It’s never too early to start working on the next year of the NFL Draft, is it? Most of you probably want me to go fishing or hit a golf course. I can’t blame you, it’s been a long process for the 2018 NFL Draft but truthfully, it’s never too early to focus on the next draft class. There’s a name that you’re going to hear a lot of between now and the 2019 NFL Draft.
Meet Ed Oliver, who’s the first player to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. He is a former 5-star recruit out of Westfield High School in Houston, Texas. He’s the first ever 5-star recruit to not sign with a power-5 school. Oliver had offers from just about every school imaginable. From Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and LSU, the offers were everywhere. He was the 4th ranked prospect on the ESPN300 national rankings. But he chose to stay in his hometown and play for the Houston Cougars.
As you can tell by the statistics, Oliver plays with a linebacker’s mentality but is a nose tackle. With 38.5 tackles for loss over the last two seasons, it’s helped him earn All-American Honors in both seasons. Now entering the 2018 season, the expectations are going to remain high for Oliver. He’s already been listed as the potential first overall pick for the 2019 NFL Draft. Clearly, the season has to play out but there’s no denying his talent and he’s not going to worry about who picks him. He’s just going to continue on mastering his craft.
It doesn’t matter who you ask, defensive lineman aren’t supposed to move like that. There’s a reason why he’s listed as the top defensive tackle in the country and it’s because he possesses traits like this:
- Burst off the ball is incredible. Consistently wins with his first step
- Change of direction allows him to create plays anywhere on the field
- Powerful first punch which immediately gives him separation
- High motor player who is always on the move
- Can execute a variety of line stunts – which puts him in the backfield to stop the run or pressure the quarterback
- Executes line stunts with ease
- Great in pursuit and takes proper pursuit angles down field
- Stacks and shreds blocks to make plays at the line-of-scrimmage (LOS)
- Processes so quickly and has a tendency to know where the play is going
- Consistently plays below pad level
- Disruptive player who finds ways to get to the ball
- Consistently gets to heels depth of the offensive line
These are also the reasons why he won the 2017 Outland Trophy for being the top interior lineman. While he continues to win awards, we’ll dive into some film and show why he’s the best defensive lineman in the country.
Weight: 290 lbs
Games Watched: Oklahoma (2016), Arizona (2017), Navy (2017) and Memphis (2017)
Nobody will face this type of Flexbone offense at the next level. However, it will help you get a feel for the blocks coming your way, gets you faster off the ball and it’s physical. Navy’s offensive line is down blocking and Oliver does a great job as the nose tackle. He blows up the center and that puts him in position to split the initial double team.
On the play above, you’ll notice how well Oliver gets to the heels of the offensive lineman. Everything about this repetition is perfect. He demonstrates great pad level, works his hands back inside and finds the football.
On the play above, he demonstrates his burst and power. The offensive lineman gets knocked back about two yards. Oliver consistently controls the play at the line-of-scrimmage (LOS). He also displays good bend down the LOS to get to the ball-carrier. (Let’s keep in mind, this is his first collegiate game).
On the play above, you’ll see Oliver as the looper on this stunt and he is able to bring the quarterback down. He provides you that kind of versatility to play all over the line-of-scrimmage because of his high motor. He needs to come in a bit more under control but overall, he does a great job with this play.
On this play, Oliver is lined up as a one-technique. While he doesn’t make the tackle on this play, he explodes into the B-gap, is able to get underneath the guard and use his power to bury him. It’s this type of power that will be a great asset for him in stopping the run.
As I’ve mentioned, the motor for Oliver never stops. Defensive tackles don’t typically move like this, especially when the play is already going upfield. Here’s why it’s so important to stay with the play: you create turnovers. That’s exactly what Oliver does on this play. He hits the quarterback and forces a fumble. It’s stuff like this that makes defensive coordinators fall in love and the fans should, as well.
- Needs to become more consistent with his hands – not so power reliant
- Has to get a better feel for splitting double teams. Punch the ground and drop your shoulder
- Despite turning his back to plays, has benefited him getting upfield and making a tackle. That won’t fly on Sundays. He’s giving himself up and becoming a much easier block.
- Needs to do a better job coming under control
- Has to become more consistent as a tackler
Oliver has a clear view of the ball carrier but he whiffs on the tackle. Getting himself under control on a more consistent basis is important.
This is a great example of how he tried to split double teams. He has good pad level, but rather than trying to drop his shoulder, he’s turning his shoulder. Doing this more consistently will put him in much better position to make a stop.
There’s plenty to like about Ed Oliver and currently, he’s the top player in next year’s draft. Personally, I need to see more before I hand out a grade and it’s far too early in the process for where he should go or will go. However, if the draft was today, he’d certainly be in consideration to be the top pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
As an interior defensive lineman, Oliver provides you with versatility. He can play as a nose-tackle (head up on the center as a o-tech or even a shade known as a 1-tech). But he can also play as a three-technique (outside shoulder of the guard). Don’t expect him to play as a defensive end in a 5-technique but with his motor and power, he very well could see a limited role on the outside.
The first thing that stands out when watching him is that his motor never stops. He is a wrecking ball and is constantly working towards the ball carrier. Personally, I’d like to see him refine some of his technique. Become more consistent with his hands and not be as power reliant. But he’s still the most consistent defensive tackle for the 2019 NFL Draft class. He’s already declared for the 2019 NFL Draft and he hasn’t even played a snap for the 2018 season. Don’t worry though, the expectations are remaining high for him and there’s no doubt about him exceeding them.
For more on Ed Oliver, I put together a thread about him on Twitter. Be sure to check it out and also, be sure to give me a follow on there @RussNFLDraft!
Ed Oliver eats. This is from 2016 and he's impressive. I can't wait to watch him from 2017. He's so fast off the ball and don't worry, I've got stuff on his motor. He never quits. pic.twitter.com/QJY4GNWWh9
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) May 6, 2018