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2019 NFL Draft prospect preview: defensive tackle Ed Oliver

An early look at a top interior defensive line draft prospect.

NCAA Football: Houston at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a little quiet around NFL circles, as everyone catches their breath from a wild regular and post-season and begins preparation for free agency and the NFL Combine.

The AP Nerd Squad (and AP Draft Show co-host Jake Morely) has been diving deep into NFL Draft content. We will be bringing more draft content to the site in terms of what we see and hear, plus our evaluations of players and how they fit with the Kansas City Chiefs as the big day draws nearer.

As some may have heard, the AP Draft Team has officially announced the KC Draft Guide and the plans that go with it. The guide will be available on April 8 and can be ordered here.

Be on the lookout for new promo codes on various AP Podcasts, 610 Sports Radio and on social media. With the combine being days away, it’s a good time to preview some of the content that will be within the KC Draft Guide, as well the kind of draft content coming to AP over the next couple months.

Player scouting reports (key)

Player’s name, measurables, athletic testing, etc.: Basic information leads off the report, including hometown, date of birth and college

Player’s grade: Listed as a round grade based on our grading scale

Background: Important player history such as recruitment status, accomplishments and red flags

Strengths and weaknesses: Each grader has his or her preferred layout, but these sections include traits and skills that players perform well or poorly

Chiefs fit: The unique element that sheds some light on how the player could fit with the Chiefs, specifically looking at scheme, current personnel and price required to draft the player

Player Comp: This is not a comparison for how the player’s career will turn out, but rather a player with a similar athletic profile and play style

My Guy Stamp: A visual icon showcasing the primary grader/writer of that profile is higher than the consensus on that player; further detail will be provided on where they see the difference

Fit Likelihood: Whether high, medium or low, this is a rating on how well the player’s traits and skills would fit the Chiefs current team

Trade-up candidate: Listed as “Yes” or “No” and symbolizes a player that likely requires a trade up

This a general layout of the draft coverage coming to Arrowhead Pride and the KC Draft Guide over the next few months leading up to the NFL Draft.

While I’m sure some may be excited to see the details on what is coming, I know most others are waiting for the tease, so let’s get to it:

Ed Oliver scouting report

Tulane v Houston Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

DEFENSIVE TACKLE, HOUSTON

6’1” | 274 pounds | Houston, Texas | DOB: 12/12/1997

Grade: mid-1st round

Background: One of the top recruits coming out of high school, Oliver was the first five-star recruit to initially commit to a non-Power 5 school. Won the Bill Willis Trophy (top DL in the country and Outland Trophy (best IDL) in back-to-back years and was named to the Walter Camp All American First Team in 2017.

Strengths: Elite athlete, hips are loose and change of direction is potentially best in interior defensive line history, linear explosion almost matches the agility, first step is quick both straight ahead and laterally, can cross blockers and get upfield as they are still working out of their stance, impossible to reach block, slices through gaps with angle body and reducing contact area, keeps chest hidden from blockers, shows true ability corner, shows crafty footwork in tight quarters, hands fire very quick and rip under well, has the range to scrape and get to the sideline, can drop into shallow hook zones/flat zones/spy QBs with athleticism, high motor that doesn’t quit

Weaknesses: Thin frame, likely won’t ever maintain 280-plus pounds, limited length, struggles to anchor against head-up blocks, gives up ground to slide off double teams rather than anchoring, hands are underdeveloped, struggles to make first contact with a blockers body, once a blocker punches and locks him out he struggles to consistently get free, pass rush production doesn’t match tackle-for-loss production or athletic traits

How he fits with the Chiefs: Ed Oliver’s fit with the Chiefs isn’t one that makes perfect sense. His best position is at 3-tech but a top-five player in Chris Jones already occupies the position. Oliver is better at taking on blocks and beating double teams than his frame suggests but a full time role as nose tackle isn’t in the cards. As a defensive end, his lack of length becomes more prominent to stick out there full time. The issue with labeling this as clearly “low” is how good of a player and how versatile he can be. Oliver could play up and down the defensive line on any given play, providing penetration ability and a dynamic pass rush to play off other players.

Player comp: John Randle

My guy stamp? Yes

Fit Likelihood: Medium

Trade up candidate? Yes

NCAA Football: Arizona at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Oliver is an athletic phenom, and that makes him one of the most fun prospects to watch. Part of the issue with his draft evaluation is the fact that he moves like a linebacker but is the site of an EDGE player while playing defensive tackle. He is going to be one of the smallest (if not the smallest) defensive tackles in the NFL upon being drafted. Teams will be unsure where to play him and question his ability at the point of attack at the line of scrimmage.

These are some of the concerns driving Oliver back down draft boards late in the process, but really, it is the NFL overthinking about another player. Oliver’s versatility and ability to play multiple positions is being held against him because he doesn’t fit a stereotype, and even his projected elite athletic testing isn’t saving him so far. Still, I don’t believe Oliver sees the 20s on draft day.

The rare traits are and impossible to deny but the one hole to Oliver’s game that holds water is the lack of development over his time at Houston.

The key there is Houston, a non-Power 5 school that relieved its entire coaching staff that had been there since Oliver arrived. You can point to Oliver’s freshman or sophomore season being his best, and while there was minimal growth, his limitless physical traits suggest there is nowhere to go but up.

This spin move, for example, is effective and executed well enough to result in a sack, but plenty can be cleaned up with this technique that better coaching should draw out.

There is no physical limitation to stop this spin move from happening faster, with better footwork and a stronger set-up, and this goes for much of Oliver’s game. He’s a prime candidate for NFL coaching to develop because of the high-end traits and the flashes of technical skill already in his game.

Much of this probably a moot point as some team in the NFL will smarten up enough to take Oliver before the Chiefs do. However, there is a path to believe he’ll be within striking distance.

With that path possible, a Chiefs pass rush consisting of Dee Ford, Chris Jones, Ed Oliver, and Justin Houston (potentially) and the versatility that comes with it is fun to imagine.