The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, but it’s never too early to get a jump on next year’s class. The Future Stars series will cover a handful of the top players in college football that have very good odds of going in the top half of next year’s first round.
First up is Ed Oliver, a rare prospect out of Houston that will make the Cougars defense must-watch football every weekend this Fall.
The 6’3″, 290 pound Oliver is a former five star recruit out of Houston, Texas. He had offers from a majority of the top programs (Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, etc.), but opted to stay local and commit to Tom Herman’s program at the time.
He started as a true freshman in 2016 and made an immediate impact with 65 tackles (22 for a loss), five sacks, two forced fumbles and six passes defended.
There was no sophomore slump for him as in 2017 he had 73 tackles (16.5 for a loss), five and a half sacks, two forced fumbles, one recovered and three passes defended. He was consistently double teamed as he played the majority of his reps at shade nose and true nose tackle.
During that campaign Oliver took home the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman in the nation) and was a consensus All-American. Even though it’s become nearly impossible for a defender to win, he’s a legitimate Heisman contender for 2018 and a potential top pick for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Let’s break down what makes him extremely special after just two seasons of college football.
It’s this simple: there are only so few football players on this planet that can move like Oliver does at that size. He’s an interior defensive lineman that has the agility of a high end edge pass rusher.
He might not even need it by next February/March, but he has the chance to own the NFL Combine. Putting up unprecedented testing numbers may be the final layer to cement top-5 draft stock.
When you factor in where he plays (nose tackle/shade nose), how often he’s the focal point of the offense and that he just turned 20 years old in December, Oliver’s production has been superb.
Ed Oliver, rim protector pic.twitter.com/FqAVTPluPG
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 10, 2018
He has excellent awareness to break up passes at the line of scrimmage when he doesn’t initially win at the point of attack. His explosiveness and technique often allow him to shoot into the back field to shut down the run or disrupt the passer.
According to Pro Football Focus, he has the most run stops in the entire country out of returning FBS interior defenders with 31 over the last two seasons.
What’s even more alarming is that he’s accomplishing this while playing nose tackle. For a prospect that is often compared to Aaron Donald (who plays three-tech in the NFL, not nose tackle), the best may be ahead of him when he has more help at the next level.
Technique and motor
A large amount of underclassmen develop and refine their technique as they begin to play. For Oliver, an instant impact starter, he’s well ahead of that curve.
He shows an advanced ability to counter at times with multiple pass rush moves, while also playing with an incredible amount of energy and endurance.
For an underclassman Oliver checks off an insane amount of boxes – explosive, gifted athlete but also crafty. Love this counter: pic.twitter.com/0wJIjZgiqD
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 11, 2018
The raw ability, athleticism and star talent Oliver possesses makes for a great football player, but his motor leaves no missed play on the field as well.
Unlike most, Ed Oliver has already come out and verbally declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. At just 20 years old heading into his third college football season, his stock is sky high.
He has the ceiling of a number one overall pick and it’s extremely hard seeing his floor taking him out of the top ten selections. While there are high end talents at premium positions (including on the edge and at offensive tackle), Oliver is a game changing interior defensive lineman that will be highly coveted.
Add Houston to your must-watch list this College Football season, as the Ed Oliver show is prime viewing.
Photo Credit: SI.com