Name: Isaiah Oliver
A premier athlete, Oliver has all the physical traits a team would want from a lock-down corner. He has elite speed, aided by long strides that allow him to effortlessly run with receivers. He can turn and go with anyone on a vertical route and can also fluidly sink his hips to brace for short routes. Oliver also has elite leaping ability and can high point the ball with the biggest receivers. Despite a relatively slight frame, he displays strength in hand-fighting and jockeying for position. Athletically, Oliver’s only weakness is his change of direction. His top speed is so high that it takes him a few extra steps to plant and cut for dig routes and comebacks. But more often than not, he makes up for it with his recovery speed.
Again, Oliver is physically the ideal. He stands 6-foot-1, but has the length of someone 6-foot-6. His long legs make him an effortless runner and his freakish arms make small windows disappear. His catch radius would make receivers in this draft class jealous. At 190 pounds, he has room to add mass, which will come in handy in run support. Because of his height, he does not backpedal often, instead choosing to press or turn and run. That is the only real detriment of his frame.
As far as potential goes, Oliver is one of the top cover corner prospects in this draft. He plays mostly bump-and-run coverage, excelling at pressing and using his speed and length to hang with anyone. He had no qualms about following the opponent’s top receivers all over the field. His length and speed gives him a lot of leeway as a cover; even when he is beat, there is only a small window to throw into. While he has no trouble with vertical or short routes, intermediate routes, typically those that force him to turn his hips before making a cut, give him some trouble. As mentioned before, he operates best at his highest gear. Slowing and changing direction is not as smooth a movement for him.
Oliver’s coverage numbers at Colorado were outstanding. When targeted, he allowed just 17 catches on 51 targets and four interceptions in 2017. However, 10 of those targets came in the opener against Colorado State, where he allowed just two receptions. Against top-notch Pac-12 passing attacks like USC and UCLA, his allowed-completion percentage was closer to 70 percent. On some level, he will have to prove he can thrive against top-notch competition on a consistent basis.
Oliver has a wide range of projections as far as his draft stock. As a first round pick, he is pretty much out of the question for the Vikings. While they are not perfect at the position, the Vikings are not in such dire need of a corner that they would use a first round pick to get one. But in the second or third round, Oliver would fit perfectly with the Vikings’ system. Terence Newman‘s future with the team is in doubt as he will be 40 in September. Mackensie Alexander, while improved in his second year, has not shown enough to be a lock for the future at nickel. And with Trae Waynes playing in a prove-it year for the 2019 option on his contract, the door could be wide open for someone to fill a vacant corner spot.
Oliver figures to be more of an outside cover specialist than a slot cover. He is a willing and aggressive tackler, which would come in handy at nickel in the Vikings’ blitz-heavy defense. But his length and speed are prototypical for working the edge. Young corners often get their feet wet in the NFL by working as a nickel, so Oliver could get early playing time inside before competing for a starting spot.
There is an outside chance Oliver could fall to the third round; he did so in multiple mock draft simulations. If that were the case, then the fit in Minnesota would be perfect. With the amount of nickel the Vikings run, a glut of quality corners is hardly a weakness. Letting Waynes, Oliver and Alexander grow and compete for two corner spots over the next few years would give Minnesota flexibility with their already-strong defense.