Get-off/Burst - Stance is non-traditional, squats back in a four-point often, with very little forward lean. This inhibits his first step considerably, yet is still one of the more explosive players in all of college football. A re-made stance will go a long way toward making him a more consistent threat to penetrate gaps off the snap. Carries over a quick first step into continuous speed up the field.
Leverage - Plays with outstanding leverage on a snap-to-snap basis. 274-pound interior defensive linemen must consistently fire off the ball low and gets hands inside their opponent's frame to stay alive, and Oliver consistently does both. Despite his light weight, hard to drive off the ball completely because of how low and powerful he is at the point-of-attack.
Hand Usage - Needs considerably work in this area in the run game. Does not create a lot of torque to displace blockers, instead simply bull drives them down the middle. Needs to utilize much better arm extension off the snap to keep blockers off his frame. Fires into his opponent's chest with good hand placement and the power to displace blockers, but can struggle to create space, gets body-to-body and fails to disengage. Does not stack-and-shed easily enough, allowing runners to slip by him. Too often gets caught up in grappling matches at the line of scrimmage and is knocked off balance as a result. On the ground too much, especially considering the lack of quality competition.
Rush Plan/Counters - In his third season, showed few signs of having a better plan of attack off the snap as a pass rusher. Bull rushes are great, but that isn't how Oliver can make a living at the next level Elite movement skills to work to the edge of his opponent and get upfield in a hurry, but doesn't deploy this strategy often enough. Very few moves, has flashed a club-swim but rarely attacks off the snap with anything other than a bull rush. Counters are non-existent. Too many examples of being stuck on blocks or knocked off balance for a rusher with his athletic tools.
Mental Processing/Block Recognition - The other weakest area of his game. Does not recognize blocks well and will often fire off the ball without a process. Forced to backdoor zone schemes too often because he does not identify reach blocks off the snap. Process begins with eyes in the backfield rather than on his reads, then gets tied up in wrestling matches and loses the ball anyway. Has shown the ability to ID pulling guards over him and attack the back-blocking center to blow plays up.
Range - Absurd range for a defensive tackle. Chased down plays 40-50 yards down the field and made stops. Movement skills in space are mind-bending, ability to run down plays at the perimeter from anywhere on the defensive line when he finds the ball quickly. Will probably be the rangiest defensive tackle in the NFL when he enters the league, but mental improvements and better process with his eyes will allow him to use his athletic gifts more frequently.
Bend/Flexibility - Ridiculous ability to bend at the hips and corner off difficult angles. Can dip under contact at the top of the arc on the outside shoulder of the guard or center to get to the pocket, reducing his surface area significantly. When he gets on your edge as an offensive lineman, you're in serious danger.
Tackling - Misses too many stops due to coming in out of control. Has to find the ball and finish more fluidly. In position for more production than he's currently earning. Physical hitter who will make it count when he squares up ball carriers.
Competitive Toughness - Tough competitor who plays hard and has made some special hustle plays during his career. Loves to scrap and won't back down physically from a challenge.
Athleticism/Size - Size at the Combine was significantly larger than what he played at, but huge for his evaluation. If Oliver can play in the 280s and maintain his elite athleticism, there shouldn't be any concerns in this area. His length, however, is still worrisome. Staying at 281 for his pro day was also a strong sign, especially considering how well he tested.
BEST TRAIT - Burst/Range
WORST TRAIT - Rush Plan
RED FLAGS - None
For years Ed Oliver has been heralded as no. 1 overall pick material, but the lack of improvement during his junior year is pretty troubling despite his unreal athletic gifts. Powerful, explosive and capable of winning the leverage battle on every rep, Oliver isn't where he needs to be in terms of production because of his lack of mental processing in the run game and rush plan on passing downs.
Those things can be improved upon for sure, and there is no doubt Oliver's ceiling is sky-high in a league gravitating toward smaller interior defensive linemen. His size isn't a major issue by itself, but when you couple it with some of his balance concerns on the interior and the fact he hasn't faced any elite offensive line play in his college tenure, it's fair to be a little worried.
Two things could help him right away in the NFL: fixing his stance and putting him at 3-technique, rather than at the nose where Houston often played him. At the end of the day, Oliver is far too explosive with freakish strength and movement skills to not take a chance on, but we need to acknowledge that he is definitely a risk; a risk that might not be worth taking in the top ten of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Round Grade: 1st