Any time scouts find a defensive lineman who dominates games and rushes the passer, he is going to be high on every NFL clubs' list of prospects.
Such is the case of Houston junior Ed Oliver. Oliver has not said anything about entering the 2019 NFL draft, but heading into this college football season, he is one of the odds-on favorites to be a top-five pick if he declares, and if he plays like he has his first two years of college.
Oliver is a true junior and has been a starting defensive tackle since the day he walked on campus at the University of Houston. He is a former 5-Star high school player who was recruited by the best programs in the country — including Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas and LSU. A Houston native, he chose to stay home and play alongside his older brother, senior offensive lineman Marcus Oliver.
Ed has good-to-very good size — he is listed at being 6’3 – 290, and while he may not be quite 6’3, he is all of 290 and has the frame to easily get to 300 and keep all the explosive athleticism he shows on tape. I would estimate right now that he will run in the 4.7 range — and maybe even a little faster. He has outstanding snap reaction and as quick a first step as I’ve seen in quite a while.
Because of his explosiveness, Oliver penetrates quickly and is extremely disruptive in the run game. In his first two seasons at Houston, he already has 39.5 tackles for loss.
Oliver not only has great quickness, he also has active, violent hands and does an excellent job of keeping opponents' hands off of him. His change of direction and lateral agility is so good that he is able to slip blocks, like a much smaller linebacker. In a one-on-one situation, Oliver can be very difficult to block.
When rushing the passer he uses all his athletic traits to be effective. He can use speed, moves or power to get sacks or pressures. In his first two seasons, he has 10.5 sacks, and I expect him to be a double-digit sack guy in 2018. The area that separates him from other interior linemen is his explosive burst coming off a block to close on the quarterback.
Evaluators often look for comps for current prospect. Oliver reminds me of two different players. The first is former Chicago Bear All Pro Tommie Harris. Harris was about the same size as a collegian, with similar quickness and explosiveness. Harris lasted until the thirteenth selection in the first round because he had an arthritic knee, ultimately helping cut his career short. When healthy, Harris was the best 3-technique in football.
The other player Oliver reminds me of is current Ram and reigining Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Oliver has more size than Donald, but they have similar instincts and explosiveness. Right now, Donald may be the best interior defensive lineman in football, and Oliver has the natural talent to become a similar kind of player if he continues to work hard on his game.
As far as fit, Oliver is a natural 3-technique but he can play anywhere along the line in any defense. If a team with an odd front drafts him, there will be a period of adjustment but he will excel. If a club with a 4-man front drafts him, he could be a Pro Bowler very early in his career.