critical, knowing the position was absent a proven starter with the free agent departure of Preston Brown.
But what should we expect from a rookie linebacker, who according to all indications will be running Buffalo's defense as a 20-year old?
Fortunately for the Bills, the early signs are very encouraging.
1. High football IQ
If there's one thing that Edmunds has in spades it's a football acumen that goes far beyond his actual age. He may just be starting his third decade of life, but Edmunds football IQ is off the charts and there's a reason why.
"When my two older boys went off to college, Tremaine was the only one left," said Tremaine's father, former NFL tight end Ferrell Edmunds, who coached his sons in high school. "So some days he'd come home from school and I'd be watching film at home and he'd sit next to me and watch too.
"At first, he would just watch himself and the things he was doing. Then he started breaking down film and watching the guys in front of him and what they might be doing wrong. So that would really enhance his game on the field."
"I took it upon myself to sit down with my dad and really discuss what's going on, on both sides of the ball," Edmunds said. "That's helped me to this day."
And after only spring practices, Edmunds' defensive coordinator believes the linebacker's instincts are readily apparent on film.
"His ability to gather information and then transfer it to the field has been very similar with what we saw with Tre'Davious (White)," said Leslie Frazier. "You don't have some of the concerns that you ordinarily would have with most rookies because of that. Their ability to process information and then handle it in game situations or practice situations at this point… it's pretty impressive."
He takes command of the huddle, doesn’t really have the deer in the headlights look where you know, this is really too much or overwhelming. You can kind of see him really at ease out there. Kind of just taking that leadership role in stride. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes
2. On field leadership
Edmunds also appears to have innate leadership skills, which again goes back to his high school playing days under his father. Ferrell Edmunds had his three sons lead by example and police the locker room.
"Their friends respected them and that put me in a position where they could control the locker room," said Edmunds father. "That really helped me out a whole lot."
It also figures to help the Bills. With head coach Sean McDermott asking Edmunds to run the defense, he's in a natural leadership position. To this point Edmunds has shouldered that responsibility without blinking.
"I'm willing to take on that role and I'm excited to take on that role," Edmunds told Buffalobills.com. "Now I just have to earn that respect from those guys and have them trust me. So me coming out and getting in my playbook and learning those things and making those plays out there will allow those guys to trust me."
"He takes command of the huddle, doesn't really have the deer in the headlights look where you know, this is really too much or overwhelming," said Jerry Hughes. "You can kind of see him really at ease out there. Kind of just taking that leadership role in stride."
3. Playmaking skills
If there's a major difference between Edmunds and his predecessor, it's the level of talent. Preston Brown was a third-round pick for a reason. His playmaking skills were slightly above average. Edmunds playmaking skills are at an elite level.
At 6-4 and 250 pounds with 34 ½-inch arms, Edmunds runs a 4.54 40, and can broad jump 11-feet, nine inches. He's such a fluid athlete, that even the most veteran of teammates on Buffalo's roster are impressed by his physical stature.
"Tremaine is a freak," said Lorenzo Alexander flatly. "The first day I met him, he's like 6-5 and I'm looking up at him. But he's very intelligent and smart. He's very mature for his age."
"The kid is huge," said Hughes.
"He's so long and athletic, he takes up so much space and can cover so much ground, it'll be interesting to see what the Bills ask him to do," said his head coach at Virginia Tech, Justin Fuente. "We put him on the edge to rush the passer at times. I think his skill set is only set by your imagination. What you want him to do, he's going to do. He can do a variety of things at the next level."
Buffalo's coaching staff fully understands that with all that Edmunds has been asked to master that there will be some mix ups on occasion. They're not expecting perfection, but the rookie linebacker is striving for that.
"I mean he's out there commanding the huddle, he's getting us set, you know he's communicating with not only the front but the guys in the back as well," said Hughes. "For someone so young, I know he is 20 -years-old, but he doesn't really show his age. I catch him in the breakfast hall and he has his notecards, he's going over plays. He's a real, true pro. I love to see that in a young guy coming in."
"He's persistent," said Alexander. "I'm happy with his demeanor and the way he's controlling himself, and approaching the game every single day. He's working on something every day and getting better, so I can't wait to see when they let him loose and he can go and start hitting people and covering people and really make a huge impact."
"There will be some rookie mistakes along the way, but the way he's handled the classroom, the things that he's done on the field up to this point, and the way he has kind of meshed with his teammates as well has been great," said Frazier. "When you come in, particularly when you're a first round pick, the veterans are kind of looking at you just trying to get a feel for you. He's done a great job of kind of blending in with his teammates. It's asking a lot of a rookie, but up to this point, he's handled it extremely well, so [I] don't really see any indication that that won't continue."