LARAMIE — It will take a few years to know for sure, but many believe the Buffalo Bills took another step toward turning things around with their most recent draft class.
That includes the young quarterback the Bills are building around.
Josh Allen, who realized his NFL dream a year ago when the Bills drafted the former Wyoming quarterback with the No. 7 overall pick, gave the team’s eight-player draft his seal of approval. The Bills have been a long-suffering franchise thanks in part to some questionable draft picks that have flamed out over the years, but Allen is among those who believe the team not only addressed most of its needs this year but got value in the process.
“I liked it,” said Allen, who started 11 games as a rookie after becoming the highest-drafted player in Wyoming history. “I’ve talked to (the draftees) a little bit. They’re hungry to come here, start competing and push each other to win football games here.”
The Bills used the ninth overall pick to select Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who was widely considered a steal for Buffalo at that spot considering his talent and production. Oliver, who draws comparisons to Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald given his quickness and explosion for a shorter interior lineman (6-foot-2), was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in college football the last three seasons, finishing his career with 193 tackles, 54 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Oliver also fills a need for the Bills, who lost veteran All-Pro defensive tackle Kyle Williams to retirement after last season. Oliver is expected to immediately fill that void.
“I talked to Ed a little bit, and he seems like a great guy,” Allen said. “Obviously he’s a tremendous talent. That’s a big spot with Kyle leaving last year, but he’s going to jump right in. We’re going to bring all of these guys into our team and make them our family.”
The Bills then turned their attention to Allen specifically when they used their second-round pick on Oklahoma’s Cody Ford in an effort to continue improving what was one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. Buffalo was 30th out of 32 teams in total offense and produced the second-fewest passing yards in the league in part because it had a hard time keeping its quarterbacks upright.
The 6-4, 340-pound Ford projects more as a guard at the next level, but with the Bills signing four interior linemen in free agency, he’ll likely get his first look with the Bills at tackle when the team opens rookie minicamp Friday. The Bills allowed 41 sacks last season, which ranked in the top half of the league.
“I know he was pretty high on our draft board just talking to certain people,” Allen said of Ford. “Excited we got another piece to put out there.
“He looks like a pretty dangerous guy on the field. He’s got a lot of tenacity. Super strong. Super powerful. Can move a little bit, too. He fits into our system, and I’m excited to meet him when he gets up here this weekend.”
The Bills continued to put pieces around Allen, particularly at the skill positions where proven playmakers are lacking. They took Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary with their first of two third-round picks and Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox with the other. Buffalo added another tight end, Boston College’s Tommy Sweeney, in the seventh round.
That’s on top of the Bills signing veteran running back Frank Gore and receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency. Only time will tell, but Allen said he’s confident all the additions have a franchise that has just one playoff appearance in the last 19 years in better position to snap out of its prolonged funk.
“I think we’re very close,” Allen said. “We have a great core of players from last year, and then our front office went out and did a great job in the offseason adding some guys at certain positions.”