“I don’t think I found my home. I think my home found me.”
Those were the words of Bills first-round pick Ed Oliver less than 24 hours after the club made him the ninth pick in the 2019 draft.
Oliver was describing Buffalo as a franchise and the city at large. Following his pre-draft visit, the Houston product was convinced that if the stars were properly aligned that this is where he should be.
His new general manager felt the same way.
“He's a competitor. He's tough. He plays from the snap to the echo of the whistle,” said Brandon Beane. “He fits Buffalo, how we do things.”
But why do Oliver and the Bills believe this to be a perfect match?
GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott constantly reiterate how they look for players with “their DNA.” A player committed to the daily grind in preparation for games, committed to his teammates like they’re family and when games come around, giving his level best on every play.
24/7 University of Houston beat reporter Rob Sellers, in an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, confirmed that is exactly what the Bills are getting.
“The motor that (Oliver) came in with that made him a five-star recruit out of high school is what makes him a next level defensive tackle,” said Sellers. “He’s been dominant at this level. He had his better games against the Power 5 conference schools. He got up for the bigger games that they had. Potentially the best player I’ve covered in my 10 years of doing this.”
“What I can do better than anyone else is run around and play as hard as possible,” said Oliver.
“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,” said McDermott flatly. “We're excited to see him in our system and integrate him into what we do and integrate him into the guys we already have in that room.”
NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlein sees a natural fit schematically between Oliver and Buffalo’s defense.
“Being in Buffalo and playing for the Bills in the NFL is going to bring out the best in Ed Oliver,” said Zierlein. “They’re going to put him in a position to succeed from a positional standpoint and not line him up over the center. That did him a disservice in college.
“Oliver is so explosive in his first step if he can get into gaps quickly instead of playing head up on guys he can be an incredibly disruptive player. You can run at Ed Oliver. You cannot run away from him. He’s too fast. You can never get a reach block on him. When you turn the tape on there are flashes that are really, really special.”
“I’ll be playing three-technique,” said Oliver of his role with the Bills. “I can help guys on the outside by getting pressure up the middle. Get sacks, win games.”
There is also an inherent desire in Oliver to be great. A player who wants to excel in every aspect of the game that he loves. Sellers saw it before Oliver ever played a down for Houston.
“Every spring practice they had the year before he was officially enrolled he was there standing next to the D-line coach taking mental reps before he could even participate,” said Sellers. “Then when he took the field… he’s just a very intense player when he’s on the field. He’s all business. He doesn’t play around. He’s not mean or nasty or dirty or anything. He’s just a tremendous player and that motor is what has made him who he is. His motor has never stopped. I’ve never seen him quit on a play ever.”
That relentless work ethic can be traced to his father Ed Oliver Sr., a construction worker by trade and his grandfather, who was a brick layer.
“Deep down he was raised well, he’s a good kid and we spent a lot of time,” said Beane. “Sean and I were actually at his pro day. Leslie Frazier, (defensive line coach) Bill Teerlinck, (Director of College Scouting) Terrance Gray went down there and spent some more time with him, as we do with a lot of these guys. We do our due diligence. Obviously, the film is what it is but, you know how much we care about who the people are and we checked that box before we gave him that status on our board.”
McDermott got so close to Oliver during his pro day workout that the defensive tackle almost ran him over during a snap against a tackle dummy. Oliver was finishing his rush angle and pulled up just in time to only brush shoulders with the Bills head coach.
So it’s no surprise McDermott felt an energy coming off Oliver that he felt would be a major asset on his defense.
“When you’re around people that want it and are passionate about what they do, you can smell that, you can feel it,” said McDermott. “Really more than anything the (key is the) competitive nature of this young man. He wants it and that hunger is a critical piece that we look for.”
Check out photos of Buffalo's first-round draft pick Ed Oliver on his first day at One Bills Drive. Bills draft coverage is presented by ECMC.