Players drafted in the opening rounds of the NFL draft aren’t expected to spend much time on the bench. Teams expect their top draft picks to come in and make an impact almost immediately.
Buffalo made four picks in the opening three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft which begs the question, who will make the most immediate impact?
Ed Oliver, defensive tackle
Ed Oliver seems like the clear-cut answer. Selected with the ninth overall pick, the defensive tackle form Houston has the potential to be a game-changer. He’s the only Bills draft pick of the first four rounds on the defensive side of the ball and enters a group that was already one of the league’s best.
Oliver is seen as a replacement at the three-technique position for Kyle Williams. Oliver has lofty expectations set on him but he still has to earn the starting job over veteran Jordan Phillips.
The potential for Oliver to disrupt opposing offensive lines is high. No longer will he be the lone star on a defensive front and have to fight his way through double and sometimes triple teams throughout games as he did in college. As an elite pocket disruptor, Oliver adds another element to the Bills pass rush and is certainly athletic enough to help against the run as well.
Cody Ford, offensive tackle
The Bills highly value tackle Cody Ford and traded up to draft him with the sixth pick of the second round. Ford played on one of the best offensive lines in college at Oklahoma. Ford shows a physicality and nastiness that the coaching staff value. After injuries to some veterans during spring workouts he took advantage of the reps he got with the starting unit at right tackle. He quickly proved himself a legitimate contender for the starting role.
Ford’s impact won’t be seen on the stat sheet, but if his side of the line is successful his impact will be seen.
Devin Singletary, running back
Devin Singletary won’t be the opening day starter as it currently stands. Singletary has been working with the first-team offense during spring workouts and his ability to make tacklers miss has been on display even without pads.
Singletary has a duo of running backs ahead of him in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore and the Bills won’t be quick to move on from the veteran duo. It’s likely the Bills can use a committee at the position this season but McCoy is determined to show he can still be a work horse and Gore still has his moments even as the oldest running back in the league.
Singletary will certainly need to earn his carries this season and figures to be on the field at times. But guessing his workload week to week is premature.
Dawson Knox, tight end
Dawson Knox might be the third rookie starting Week 1. Tyler Kroft is still recovering from a broken foot and Jason Croom’s injuries left him out of minicamp. The rookie tight end was the beneficiary as Knox received nearly all of his reps with the top offensive unit.
Knox projects to be a better pass-catcher than seventh-round pick Tommy Sweeney and Lee Smith, due to his superior athleticism. If Kroft is not available leading up to the regular season, Croom will be the only thing standing in the way of Knox ascending to the primary pass catching role at the position.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has worked with some star tight ends in the past and the Bills would benefit from any contributions they can get from Knox this season.
These rookies have yet to put pads on but their roles are already being defined. Oliver and Ford currently look like they’ll make the most immediate impact followed by Knox and Singletary.