Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
32. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
6-foot, 201 pounds
Key stats: Despite starting only 16-of-37 career games at Colorado, Oliver ranks tied for 10th in school history with 32 passes broken up.
The skinny: Prep football and track star went from the Phoenix area to Boulder to participate in both sports with the Buffaloes. Recruited as an athlete for football, Oliver chose playing defensive back over wide receiver, despite the Buffs having four future NFL players in the defensive backfield: Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas Cowboys), Kenneth Crawley (New Orleans Saints), Tedric Thompson (Seattle Seahawks) and Ahkello Witherspoon (San Francisco 49ers).
As a freshman in 2015, Oliver played in all 13 games — four strictly on special teams and nine where he also played on defense, starting three. In 2016, he started two games and registered big plays (a punt-return touchdown vs. UCLA and a late interception vs. Stanford) to help seal victories. As a junior in 2017, Oliver was named first-team all-Pac-12 despite missing parts of four games (10 starts) with a leg injury. He finished the season with two interceptions and 13 pass breakups before declaring early for the 2018 NFL draft.
Oliver competed two seasons on Colorado’s outdoor track team in the decathlon and was a two-time All-Pac-12 performer in the event. His father, Muhammad Oliver, played college football and ran track — as a world-class decathlete — at Oregon and spent five years in the NFL with five teams. His uncle, Damon Mays, played college football for Missouri (and scored a touchdown against Colorado in the infamous “Fifth Down Game” in 1990) and spent two years in the NFL.
Oliver only ran the 40-yard dash (4.50 seconds) at the NFL scouting combine. He stood on his 40 time at his pro day and performed every other combine drill there (except for bench press), turning in solid to good numbers.
Upside: Ideal measurements for the position — good height and weight, big hands and extremely long arms (33.5 inches). Great athletic traits and bloodlines. Smooth mover who transitions well — very nice hips and feet. Press-man corner who knows how to shoot his hands well to jam and reroute receivers in bump-and-run coverage. Maintains his balance and control while disrupting receivers’ routes. High upside — his best football appears to be in front of him.
Played against a slew of pro-caliber quarterbacks — Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Luke Falk and Mason Rudolph (in 2016) — and receivers in the Pac-12. Adjusts well to the ball midflight — gets his mitts on a fair number of passes considering how little he was tested last season. Good hands — possesses playmaking potential. Has been asked to play lots of press- and off-man coverage. Looks aware in zone coverage and could fit a Seattle-style cover-3 scheme.
Here Oliver is manned up (with safety help) against Colorado’s Michael Gallup, a mid-round NFL draft prospect. They had a good head-to-head battle all game last fall, and Oliver does a nice job with his recovery speed and making a play on the ball to prevent a touchdown:
Fights through run blocks and rub routes to make plays on the ball. Respectable, consistent tackler. Played both sides of the field in coverage (although most often on the boundary). Has punt-return experience. Could make a good jammer or gunner on special teams, and he blocked nine kicks in his final two years of high school.
Downside: Must improve strength, especially in his upper body. Might have to be worked into the rotation slowly on defense in Year 1 as his technique is honed and he gains more play strength. Good speed, but can he carry NFL speed downfield? Lateral-movement and change-of-direction skills have been questioned. Will bite on play fakes — see the flea flicker vs. UCLA.
Raw technique-wise. Can play a bit out of control and have trouble gearing up or down quickly at times. Looks far less comfortable in off coverage — doesn’t appear as fluid or confident. Can struggle in space against quicker receivers. Watch here as Oliver (No. 26) doesn’t come downhill fast enough on the pick play and then gets faked out in space by USC WR Steven Mitchell (a late-round prospect):
Best-suited destination: More NFL teams are seeking this type of long-armed cornerback, and the early NFL returns from his college teammates, Awuzie and Witherspoon, likely will help Oliver’s chances. Teams running a lot of press-man (or perhaps physical zone coverage) will favor his skill set. Among the teams potentially interested in Oliver’s services include the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Washington.
Quotable: “In my eyes, I'm the best cornerback in this draft. I feel like I have a rare ability to make plays on the ball, rare athleticism that I can bring to any team.” — Oliver at the NFL scouting combine
Player comp: Quincy Wilson
Expected draft range: Late first- or early second-round pick
50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
36. Stanford S Justin Reid
35. Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby
34. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
33. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki