49ers 2019 NFL Draft prospect profile: Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver

ANNAPOLIS, MD - OCTOBER 20: Ed Oliver #10 of the Houston Cougars looks on after the Houston Cougars defeated the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marines Memorial Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
ANNAPOLIS, MD - OCTOBER 20: Ed Oliver #10 of the Houston Cougars looks on after the Houston Cougars defeated the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marines Memorial Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t likely to grab a defensive tackle with their first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. But there is a link to Houston’s Ed Oliver, who could be a top-five selection this April.

If the San Francisco 49ers wind up grabbing an interior defender for their defensive line with their first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, it will probably be Alabama’s Quinnen Williams — widely viewed as the No. 2 overall prospect behind Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa.

Houston’s Ed Oliver is widely viewed as the second best defensive tackle in this year’s class, however. And Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar actually ended up mocking the 6-foot-3, 292-pound Oliver to San Francisco at No. 2.

Here’s what Farrar had to say about the selection:

"The 49ers have DeForest Buckner and a cavalcade of situational defensive linemen of varying quality, but outside of Buckner, there isn’t a transcendent guy capable of demolishing an offensive line with speed and power. Oliver makes a ton of sense here—there are few interior defensive linemen over the last decade with his acceleration off the snap, freakish athleticism, and ability to bull through the pocket. There are times when Oliver plays too fast and will run himself right out of the play, but when he’s on, the 6’3”, 292-pound Houston alum makes if virtually impossible for any one offensive lineman to deal with him on a snap-to-snap basis."

Farrar pegs Williams to go third to the New York Jets.

So, what would convince Farrar to bump Oliver up to a team like the 49ers? While the projected move would be interesting, of course, are there any merits to the Niners making such a selection?

Let’s take a look.

Ed Oliver’s Strengths

Earlier during the 2018 NCAA season, it wasn’t hard to find mock drafts and big boards putting Oliver within the top three picks. Some even ranked him the top prospect ahead of Bosa.

It’s not hard to understand why. Oliver boasts a massive frame for an interior defender, matching that with extreme strength and violence. He’s fast for a bigger body, too, and Oliver has zero issues transitioning said speed to power moves along the interior.

Whether it be against the run or pass, Oliver has no issue penetrating offensive lines, as the below stats tell:

Ed Oliver Defense & Fumbles Table
TacklesDef IntFumbles

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/23/2019.

He’s able to get through blockers with so much ease, thanks largely to a non-stop motor and violent hand movement. More impressively, his footwork is also top notch — an often overlooked trait for pass-rushing interior linemen.

There isn’t much Oliver lacks. He has strength, a squatty and powerful frame, works well against both the pass and the run.

So, why would he be placed behind a player like Williams?

Ed Oliver’s Weaknesses

Some may say Oliver’s shortish frame cuts into his draft stock a bit. That might be a problem if he lacked functional strength, but that’s not the case. Neither is leverage.

What could be something to monitor, however, is a knee injury he suffered in 2018 that limited him to just eight games. He’s slated to be fully ready to participate in the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, yet scouts will want to see if there are any setbacks.

Perhaps the biggest point of wonder will be the November altercation between Oliver and Houston head coach Major Applewhite, in which Houston didn’t return to the sideline for the second half.

Additional reports, summed up in this Sports Illustrated article, suggested Oliver is viewed “as high-maintenance, and as a guy who’s gotten things his way a lot.”

Again, another thing the combine will likely address, particularly during player interviews.

Potential Fit with the 49ers

So, why did Farrar bother with mocking Oliver to San Francisco?

It’s possible Farrar just has Oliver higher on his big board. If there’s a slight difference between Williams and Oliver, though, it might be the former has a bit more pocket-wrecking abilities. At least that’s what flashes on film.

The fit, however, is a bit more questionable. The Niners already have a Pro Bowl 3-technique defensive tackle in DeForest Buckner. Buckner could move to the edge (a spot he played his rookie year), but that doesn’t seem likely. And Oliver’s abilities against the run would mean he wouldn’t be relegated to just sub packages, either. He can play 1-technique with few issues, yet San Francisco has a logjam over there, too.

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It’s one thing with Williams, whose abilities are further ahead than Oliver. If the 49ers take Williams, it’s merely a matter of grabbing the best player available. Oliver, however, might be a slight reach.

Either way, the Niners will be faced with that decision when Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 25 from Nashville, Tennessee.