NAME: Ed Oliver
POSITION: Interior Defensive Lineman
JERSEY: No. 10
RECRUITMENT RATING: 5-star
WT: 274 lbs
Run Defense – Elite penetration ability. Does well to win with first contact and control reps. Can anchor stoutly against drive blocks and shoot gaps. Holds his own against double teams. Plays through blocks exceptionally well and finds the football. Exceptional at shooting gaps and still playing under control once he clears. Despite his lack of ideal size, he still holds his own on the interior.
Pass Rush – Explosiveness off the ball, active hands and rare flexibility leads to consistent interior pressure in the face of the quarterback. Knows how to attack half a man while bending rush angles. Does well to get hands up into throwing lanes if his rush stalls. Converts speed to power well.
Effort – Fires off the ball with intent and urgency. Aggressively battles throughout every snap to defeat blocks, find the football and finish. Routinely chases down outside runs and screens from distance. Motor always runs hot and he relentlessly pursues the football.
Hand Technique – Explosive and powerful hand usage. Strikes quickly to get his hands on his blocker and control reps. Knows how to soften rush angles, control blockers and disengage with a variety of techniques. Developing more consistency with counters is needed. Clear that he understands the importance of winning with his hands given his lack of size and modest length. Clearing his pads is challenge and there are times that he is outreached.
Flexibility – Smooth and sudden change of direction skills. Able to carry speed through tight angles exceptionally well. Unbelievably loose in the lower half with the ability to bend rush angles. Rare ability to contort his frame and reduce his surface area. Ability to twist and torque is elite.
Play Strength – Lacks the desired mass for his position but overcomes that by playing with great leverage, aggression and illustrates tremendous strength throughout his frame. Lower body power is outstanding. Holds his own anchoring against drive blocks and can penetrate the pocket with his ability to covert speed to power.
Play Speed – Quickness and ability to get off the ball puts considerable stress on interior blockers to move their feet and stay square. Has good twitch and juice in his mobility when attacking gaps and in pursuit. Dominates with quickness.
Lateral Movement – Flows with ease down the line of scrimmage attacking wide zone runs. Smooth ability to change directions and pursue screens and off-tackle runs. Has incredible range for a defensive lineman.
Versatility – If 50 front defenses ever return, Oliver is the guy you target to play the nose tackle position. In today’s NFL, he’s a true three-technique with immense playmaking potential against the run and pass.
BEST TRAIT – Penetration Skills
WORST TRAIT – Size
RED FLAGS – Size, Missed 4 games in 2018 with knee injury
Ed Oliver’s ability to penetrate with quickness off the snap and utilize his hands to play through contact makes him an ideal fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 alignment. While he lacks size, Oliver plays with tremendous leverage and offers the play strength needed to exchange power on the interior. By year three, Oliver has the upside to become one of the NFL’s premier defensive playmakers against the run and pass.
Hand Technique/Length – Has a very compact punch, able to throw hands quickly and establish a clean fit on the chest of blockers. Hands are assertive and violent in shedding techniques to sweep, rip or pull an opposing hand fit off of chest. Can have some sporadic disengage issues due to own lack of length.
Competitive Toughness –Plays with one of the most relentless motors I’ve seen. Is effortless in his acceleration and often times chases down ball quicker than teammates in closer proximity. Can get eaten up against bigger bodied blockers at times, however. Won’t win butting heads with powerful IOL.
Two Gap Ability –Has conceded runs off of his hip while locked up with blockers in head up instances. Will struggle due to lack of length to press and extend bodies off of his chest. Has effective short area quickness to rip through across the face of a blocker and uncover on the other side to challenge the ball.
Gap Penetration Skills –Should be let off the leash as much as possible, has a great gauge of getting depth and then sitting down to redirect and not over-pursue the play. Can get into the face of ball carriers in the backfield and be a thorn in the side of inside rushing concepts, even in short yardage situations.
Tackling –Powerful hitter in instances that allow for a head up challenge. Has had some tackles for loss slip away due to a lack of length, doesn’t have the ability to throw an arm out and catch ball carriers while still being harassed by an opposing blocker.
Flexibility –Wonderful range of motion in just about every measure imaginable. Illustrates terrific pad level, coil and leverage in exploding out of stance. Will showcase strong disassociation between hips and shoulders to carry quickness through contact. Corners well and can flip hips around a blocker.
Pass Rush Counters –Speed is the name of the game. Dynamic torso mobility on the move allows for a pop of the hands as a measure of dislodging a punch. Rip/club is his most potent combination other than speed rushing. Effective stunt player as well to pinball off a body and towards the passer.
First Step Quickness –ELITE. Has superb burst and quickness, often times totally ruining an opposing blocking scheme courtesy of beating back blocks or pulling OL to the spot and proceeding to the mesh point. Short area redirection and subsequent re-acceleration is just as impressive.
Feet/Change Of Direction –Light, nimble footed defender. Will pivot effortlessly in efforts to turn and chase the football. Has little issue planting and driving for width, can often be found outside the numbers chasing down perimeter runs. Can double back against the grain of his initial pass rush angle smoothly.
Versatility –Has enough juice to move all around the defensive front in passing situations. That said, this is not a scheme diverse football player. Needs to be given every opportunity to press forward. Run defending would be optimal with a dominant nose tackle to command attention on the interior.
BEST TRAIT – Gap Penetration
WORST TRAIT – Length/Extension
BEST FILM – Rice (2018)
WORST FILM – Arizona (2018)
RED FLAGS – Size
Ed Oliver projects cleanly as a 3T starting interior DL in the NFL. Oliver has superb penetration ability and can be a true asset on passing downs to collapse the pocket and disrupt passer visuals. Oliver will require an aggressive system, however. Tasking him with playing along the line of scrimmage will negate his burst and hinder his ability to get off of blocks.
Get-off/Burst – Stance is non-traditional, squats back in a four-point often, with very little forward lean. This inhibits his first step considerably, yet is still one of the more explosive players in all of college football. A re-made stance will go a long way toward making him a more consistent threat to penetrate gaps off the snap. Carries over a quick first step into continuous speed up the field.
Leverage – Plays with outstanding leverage on a snap-to-snap basis. 274-pound interior defensive linemen must consistently fire off the ball low and gets hands inside their opponent’s frame to stay alive, and Oliver consistently does both. Despite his light weight, hard to drive off the ball completely because of how low and powerful he is at the point-of-attack.
Hand Usage – Needs considerably work in this area in the run game. Does not create a lot of torque to displace blockers, instead simply bull drives them down the middle. Needs to utilize much better arm extension off the snap to keep blockers off his frame. Fires into his opponent’s chest with good hand placement and the power to displace blockers, but can struggle to create space, gets body-to-body and fails to disengage. Does not stack-and-shed easily enough, allowing runners to slip by him. Too often gets caught up in grappling matches at the line of scrimmage and is knocked off balance as a result. On the ground too much, especially considering the lack of quality competition.
Rush Plan/Counters – In his third season, showed few signs of having a better plan of attack off the snap as a pass rusher. Bull rushes are great, but that isn’t how Oliver can make a living at the next level Elite movement skills to work to the edge of his opponent and get upfield in a hurry, but doesn’t deploy this strategy often enough. Very few moves, has flashed a club-swim but rarely attacks off the snap with anything other than a bull rush. Counters are non-existent. Too many examples of being stuck on blocks or knocked off balance for a rusher with his athletic tools.
Mental Processing/Block Recognition – The other weakest area of his game. Does not recognize blocks well and will often fire off the ball without a process. Forced to backdoor zone schemes too often because he does not identify reach blocks off the snap. Process begins with eyes in the backfield rather than on his reads, then gets tied up in wrestling matches and loses the ball anyway. Has shown the ability to ID pulling guards over him and attack the back-blocking center to blow plays up.
Range – Absurd range for a defensive tackle. Chased down plays 40-50 yards down the field and made stops. Movement skills in space are mind-bending, ability to run down plays at the perimeter from anywhere on the defensive line when he finds the ball quickly. Will probably be the rangiest defensive tackle in the NFL when he enters the league, but mental improvements and better process with his eyes will allow him to use his athletic gifts more frequently.
Bend/Flexibility – Ridiculous ability to bend at the hips and corner off difficult angles. Can dip under contact at the top of the arc on the outside shoulder of the guard or center to get to the pocket, reducing his surface area significantly. When he gets on your edge as an offensive lineman, you’re in serious danger.
Tackling – Misses too many stops due to coming in out of control. Has to find the ball and finish more fluidly. In position for more production than he’s currently earning. Physical hitter who will make it count when he squares up ball carriers.
Competitive Toughness – Tough competitor who plays hard and has made some special hustle plays during his career. Loves to scrap and won’t back down physically from a challenge.
Athleticism/Size – Severely undersized and short-armed for an interior defensive lineman. If he checks in at 274 pounds, would be the lightest full-time interior defensive lineman in the NFL. Also might be the most athletic. Should absolutely annihilate the Combine.
BEST TRAIT – Burst/Range
WORST TRAIT – Rush Plan
RED FLAGS – None
For years Ed Oliver has been heralded as no. 1 overall pick material, but the lack of improvement during his junior year is pretty troubling despite his unreal athletic gifts. Powerful, explosive and capable of winning the leverage battle on every rep, Oliver isn’t where he needs to be in terms of production because of his lack of mental processing in the run game and rush plan on passing downs.
Those things can be improved upon for sure, and there is no doubt Oliver’s ceiling is sky-high in a league gravitating toward smaller interior defensive linemen. His size isn’t a major issue by itself, but when you couple it with some of his balance concerns on the interior and the fact he hasn’t faced any elite offensive line play in his college tenure, it’s fair to be a little worried.
Two things could help him right away in the NFL: fixing his stance and putting him at 3-technique, rather than at the nose where Houston often played him. At the end of the day, Oliver is far too explosive with freakish strength and movement skills to not take a chance on, but we need to acknowledge that he is definitely a risk; a risk that might not be worth taking in the top ten of the 2019 NFL Draft.