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2019 NFL Draft: Houston DT Ed Oliver put on a Pro Day performance to remember

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Frequently connected with the Packers at #12 overall, Oliver looks like a generational athletic talent on the defensive line.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Houston
That’s the face of a man who just crushed his workout without really trying.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The phrase “generational talent” is bandied about in scouting circles on occasion, and rarely does it truly mean what its literal interpretation indicates. However, when it comes to pure athletic ability, Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver appears to fit that description.

Oliver, a highly-regarded prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft, put his absurd athleticism on display Thursday at Houston’s Pro Day and left NFL Twitter slack-jawed in the wake of his workout. It’s not just that he’s big, or that he’s fast, or that he’s big and fast. It’s the sum total of all of his numbers that have NFL fans and analysts (including several here at Acme Packing Company) drooling.

Oliver, who measured in at 6-foot-1 7/8 at the Scouting Combine last month and weighed 281 pounds on Thursday, posted numbers that would be impressive for players at positions like off-ball linebacker or running back. Check out these reported numbers for Oliver today and from the Combine, along with their percentiles for interior defensive linemen (from Mockdraftable over the past 20 years of workouts):

  • 40 time: 4.73 seconds (98th percentile)
  • Short shuttle: 4.22 seconds (96th)
  • 3-cone: 7.15 seconds (95th)
  • Vertical*: 36 inches (98th)
  • Broad jump*: 10 feet (98th)

* Results from Scouting Combine

Ranking in the 95th percentile or above at your position in any one drill is impressive. Landing with that ranking at every movement drill is just insanity. Add to that an excellent 32 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds in Indy and you have a literally once-in-a-generation player in terms of athleticism.

The reason that Oliver is not seen as a lock for a top-five or even a top-ten draft pick has to do with effort, production, and usage at Houston. His sack and tackle totals dropped in 2018, but he also missed four games as a junior. In addition, the Cougars frequently lined Oliver up as a nose tackle despite his size seeming better-suited to a three-technique alignment. With athleticism like that, it would seem that he was a bit wasted playing largely on the nose; indeed, those testing results are excellent not just for an edge rusher but even for an off-ball linebacker.

Mockdraftable’s average numbers for off-ball linebackers are as follows: 4.72 40, 4.29 short shuttle, 7.11 3-cone, 34-inch vertical, 9-foot-8 broad jump. Oliver basically matched the average 40, was a tenth-second short of the average 3-cone, and beat all the others. In fact, Oliver’s athleticism is so absurd that NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein reports that at least four teams have graded him as both a defensive tackle and an inside linebacker.

Oliver even talked to NFL Network’s Jane Slater about his workout and about the possibility of playing linebacker — and he also said that he even held back on his 40-yard dash to avoid hurting himself:

If the Packers indeed find a way to land Oliver, either at 12 overall or via a trade up into the top ten, it’s easy to imagine him becoming a fun chess piece for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Play him on the edge, at 3-tech, or even standing up over the A gap on passing downs. Combined with an excellent pair of linemen in Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels as well as the Smiths on the outside, Oliver would be a matchup nightmare. On which player should offensive coordinators focus their protections?

Hopefully that’s a question that Packers opponents have to answer come September.