A continued affinity for misfit toys
Draft Grade: D
#9. Ed Oliver
Let’s start off with this.
I wrote this article in the days leading up to the NFL Draft. I had typed the tagline, “Buffalo, I’m looking at you” multiple times and decided to delete it. I didn’t want to drive a stake in the heart of a fan base I root for. As a fellow football fan, I feel for you. Rumors had Ed Oliver as a likely outcome for Buffalo at 9 and it made a lot of sense. After all, Buffalo had spent the 7th pick in the draft on a QB who cannot read a defense and has low spectrum adaptable mechanics. Allen can’t throw off his back foot, can’t throw flat footed and can’t throw moving to his left if the throw requires him to open his hips. He throws with his arm and stride which makes him highly erratic and hinders his touch. His ability to read a defense is so troubling that his college coach simplified his offense to cater to Allen. Buffalo followed suit in the 2nd half of his rookie season. Both of these issues are nearly impossible to fix when they start off this broken. With the 16th pick, Buffalo picked a LB with terrible instincts. That is impossible to fix. If there was a checklist for required traits of a LB, instincts would be trait number 1. For QB, ability to read a defense and adaptable mechanics would be very high on that list. Yet, Buffalo took 2 players who completely lack these critical traits. That’s why Ed Oliver makes a lot of sense. He too, is a misfit toy. A player who lacks traits critical for his position. The two most important traits for a defensive tackle are his hand technique and his ability to continue momentum. Ed Oliver fails in both of these areas. Not by NFL standards, Ed Oliver is behind the curve in both these areas by college standards.
As I stated in the first article, there was a time where I bought into the Ed Oliver hype. He flashed often during Houston’s games. The commentators threw a parade for him weekly, gushing ooo’s and aah’s like it was the 4th of July. He was electric. He was a human firework. The time came to dive into footage and focus on him and him alone. The shortcomings became very clear, very fast, and he fell out of 1st round consideration very quickly. He doesn’t accomplish anything with his hands. He gets figured out quickly. He hasn’t improved at all in his time at Houston. He has been asked to attack with reckless abandon and tasked with no responsibility. This has led many sources to propose that Oliver was used incorrectly at Houston. That is flatly wrong. He was placed in the only role where Oliver would succeed.
I originally expected to write about how Ed Oliver was going to leave Bills fans asking “what the hell is wrong with him” by October. Unfortunately, Beane has stolen that story from me. Recently, he stated that Oliver has a long way to go. Yeah, that’s one way of putting it. Here’s another way. Buffalo used the 9th pick in the draft on a DT who has a very slim chance of becoming an impactful player in this league. With the 9th pick Buffalo took a lottery ticket level gamble. 9 overall, for magic beans. In the pre-draft article, my editor chose the title. I hate the word bust as very few players qualify as a bust pre-draft. That being said, the leaps and bounds Oliver needs to make to be worthy of the 9th pick in the draft are truly daunting. Don’t get me wrong, it is very likely that he will be labelled a bust when all is said and done. I just hate that cliché overreacting click bait word. He will certainly disappoint.
Why? Well this is the best way I can describe it. Bear with me…
There was a failed assassination attempt on Hitler. On the eastern front, Hitler had built a command post with a number of bomb shelter dwellings. Tight quarters, surrounded and covered by 20 feet of concrete. A meeting was scheduled to be held in one of those dwellings and his enemies realized that if they snuck a bomb into the meeting the bomb shelter would play to their advantage. Bomb shelters are designed to keep a blast out, but if a small bomb was detonated inside the bomb shelter it would magnify the blast because there wasn’t enough space for the blast to dissipate. This would allow a little bomb to cause a lot of damage and certainly kill the target. A plan was put in place. The bomb fit into a leather briefcase. At the last moment, the meeting was moved to a common mess hall. An open air pavilion. While the bomb went off as planned, the new location allowed the blast to dissipate and it missed the target.
Houston put Oliver over the nose of the C or the G or even the T for a reason. That’s the only way Houston could get their little bomb in the tight quarters it required to do damage. Ed Oliver fires out of his stance with twitch and (pound for pound) power that grades out as highly as anyone who has ever played the game. However, if Ed Oliver can’t get into the body of the man blocking him on this initial burst, his momentum and power dissipates quickly. He isn’t a human firework, he is a human firecracker. Get too close and you get hurt, but if you give it the proper space and it’s completely harmless. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Oliver’s competition figures this out in a couple reps. Time and time again, you see his blocker lose the first couple reps only to alter technique, give up a step of ground and put their hands out quickly. It doesn’t require a well landed forceful punch to kill his momentum. All you need to do is give him enough space to avoid his initial burst. If you do, he will fall off balance and with his first step his momentum becomes easy to deal with. After non-NFL talent did this a time or two to Oliver, Houston moved him over the nose of another unsuspecting blocker, until he figured it out and Oliver was moved again. Buffalo plans to play him in a gap. This subtle move ruins the only great attribute Oliver has harnessed. He will burst into angles and hands and will not get into the body of the blocker. It seems counter-intuitive but Oliver’s burst does not help him penetrate gaps. It doesn’t cover the ground required to penetrate gaps. Watch his feet. He fires off his front leg but the feet don’t come along with his hips. He lunges at the OL. That generates force (but doesn’t cover ground) that he uses to bludgeon his way into the body of the blocker in an attempt to knock them off balance. He does this because his hand technique is non-existent and that is further compounded by his lack of length. He is at a reach disadvantage and struggles mightily to disengage or control.
The Buffalo defense desperately needs a Kawann Short. They desperately need an interior pass rusher. Ed Oliver is not a pass rusher. Ed Oliver is an undersized run stuffer. That is an oxymoron. That’s a misfit toy. You can’t fix his lack of length. You need to rework his get off so it covers ground. His hand technique needs to be developed from the basics on up. DTs with decent hand technique struggle in the NFL, DTs with great hand technique still take time to adjust to the NFL. Oliver has none. So as Beane said, he has a long way to go. So long in fact, that it’s hard to imagine him working out at all. At least we’ll always have tape of him kicking the hell out of a short fat kid playing center for Rice. Let’s not talk about the tape where he gets owned by Memphis’ Trevon Tate, who is the same size as Oliver, went undrafted this year and has already been cut by the Browns.
It is safe to say that after using the 9th pick in the draft on an undersized DT who is a developmental hail-mary, Buffalo had achieved a draft grade of F. That’s not fair, the truth is that Sean McDermott football Czar was the driving force behind this pick and he’s the one to blame for this F. The next pick, well, Buffalo’s scouts saved the draft.
#38. Cody Ford
Before I shower Ford with heaps of praise, I have to make a side note. Watching the war room footage of this pick was highly entertaining. Beane was trying to move up for Ford and was notified Carolina traded in before him. Beane was convinced that Carolina came in for Ford and he looked as if someone had killed his pet. He was devastated. A part of him died in that moment. He didn’t bother to realize that Carolina needed a LT (not a RT) and that Greg Little was the logical target. When he heard the pick was Little, he did a double take and snapped out of it to move in for Ford. Pure comedy.
A lot was made of Cody Ford’s disappointing combine. That was a lot of nonsense. Going into the combine I was of the belief that Cody Ford was the best OL prospect in the draft and that he could succeed at 4 OL slots. After the combine, I nixed him as a LT. He was on the edge of LT territory and he measured an inch shorter with a half inch shorter arms than I expected. He didn’t check in as athletic as he looks on film. For RT, that’s inconsequential. Cody Ford is a sure fire Pro-Bowl level guard. Cody Ford will eventually be comparable to Trent Brown at tackle. The eventual part to Cody Ford is due to inexperience. Ford was beaten a few times last year but it took a pass rush move that will play on Sunday to beat him. Raekwon Davis, and his condor length, got him on a tug and rip. Christian Miller got him on a perfectly timed gap swap against a zone set. Jennings leveraged him with a 1 armed reach and turned the corner. Yes, that’s all Alabama. Yes, that’s a list of NFL names. The Big 12 stood no match for him. Ok, 2nd round pick Ben Banogu swiped his hands off him once. Ford proceeded to destroy him the rest of the day. Those moves were able to get to Ford because he doesn’t have a developed toolbox of counter moves to combat NFL caliber rush moves. Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes are educating him in practice and that will sort itself out with time. Aside from those earned veteran tricks, Cody lacks one thing. Consistency. That’s common of college OL. Other than Lindstrom, Bradbury and Williams, every college OL in this class lacks consistency. Lindstrom is a guard only, Bradbury struggles with power and Williams can’t play tackle at the NFL level due to athletic, length and strength limitations. Cody Ford does not have limitations. Everything you look for in an OL Ford has put on tape. Very good feet, a powerful punch, plus movement and bend, anchor to spare, patience and the ability to move people. He has shown it all. When it all comes together consistently he will dominate. That’s not all. There are two traits Cody Ford should lack at this point in development that he excels at. First, Cody Ford has top notch field awareness. He isn’t going to get fooled by a stunt, his head is on a swivel and he will look for work until the whistle sounds. Second, he has a nuanced understanding of angles. When Ford gets to the 2nd level his feet set up for his next block. He looks for an attack angle where he can control, manipulate and bury the next target. He is not content to shove people or get in the way. He engages the next mark, often hitting anchor points, turns the defender and drives him out of the play. He doesn’t just create wash for other LBs to work through. He tries to drive his block into a 2nd and 3rd body. He builds piles on the 2nd level and he quickly sets the proper path to create them. These same angles are evident in his pass sets. From time to time a player with a big get off will put stress on Ford. He will shoot his hands, reset his feet, changing the angles and wall the DE off. Subtle, but impressive attributes that are uncommon in inexperienced players. When the pad level is the same every play, when his punch tightens a bit and when he learns a few tricks to clear hands off his chest when it gets exposed, he’ll be a complete RT. Run game mauler, pass pro plus. Unlike many prospects, you don’t have to ask if Ford can do these things. He’s proven he can do everything. He needs professional consistency and that comes with time. I’m excited to see his progress over the course of the season.
This selection saved Buffalo’s draft grade. Ford was that big of a steal. If you ignore where Ford and Oliver were drafted and take the two players at face value, Buffalo did alright. Ford at 9 was a good pick. Oliver at 38 still holds poor value but it’s far easier to stomach than taking Oliver at 9. Days before the draft it was leaked that teams were all over the place with their OL board. A poll of anonymous sources stated 5 different OL were seen as the top OL on the board. Ford was on that short list so seeing him fall into the 2nd round was stunning. Cody was the 4th rated player (yes, overall) on my board and I continue to stand by that. He is special.
#74. Devin Singletary
It’s like Buffalo is trying to be bipolar. RB value is at an all-time low. PFF harps on this and they are correct. RB is an over-valued position. That’s not to say Barkley, Zeke, DJ, Bell, McCaffrey and Kamara types are not valuable. Complete, clydesdale, game altering RBs are very valuable. Everyone else at the position is replaceable. Singletary is the latter, not the former. First off, only two RBs in this class received a 1st or 2nd day grade. Josh Jacobs coming in 30th. Justice Hill in the 3rd round. Singletary had a 5th round grade but despite the value grade I wouldn’t have wanted him at all. That’s a big reach at 74. Buffalo drafted him ahead of a number of RBs that I had rated higher. From the sounds of it, Beane fell in love with the film on Singletary, so the blame falls on him this time. At 5’7 205lbs, Singletary has the body for the job. The height isn’t a negative, and his compact build is intriguing. He has two elite traits. His vision is multiple level elite. He doesn’t see the hole, he sees the entire chain of holes to the end zone. He is elusive with fantastic bouncy feet. He can make people miss in a phone booth. Sources were slipping him into the 1st round at one point in the offseason. I was not in that group because there are problems with Singletary’s game. On tape, it is noticeable that he is slow and it isn’t the acceptable form of slow. There are a number of backs in this league who succeed with 40 times in the high 4.5s. Singletary is a 4.66 guy. That’s fine if he lacked breakaway (long) speed. That’s not the case. He lacks burst. Singletary can make you miss in a phone booth but he stays in the phone booth with you. NFL level pursuit is going to finish him off before he gets back up to full speed. Making tacklers miss is a great trait but you have to follow that up with a burst if you want to do damage. He doesn’t have that. Vision is also important, but if you can’t shoot the gap, it’s not going to work on this level. Seeing his incredible agility on film paired with a 7.32 3 cone should have set off every warning bell and hazard alarm in your head. That’s a number that, if you are high on him, should make you go back and re-watch the tape. It’s nearly impossible to have his on film agility and run a 3 cone that poor. It only happens when you lack burst. While Singletary shows great balance and power in the 2nd level, he lacks power between the tackles. He is an abysmal pass blocker and his receiving routes are sloppy and easy pickings for LB’s to track. Put that all together and that is a misfit toy. A small power back without power between the tackles. A web back with no burst or 3rd down ability. In games vs Miami, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Air Force he totaled 60 carries for 219 yards (3.65 avg) and 7 catches for 22 yards (3.15 avg). Does that seem like an explosive player to you or does that seem like a kid who got fat on terrible competition? I’ve seen comparisons to Cohen and there is no comparison. I’ve seen MJD, which is absurd. I do not see a role for Singletary in the NFL. If I haven’t made myself clear enough, I really wish Matt Colburn UDFA RB out of Wake Forest would get cut by the Rams so that Buffalo could claim him. He’d give Singletary a run for his money. I think Elijah McGuire, who is supposedly on the roster bubble for the Jets, would be an upgrade. That’s a bad pick.
#96. Dawson Knox
The pattern continues. Miss, hit, miss, hit. Dawson Knox was my 4th rated TE in this draft class. Hock, Fant, Warring and Knox. He received a middle of the 3rd round grade. Again, the war room recap shows Buffalo jumping in because they saw a TE run happening and wanted to get ahead of NE for one of the last TEs they liked. I don’t agree with the logic but it worked out. Knox started at Ole Miss as a walk on QB/athlete. He turned himself into a TE while playing for the Rebels and their offense did its best to make sure he stayed a hidden gem. He didn’t get the usage he deserved. He played TE but the demand of the position at Ole Miss does not look anything like what he will be asked to do in the NFL. This makes Knox’s outlook open to interpretation. You can’t turn on film and see a wealth of examples that qualify as proof of future success, but you can see the traits that project. His traits are impressive. He is a smooth mover in his routes and shows plus agility and speed for the position. His post catch work leaves me to believe that his routes can continue to gain sharpness (COD is plus) but they will gain separation at the NFL as is. He is a natural hand catcher. At this time, he hasn’t shown elite high point skills but he can elevate and adjust to a ball well enough. His past at QB can’t be overlooked. He could be Josh Allen’s telepathic link in due time. However, the value of Knox comes in his projection to the inline role. If Ole Miss didn’t split him out as a slot WR he was often used as a WB/HB/offset TE. His pass blocking from this alignment shows positive results. His run blocking shows the strength and tenacity needed, but his hands fall off the defender far too easy. He rarely had a chance to block like an NFL inline TE but when he did, he moved his man and was able to seal the edge. With improved anchor points and technique his game will grade positively in all areas. Being able to play inline dramatically increase his value and I expect him to make Kroft an expensive backup/cap casualty.
#147. Vosean Joseph
Two words define Vosean Joseph. Dangerous and sloppy. Dangerous for you, dangerous for them, and soo sloppy that it’s hard to say he is a LB. The fitting position is a college recruiting ambiguous “athlete” designation. During the season, I was a fan of Vosean Joseph. He flashes, he shows range and he plays with a nasty demeanor. His blitzes and flow to the outside zone is where he is dangerous for them. When you watch him and his keys on film you realize that he is a huge liability on the field. He reads the play very slowly and his instincts are below average. He is a full step slow to get his feet going, he allows receivers to eat too much cushion in man coverage (then grabs them) and he allows blockers to climb to the 2nd level and put their hands on him before he tries to combat the block. He is behind constantly. On top of that, he doesn’t move in a straight line unless he’s coming down hill. When you watch LB movement you want to see straight lines and crisp change of direction angles. Joseph meanders like an old river. Part of this is because he plays too high and part of this is because his footwork is terrible. That wastes steps, which wastes his speed. Worst of all, are his keys and this is where he becomes dangerous to you as a liability. Vosean will stare down 1 key. When the play is zone right or left he’ll read it properly and race to his gap responsibility. If the key is a lie, he’ll still race to that gap responsibility. Misdirection will fool him soo badly that he won’t recover, at all. He doesn’t see the field, his awareness is poor so he locks in on 1 key and guesses off that simple read. He’ll bite hard on play action, and if the offense shifts and changes his responsibility, well your guess is as good as his. South Carolina scored 2 early TDs effortlessly because they made him think. These issues are all but impossible to overcome. What you should likely expect from Vosean is a mean spirited guy for your kick coverage and punt block teams. If Buffalo played the 3-4, I could see him as a blitz only buck LB. The blitzing part of Deone Bucannon’s game. That’s the only thing he can do on defense though. Vosean’s inability to read the field, and his complete lack of footwork is so poor that bringing it up to bad would be an accomplishment. Mediocre would be herculean. Below average instincts coupled with that leave me to believe that this is a wasted pick. He flashed, and shows the athletic capabilities for the NFL, but the body of work shows a player who shouldn’t have been drafted.
#181. Jaquan Johnson
Big dog little fight, small dog huge fight. You don’t need to wake him up or motivate him. Just turn on the BC game and watch him take on TEs and OLs in the box and you’ll see what I mean. When he gets blocked by a WR, the WR loses. Sound tackler, turn-over creator. Puts his shoulder, head on the ball or is looking for the strip. Instincts are there. He is field aware. His lines of pursuit show a little bend towards the LOS but it’s a step from being ideal. Unfortunately, he’s one of the players that revealed at the combine why his draft stock wasn’t that high. 4.64-4.69 40 times at 5’10 190 do you no favors. It shows up on film too. His first 5 yards are quick, but he definitely lacks top end speed. While he didn’t run the 3 cone I suspect he would have put up a promising number based on his quickness. Miami used him in single high, 2 high and often in the box. Single high should be avoided. His speed will cover the deep middle properly (3 high would work) but he will not be able to challenge at the boundaries. Half field range in 2 high is not a problem but contested catches will always be a weakness due to height and leap limitations. He has the physicality to challenge in the box but shouldn’t be tasked with as much as Miami asked of him. I believe he is a less athletic Kenny Moore of the Colts or Desmond King of the Chargers. Johnson gives up a tenth of a second of long speed, and 8 inches of vertical (1 to King) but they play a similar game. Side note, both of them have better length than Johnson as well. Playing zone slot corner would greatly limit the negative impact his long speed will have on the game. His toughness can help make up for his size limitations. Miami put him in that role often but tasked him with matchups on bigger TEs. He played a lot of off coverage and liked to lay a big hit on the receiver 5 yards off the LOS. Versus TE’s this didn’t help his cause (it slowed him down more than it slowed them down) but you have to admire the spirit. It was what Miami asked of him. If tasked with a zone slot CB role his feet would keep him in position to make a play on the ball, he’d hold his area and you can play a lot of games with him. The 40 time and size hurts his value, and there is no way to overcome that. However, this is a good player and there are ways to hide his weaknesses while allowing his strengths to pay dividends. (2 high FS or zone slot CB will do the trick)
#225. Darryl Johnson
I won’t pretend I knew of him before the draft. NC A&T has to have something pretty special to hit the radar. (Cohen, Parker) After the draft I went back to find some tape on him. A full game versus Alcorn State will suffice for a basic level view on him. I sat back and expected to see an FCS player who was drafted destroy undraftable FCS competition. That’s not what you see. He’s long, he has a good get off and he plays hard. He showed gap integrity and run defense intelligence by collapsing and holding position vs the read option. That’s pretty much it. His pass rush “moves” consist of a shoulder dip, an outside “swim” (dodging punches) and a rough spin move. They won’t work in the NFL. He doesn’t shorten corners, he doesn’t bend the edge and he looks too awkward/stiff to do so. One positive is that I don’t think he knows what he’s doing yet. Strategically he gets it, technically he hasn’t started to develop. He doesn’t even know how to protect his legs from a cut block yet. Being big and fast was enough to make bad competition open the gate. Frankly, he doesn’t seem to know he has arms or that he can use them. He doesn’t disengage once a player is able to grab him. It’s a 7th round ball of clay selection. Truthfully, I’ve seen more interesting balls of clay. Coach him up, good luck. The measurables and get off are enough to dream on I guess.
#228. Tommy Sweeney
Needs to work on his hand placement and hand strength in the blocking game. He shows the physicality to move defenders but they are able to roll off his blocks and disengage too easily. Beyond that there are a lot of things to like. He has great hands and he shows good patience on his misdirection routes. His routes are very good although his agility and speed are not dynamic enough to gain much separation. He sells routes well and he knows how to set up his breaks. His pass blocking is also a positive. He’s coached well. The ceiling is pretty low on him because he isn’t athletically gifted. He’s build up speed slow and tops out as a solid back up inline TE if he improves his hands in the run blocking game. If not, he’s a special teamer.
So, I assume the Bills Mafia is a touch salty at me for saying all this. Does it help that I think the Patriots draft was downright hilariously bad? None of this is said with an axe to grind. All of this is observation off of film and film doesn’t lie. This is your draft class. It isn’t good and I’m sorry your team continues to miss obvious and insurmountable flaws during the scouting process.