While no one would point to defensive tackle as the Falcons’ biggest need, there are some terrific players in this draft who would help the team’s defensive line out greatly. One of them is Ed Oliver, and given the likelihood that he’ll be available when the team picks at #14 in the 2019 NFL Draft, he’s become a very popular mock pick for Atlanta.
That has continued in Mel Kiper’s second mock of the year for ESPN, where he has the Falcons zeroing in on the Houston product to give the Falcons a truly intimidating interior that would feature (for 2019, at least) Grady Jarrett, Oliver, Jack Crawford, and Deadrin Senat. Crawford, Jarrett and Oliver could all dabble at end in the team’s “base” defense, giving this group a bit less of a numbers problem.
Here’s what Kiper had to say about the Oliver pick:
Oliver’s first step off the ball is one of the fastest I’ve seen from a defensive tackle. And yes, his play was picked apart throughout the 2018 season, but he’s a fantastic prospect who has a ways to go to reach his ceiling. He could do that in the right situation in the NFL. As I mentioned in my first Mock Draft, he could be a Day 1 replacement if Atlanta doesn’t bring back free agent Grady Jarrett.
I’ll repeat for the record that the Jarrett scenario is unlikely in the extreme, as the Falcons have been clearing the decks cap-wise to help them pay for Jarrett going forward and would be boneheaded to let him walk just to replace him with a prospect who might someday be as good or a little better than him. Pairing Jarrett with Oliver over the long haul, with Senat available as a potentially fearsome run stopper in the rotation, would be a strong move if the Falcons can also find a way to address defensive end and their offensive line through free agency and the later rounds.
Oliver’s game and size have been picked apart, as Kiper notes, but he’s a tremendous athlete and a good player whose flaws are being over-emphasized. I’ll be plenty happy if the Falcons wind up getting him at #14, but it’s rare that Atlanta winds up snagging the player they’re widely mocked (Vic Beasley was the last one), and so I wouldn’t hold your breath just yet.