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Scouting Report: DT Ed Oliver, Houston

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The supremely athletic Houston DT Ed Oliver is the subject of Kevin’s first 2019 NFL Draft scouting report. Just how elite is Oliver against the run and pass, and are concerns about his lack of ideal size warranted?

Tulsa v Houston Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The time has come at last: my first scouting report of the 2019 NFL Draft class is finally here! Falcons fans voted, and the DT position won by a narrow margin over EDGE.

If you’ve been following my NFL draft takes closely, you should’ve already known who I’d scout first. As the creator of the #FallOverForOliver movement, I’m happy to reveal my scouting report for the incredibly talented Houston DT, Ed Oliver. Read on for an in-depth look at Oliver’s strengths, weaknesses, and an analysis of his fit with the Falcons.

Scouting Report: DT Ed Oliver, Houston

Size: 6’2, 280

2018 Stats: 54 total tackles, 29 solo tackles, 14.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 2 FF, 2 PD

Games Watched: Navy (2018), Texas Tech (2018), Rice (2018), Navy (2017), Memphis (2017)

Strengths

  • Explosive burst off the line of scrimmage
  • Expert at shooting gaps, makes his living in the opponent’s backfield
  • Impressive strength—rarely pushed back
  • Excellent understanding and usage of leverage
  • Active hand fighter, understands how to disengage from blocks
  • Elite foot quickness and change of direction ability
  • High motor, tenacious in pursuit
  • Ferocious tackler, hits with physicality
  • Played at both 1T and 3T at Houston, even lined up occasionally as a 5T DE in 3-4 packages
  • Lots of experience working against double and even triple teams
  • Heads-up player in the passing game, multiple batted passes in each season

Weaknesses

  • Size concerns due to low weight and average length
  • Had a down year in production in 2018, missed several games with a knee injury
  • Aggressive, penetrating style leads to missed opportunities
  • Too often bites on play fakes and takes himself out of the play
  • Limited repertoire of pass rushing counters, still has room to grow in his technique

Grade: 1* (elite, top-5 prospect)

Analysis

Ed Oliver is an elite DT prospect at the NFL level. He’s an ideal fit at 3T in a 4-3 defense, though he’s got the potential to be moved around—particularly in a scheme like the Falcons use. His movement skills, deep understanding of leverage, and impressive strength make him a 3-down player that can excel against both the run and pass—despite concerns about him being “undersized”.

It’s not often that you find a player of this size with Oliver’s level of lateral mobility. Even his long speed is impressive—there were times on tape that I saw him running downfield and mistook him for a LB. He’s an elite athlete in every sense of the word—explosive off the snap, incredibly quick with his feet, and downright dominant with his physicality. In short, there is no reason whatsoever that Oliver should be anything less than a top-5 pick.

I’ve picked out a few plays from the tape that show off some of Oliver’s talents. Below, you’ll see Oliver split a double-team block and impact the RB with such force that he bowls the RB and the QB over.

On the next play, you’ll see Oliver one-on-one with the right guard on a pass rush rep. The guard actually does pretty well at first, keeping Oliver outside the pocket and giving the QB a lane to step up into. Then, in the blink of an eye, Oliver disengages from the guard, resets his feet, and drives on the QB for a sack. The fluidity with which Oliver made this play is amazing.

This final play shows off Oliver’s ability against the run. Oliver gets a rare one-on-one opportunity against the center, and sheds him almost immediately on his path to the backfield. He breaks through just as the RB gets a half-step behind him, but Oliver is able to flip his body around and seal the tackle-for-loss from behind with excellent physicality.

I understand that fans have soured on “undersized” defensive linemen because of a bad experience with Vic Beasley. Those same fans—and NFL teams as a whole—would be foolish to overlook Oliver because of size. Oliver has consistently demonstrated his ability to hold up against the run on film—even against double and sometimes even triple teams. That’s because he has an advanced understanding of leverage and possesses elite strength for a player of his stature. Both of those characteristics tell me that Oliver is a hard-worker—in the film room and in the weight room.

It’s possible that Oliver could add more good weight to his frame, but I’m not sure it’s needed. His special attributes are his movement skills, and the added weight might take away from them somewhat. In terms of his other weaknesses, I don’t see anything that can’t be corrected. Oliver is an aggressive gap penetrator, and that led to some missed opportunities and cutback lanes for opponents. His style also led to him biting on a lot of fakes. Both of those things are easily fixed with more coaching.

Oliver still has room to grow as a pass rusher. While he’s an active hand fighter, he doesn’t have many counter moves yet. He’ll need to develop some if he wants to consistently beat NFL offensive linemen. Still, Oliver’s natural physical gifts are plenty good enough to start from Day 1 in the NFL and make a significant impact. Plus, playing next to Grady Jarrett on the interior will give him an abundance of one-on-one opportunities that he rarely had in college.

One more thing while we’re here: Oliver and Jarrett can absolutely play together at the same time. If you think otherwise, you really haven’t been paying attention. First of all, Jarrett played 1T to begin his career in Atlanta and was very good at it. Second of all, Oliver also played a good deal of 1T at Houston and was pretty good as well. Neither are “prototypical” run-stuffing NTs, but that isn’t a big deal for a 4-3 team. Third, the Falcons regularly used two DTs—both lined up at 3T—in their pass rushing sets, particularly when they had Adrian Clayborn.

There is no reason that Oliver and Jarrett can’t coexist. In fact, they should be an excellent pairing for years to come. They are both elite penetrating defensive linemen that can absolutely hold their own against the run. That’s what Quinn covets—far more than he covets big behemoths in the middle of the line. If the Falcons wind up getting Oliver, it wouldn’t be all that difficult (or expensive) to sign a run-stuffing NT in free agency.

What say you, Falcons fans? What are your thoughts on the Falcons potentially getting Ed Oliver in the 2019 NFL Draft?