Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver compares himself to Aaron Donald and describes the way he plays as “violent with a high motor.”
Oliver is one of the most athletic defensive linemen in Thursday’s NFL Draft. He’s a nose tackle who some believe can play outside linebacker because of his quickness and speed. These attributes have Oliver linked to the Jets with the No. 3 pick.
The Jets are looking for an impactful, versatile player who can pressure the quarterback and play different spots in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ scheme.
If the Jets don’t trade back to acquire additional picks – or make a deal for Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark – they could be choosing between Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Alabama tackle Quinnen Williams, Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen or Oliver.
Ultimately, it’s general manager Mike Maccagnan’s choice, but there are rumors that his new defensive coordinator likes Oliver. Perhaps Williams already is envisioning ways to use Oliver, who at 6-2 and 287 pounds has a similar build as Donald, whom he once coached.
"I think they're in a pretty good spot,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who had the Jets taking Oliver in his mock draft. “I would take Quinnen Williams and I wouldn't turn back. I would pair Quinnen Williams with Leonard Williams, and I think you got guys that can rush a little bit, you've got guys that can hold the point of attack.
"I think switching it up and putting Ed Oliver in there, just making the connection between Gregg Williams having coached Aaron Donald and envisioning a role for somebody like Ed to be able to really penetrate and get up field and kind of be more of the Robin type of a player to Batman there with Leonard Williams, just a different skill set to give you a little something different. So that's what his strength would be.”
Jeremiah added that he believes Quinnen Williams would have the most impact of the four prospects. But that’s for the Jets officials to decide.
Leonard Williams worked out at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California while Quinnen Williams was training there, and seems to agree with Jeremiah.
“He’s a freak,” Leonard Williams said. “I’ve seen him. He’s fast, he’s big and strong and the tape doesn’t lie. He’s a beast.”
Oliver also didn’t have nearly as gaudy stats as Allen, whose 17 sacks were second in college football last season.
He spent most of his time lined up in front of the center. He had just three sacks in eight games and 13.5 in his three seasons at Houston. But Oliver’s 53.5 career tackles for loss are third most in this draft class.
If not for a knee injury last season that kept him out four games, and a blow-up on the sideline with former Houston coach Major Applewhite, Oliver might be considered the top prospect in this draft.
But his Pro Day performance has raised his value. He was projected to go in the teens but now is seen as a top-10 pick, and maybe as high as three.
Oliver ran a 4.73 40-yard dash and a 7.15 three-cone drill – both times were better than some receivers. His 4.22 short shuttle was better than Le’Veon Bell’s (4.25) at the 2013 combine. Oliver also had a 36-inch vertical jump.
He’s been called undersized, but Oliver makes up for that with his athleticism.
"I just feel that I play with a lot more speed than most D-linemen do, especially the ones coming out this year,” Oliver said. “I feel like when you turn my tape on, you turn other guys' tape on, I'm moving at a different speed.”
Oliver said what sets him apart is “my high-motor style of play. How aggressive I am, and how much of a penetrator I am. Just the different swag I can bring to a defensive line, I can change the whole defense, honestly.”