The 2018 NFL Draft finally came to a close last weekend, and we learned the identities of the Falcons’ 2018 draft class. One of those players was talented Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver—coincidentally, the only player I actually got right in any of my mock drafts. I guess we can’t win them all, folks. Anyway, with Oliver joining the Falcons, it seemed like an ideal time to do a full scouting report on the athletic CB prospect.
I was informed yesterday by our very own Eric Robinson that he had already done a scouting report on Oliver—so if you’d like to see another perspective, check out his report too.
To get the full picture of Oliver’s game, I wanted to watch him against NFL-caliber QBs and WRs. So, I picked three games: UCLA (Josh Rosen, Jordan Lasley), Colorado State (Michael Gallup), and USC (Sam Darnold, Deontay Burnett). Here’s what I learned from his battles with some of the more talented players in the 2018 draft class.
CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Oliver’s frame (6’0, 201) immediately stands out—he has ridiculously long arms (97th percentile among all CBs) and wingspan (98th percentile) for a CB. He uses that size to his advantage, batting away balls and showing an impressive ability to cover larger receivers. Athletic ability is excellent, as Oliver is quick enough to mirror receivers in the short area and possesses enough long speed to avoid getting burned deep.
He’s versatile and can play in a variety of coverage schemes. Oliver has well developed instincts for the position and good processing speed—he recognizes screens and quick passes and will often blow them up. Can be physical in press coverage and is effective at disrupting routes, particularly against smaller receivers. His wingspan coupled with his recovery speed can cover up a lot of mistakes in coverage, giving him a wider margin of error than many CBs.
Oliver isn’t a particularly physical player in most aspects of his game. Needs to show more toughness and “want-to” in run support, particularly as an outside CB. His tackling technique needs work as Oliver too often lets bigger players escape his grasp. While he breaks up a ton of passes, Oliver simply hasn’t shown that he’s a ballhawk. He had just two INTs in 2017 compared to 12 PDs.
Despite his talent, Oliver’s coverage technique still needs refinement. His footwork can be sloppy at times, particularly on short routes. Has a tendency to bite on the deep throw and get eaten up by comeback routes. Oliver needs to clean up his backpedal and continue to develop as a technician to in order unlock his sky-high potential.
Oliver is a CB in the mold Dan Quinn loves: big, athletic, and talented. He’s a perfect fit in the Falcons’ defense as an outside defender that can match up against some of the bigger WRs in the division—guys like Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, and Devin Funchess, who Trufant and Alford have had difficulties with from time-to-time. Oliver isn’t especially tall, but his wingspan makes it seem like he’s closer to 6’2 or 6’3 in coverage.
While Oliver should be able to come in and contribute as a rookie as the CB3—he’ll likely come on the field in nickel packages on the outside, and let either Trufant or Alford kick inside to cover the lost—not being immediately thrust into the lineup should help his confidence. He’s a capable player right now, but he’s still got some development to do before he can cover guys like the aforementioned Mike Evans with consistent success.
This was arguably the best pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for the Falcons, and it’s easy to see why the team loved Oliver’s fit. I’ve made this comparison before, but Oliver really is very similar to ex-Falcon Jalen Collins—except Oliver is more polished and has none of the off-field baggage to worry about. If he can improve his tackling technique and inject a little more toughness into his game, Oliver has the ceiling of a CB1 in this league. It may take him a few years to reach that ceiling, but by then Atlanta will have one of the best CB trios in the NFL.
Grade: 1.5 (late first, early second)
What do you think of Oliver’s fit in Atlanta? Are you happy with the Falcons selecting him in the second round? Do you think he’ll wind up being the best of all the CBs selected in the 2nd round (M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, Donte Jackson)?