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2019 NFL Draft profile: If Ed Oliver falls to the Lions at 8, should they take him?

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The Houston DT’s stock has “fallen,” and he’s a real option for the Lions.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Houston Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver is a guy that’s been near the top of 2019 draft boards for a long time. He still is, but recently we’ve seen his name fall slightly in some mocks, though nothing has really changed for him—other than maybe a heated exchange with a coach, who shrugged it off. The tape is the same, so what are people noticing now that they didn’t back then?

Ed Oliver, IDL, Houston

6-foot-3, 292 pounds

2016 stats: 12 games | 46 solo tackles | 65 total | 22 TFL | 5 sacks | 6 PD | 2 FF
2017 stats: 12 games | 47 solo tackles | 73 total | 16.5 TFL | 5.5 sacks | 3 PD | 2 FF
2018 stats: 8 games | 29 solo tackles | 54 total | 14.5 TFL | 3 sacks | 2 PD | 1 FF

Current draft projection: Top-10 pick

Background

Team profile page

It would be pointless to share any of Ed Oliver’s accolades, as he received nearly every award and was put on every watch list you can think of. The man (emphasis on man) was dominating in the NCAA the minute he was first sent out onto the field.

Out of high school, Oliver was the sixth-ranked recruit in the 2015 class via 247 sports and the second-ranked DT in Texas behind Greg Little (third-ranked in the country). The No. 1 ranked DT in the country that year? Rashan Gary.

Strengths

  • Will put up elite numbers at the NFL Combine and is abnormally flexible for an interior lineman. Believe he has what it takes to rotate between EDGE and IDL if needed.
  • Hands are violent, though unrefined, and he’s constantly jolting back O-linemen deep into the pocket. Raw power is off the charts.
  • First step and burst are elite. Fires low off the snap like a cannon and consistently stays low to gain leverage.
  • Impressive motor and effort in pursuit. Has the athleticism to chase down ball carriers and is in full control of his body out in the open space, which is unusual for a D-lineman. Has shown the ability to make open-field tackles and meet players at the sideline for little-to-no gain.
  • Dominant vs. the run. Holds his anchor against double and triple teams, does a nice job of finding the ball and stopping plays short.

Weaknesses

  • Pass rush is a work in progress and relies too much on pure athleticism and power.
  • Has shown almost no growth in terms of hand technique throughout the years. Makes you wonder if it’s a him problem or a Houston coaching problem.
  • AAC offensive lines are not exactly known for being good. Weak competition faced.
  • Have seen some say that Oliver played under 280 pounds, which is very light for an interior lineman. Weigh-ins at the Combine will be important for him.

Games watched: 2016 vs. Oklahoma, 2017 vs. Memphis, 2018 vs. Texas Tech, 2018 vs. Arizona

Overview and Projection

There have been more and more mocks coming out with Ed Oliver being there when the Lions are on the clock with the No. 8 overall pick, and while I still believe he is a top-five talent in this class, it’s certainly a possibility. Oliver is a supreme talent and has been compared to Aaron Donald, but he is far more raw as a pass rusher than Donald was out of Pittsburgh. I believe his lack of hand usage and the fact that he was unable to improve on his technique as a pass rusher through his collegiate career is a big part of why some people are souring on him as a top-five pick.

If Oliver does fall to the Lions and they end up taking him, they might end up having a historically great run defense, and Oliver has the athleticism and flexibility to occasionally line up as an edge rusher if needed. With this pick, the Lions may not be upgrading their pass rush as much as they’d like right away, but Oliver does have the upside to turn into a very good pass rusher years down the road, they’ll just have to be patient with him.