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Ed Oliver Can Fill The Void Left By Dalvin Tomlinson

The Buffalo Bills defensive tackle is a worthy trade target.

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK

Recently, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver shared a series of images that showed him sacking three quarterbacks in the NFC North. First there’s a picture of him sacking Justin Fields. Next, there’s a photo of him sacking Aaron Rodgers, where he linked the song Feds Watching by 2 Chainz. Finally, there’s a picture of Jared Goff getting sacked which featured some laughing emojis.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Ed Oliver did not post a picture of him sacking Kirk Cousins. This is in stark contrast to the other three photos that depicted other NFC North quarterbacks getting humiliated. Instead, he said quote: “Enjoyed myself”. The timing of the post along with the caption on his photo featuring the Vikings offense intrigued me. I thought to myself: “Is Ed Oliver trying to send a coded message?” Eh, Probably not.

Even though Oliver’s mention of the Vikings likely has no correlation with him potentially wanting to be traded, I started to think about how he would fit on Minnesota’s roster. I quickly came to the conclusion that he would be a great trade target for the Minnesota Vikings.

Dalvin Tomlinson’s departure leaves the Vikings with a big hole to fill at defensive tackle. Although Minnesota signed former Green Bay Packers DL Dean Lowry to a 2-year deal, the talent gap between Lowry and Tomlinson is significant. I understand that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is trying to play money ball by signing someone with a near-identical pressure rate to Tomlinson, but I don’t think Lowry will have the same overall impact as Dalvin Tomlinson did. In his time with the Packers, Lowry was mediocre as a run defender. Below are his run defense grades from the last three seasons.

PFF Run Defense Grades By Year

2020: 55.1

2021: 55.3

2022: 56.7

Meanwhile, Ed Oliver showed massive improvement as a run defender in 2022. His run defense grade last season was in the high 60s. Earlier in his career, Oliver was mediocre to bad at stopping the run but it seems like the 5th year player has finally turned the corner. That’s important because the Vikings need someone who is more than just a rotational player at defensive tackle.

Ed Oliver’s greatest trait isn’t his run-stopping capabilities but rather his ability to generate pressure on the interior. In 2022, Oliver generated 16 hurries and 31 total pressures. For comparison, in 2022 Dalvin Tomlinson generated 14 hurries and 29 total pressures. So they’re essentially right on par with each other. The Vikings replacing Dalvin Tomlinson with someone with equal or slightly better production would be considered a win in my book.

Right now, the Vikings have a bunch of players on the defensive line who are a bit one-dimensional or unproven. Jonathan Bullard was signed last year to replace Armon Watts, specifically because he was better against the run than Watts. Rookie Esezi Otomewo is a promising athlete, but is more of a developmental prospect who is once again more of a run-stopping defensive lineman. James Lynch and Ross Blacklock could be good rotational pass rushers on the interior, but both are still unknown commodities.

If the Vikings were to trade for Oliver, he would be a lock to start most of the snaps at defensive tackle. Minnesota would have Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, Harrison Phillips, and Ed Oliver on their front four, all of whom are very capable of generating pressure. That’s especially important in Brian Flores’ defense which is predicated around those Cover 1 and Cover 0 looks. If Minnesota isn’t able to generate pressure consistently then our very young secondary would get torn to shreds, which is why it’s important to load up on the defensive line.

What the Buffalo Bills could get in terms of draft compensation for Ed Oliver is largely contingent on the Indianapolis Colts. Star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner could be on the move, and he is overall a much better player than Oliver is. If the Colts demand a 1st round pick for Buckner, then that would decrease the Bills' leverage.

For those who are wondering why the Vikings shouldn’t trade for the better player in DeForest Buckner, the answer is age. Buckner is 29 years old and doesn’t fit the Vikings' timeline, while Ed Oliver is 25 years old and is entering his prime. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has shown a willingness to make big moves for established players if they fit within the team’s timeline, and the T.J. Hockenson trade is a good example of that. It’s not a “win-now” move if the player in question is young enough.

The Vikings are in the midst of rebuilding their aging defense under Brian Flores. If Za’Darius Smith can get replaced by Marcus Davenport within a week after requesting a trade, then by that logic the Vikings need to replace Dalvin Tomlinson with someone younger as well. Making a draft day trade for Ed Oliver is one way the Vikings could go about doing that. If Kwesi can acquire Oliver with a third-round pick, then he would be a worthy trade target for the Vikings