Defense, defense, defense. Defense is my special word of this year’s draft because of two things: The Packers really need defensive playmakers even though they acquired Za’Darius and Preston Smith in free-agency, and at the top end, the 2019 NFL Draft is abundant in defensive playmakers, particularly front-7 guys. Picking at 12, the Packers will not be seeing Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, or Josh Allen, but the next best thing and the second-best run stopper will likely be in their grasp: Houston’s Ed Oliver. One of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, Oliver has a limitless ceiling and will be an absolute force in NFL interiors for years to come.
Every NFL scout and analysts agree when they say Oliver is the most physically gifted player in this year’s draft class. Standing at 6’1” and weighing 281 pounds, Oliver put up linebacker/runningback type numbers at his insane pro day. He ran a 4.19 shuttle which was faster than Saquon Barkley’s shuttle of 4.24 and at the combine, he recorded 32 bench-press reps of 225 pounds. From an athletic standpoint, his combination of power and quickness hasn’t been seen in a lineman in a long time besides Aaron Donald. In fact, if you take his level of competition and production away in college, he’s compared often to Donald. Additionally, he has excellent conditioning and will chase plays 20 yards down or across the field like a linebacker, and great ability with his hands against the run. Also, off his first step, off the snap, he is a very close second to Quinnen Williams.
The two big red-flags and reason why scouts don’t see him as a top-5 pick even though he has top-5 ability is the competition he had in college, and his technique as a pass-rusher is a work in progress. Coming out of high-school he was a 5-star recruit, but he made the surprising decision to play at Houston which is in the American Athletic Conference, not a big-5 conference. In his 32-game career at Houston he had 192 tackles, 53 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Looking at the sack total, which sadly NFL scouts take seriously even with interior lineman, it’s disappointing. He is a tremendous run-stopper, and most times that’s all an NFL team wants in an interior lineman, but like a child celebrating his 9th birthday, THEY WANT MORE. They want more in a guy without understanding that Oliver’s pass-rushing technique flaws are highly-coachable and not urgent, since he’s already a tremendous run-stopper. All he has to do is develop a higher variety of pass-rushing moves and counter-moves to fool blockers better. With his power and speed, any NFL coach with a brain can make that happen.
When Will He Be Drafted
Oliver is currently projected to go somewhere in the top-15 with the highest being around 8. Unless more quarterbacks or offensive linemen are taken in the top-10, the only team I can see picking him before Green Bay is Buffalo at 9.
How He Will Fit in Green Bay
Besides this year’s draft being so front-seven heavy at the top end, I bet Mike Pettine is salivating thinking of the possibility of Ed Oliver being available. Oliver, Mike Daniels, and Kenny Clark who is in a contract year would be the scariest defensive line in all of football, giving the Packers a much-needed identity in this year’s competitive NFC North. If they all stay healthy, the Packers would have the best run-defense in the NFL. In his first year Oliver will be a force immediately as a run-stopper alongside Daniels and Clark, and once his pass-rushing skills are developed, the Packers pass-rush could be top-10 in the NFL with Oliver seeing the Pro-Bowl.