Last April the Bills selected eight rookies in the 2019 draft and it is looking like this may be the most impactful rookie class of the Sean McDermott-Brandon Beane era. With what seems to be the best class Buffalo has seen in a while, how did our rookies stack up against others at their position and who did Buffalo leave on the board?
Pick 9, Ed Oliver, DT
As the 2019 draft drew closer and closer, Ed Oliver was clearly who the Bills were targeting, especially after head coach Sean McDermott got visibly excited at Oliver’s pro day. Trying to avoid trading up for their target, Buffalo got lucky as Oliver fell in their lap with the ninth pick and it looked like an absolute layup. Almost a year later, Oliver has developed nicely and is showing he was worth the investment.
Following a slow start to his career, Oliver finished the year with 43 total tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble. The Houston product took a while to adjust to the NFL, drawing “bust” rumors after failing to record a single sack. Oliver finished the last half of the season with his best performances and all five of his sacks, setting him up for a productive year two.
Only one defensive tackle was selected ahead of Oliver, as Buffalo’s divisional rival, the New York Jets selected Quinnen Williams who racked up only 28 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery. Oliver easily outperformed Willilams, which has to be a good feeling for Buffalo. Christian Wilkins was selected by the Miami Dolphins thirteenth overall and finished with 55 total tackles and two sacks. Dexter Lawrence, who was selected by the New York Giants tallied 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Currently, Oliver is clearly the most productive defensive tackle from this class thus far and looks to have been a solid pick for Brandon Beane.
Pick 38, Cody Ford, OT
Ford, a product of Oklahoma, was projected by many to be a first round draft choice. After slipping into the second round, Buffalo traded up to snag Ford which looks to have been a solid move. With an absolute overhaul at offensive line, Buffalo had the opportunity to bring Ford along slowly, creating a consistent rotation with veteran Ty Nsekhe that worked wonders. When Nsekhe went down with an injury late in the season, Ford stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat.
Although stats are harder to track for offensive linemen but Ford seems to have been a solid pick. Buffalo needed offensive line help, the Bills left players like A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders, Mecole Hardman and DK Metcalf on the board.
Pick 74, Devin Singletary, RB
Singletary and Frank Gore combined to form a pretty solid running back tandem in 2019 but Singletary is looking to take the next step in 2020. Singletary rushed the balls 151 times for 775 yards and two touchdowns, leading the team in rushing yards. The FAU product also hauled in 29 receptions for 194 yards and two scores. Recording almost 1,000 scrimmage yards is a good sign for Singletary’s development.
Josh Jacobs who went in the first round to the Raiders finished as a top rusher in the league with 1,150 rush yards and seven touchdowns and 166 receiving yards. Miles Sanders who went to the Eagles in the second round finished with 818 yards and three scores and added 509 receiving yards and three touchdown catches. Two players the Bills left on the board when selecting Singletary were wide receiver Terry McLaurin and defensive end Chase Winovich.
Pick 96, Dawson Knox, TE
The Bills traded back into the third round to take Knox who had a unique role at Ole Miss where he never recorded a single touchdown in a crowded offense with fellow 2019 draftees A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf. After Tyler Kroft went down with injury, Knox stepped into the starting role and flourished with 28 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Knox certainly has potential to be a top tight end in the league in the future.
Knox outperformed top tight end choice, T.J. Hockenson who’s season was cut short by injuries. Hockenson’s college teammate and Denver Broncos’ first round pick Noah Fant finished 2019 with 40 catches and 562 yards with three touchdowns. Knox did gain more yards than Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr., Bengals’ Drew Sample and Jacksonville’s Josh Oliver who were all selected before him.
Pick 147, Vosean Joseph, LB
Joseph looked like a solid pick up and a critical special teams contributor until his season was cut short before it even started. Joseph got hurt in the offseason and was put on injured reserve before the season-opener.
Linebackers like Mack Wilson and Dre Greenlaw were selected shortly after Joseph and could have made a bigger impact. Buffalo also passed on Hunter Renfrow.
Pick 181, Jaquan Johnson, S
Johnson had a really good career at Miami and played pretty well in Buffalo in 2019. Johnson only finished with eight tackles on the season but pitched in on special teams.
Pick 225, Darryl Johnson Jr., DE
Johnson was said to be a project coming out of North Carolina A&T but carved out a solid reserve defensive end spot. Johnson finished with 15 total tackles and a sack.
Pick 228, Tommy Sweeney, TE
Sweeney had eight receptions for 114 yards which is way more production than I ever anticipated getting from him. Sweeney looked like he could step into a much bigger role behind Knox in 2020.
Buffalo had production of some sort from every active rookie on their roster. Can the Bills follow up with another great draft in 2020?