The Green Bay Packers have all kinds of directions they can go at No. 12 in the draft. Here is what they could get in Ed Oliver.
While defensive tackle doesn’t immediately jump out at you as a dire position of need for the Green Bay Packers with the 12th pick in the draft, Ed Oliver should not be overlooked. Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark are both solid interior defenders, and with the additions of both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency, the front four looks stout.
But the Packers should not be satisfied with their defensive line just yet. The unit could still use another stand-up edge rusher, and another interior space-eater to battle the elite running games of the NFC. This is why Ed Oliver would make a lot of sense for the Packers at the 12th overall selection.
No one could block Ed Oliver in his two years at the University of Houston. After turning down Alabama to go play for the Cougars, Oliver immediately became a first-team All-American defensive lineman as a freshman, and followed up that performance by being named a finalist for the Nagurski award. Oliver didn’t particularly harm or help his draft stock at the combine, posting relatively predictable numbers across the board.
Oliver is a jaw-dropping athlete given the position he plays. Very few defensive linemen in recent memory have had as much short-range speed as Oliver. Names like Bruce Irvin, Bud Dupree, and Jurrell Casey are among the only defensive linemen in the league with the same type of quickness as Oliver. From his three-technique stance, Oliver doesn’t need a runway to get up to full speed and can get to the quarterback within a fraction of a second.
Some NFL scouts even compared Oliver to Bruce Smith early on in his career at Houston, though those particularly outspoken minds have come back to earth a bit. Oliver would be a great fit in Green Bay though, both in the short term and long term.
For starters, the Packers are not as good as advertised in the middle of their defense. Kenny Clark, while developing at a promising rate and looking better each season, is still not quite at a position where he is among the elite defensive tackles in the league.
Furthermore, Mike Daniels remains among the most overrated players in the NFL. While he possesses a pretty good push up the middle and can provide some interior pass rush, he provides next to nothing as a run defender, which is a problem for a defensive tackle.
Daniels will not be getting any better either, as he approaches his 30s. He is also a free agent at season’s end. The Packers, having just splurged on four different free agents on separate four-year contracts, are not in an ideal cap position to re-sign Daniels, who will not warrant long term money.
Potentially further complicating things, Clark is also entering a contract year if the Packers don’t use the fifth-year option. The Packers will not be able to re-sign both of them, and should unquestionably prioritize the younger Clark.
The Packers will also have other free agent decisions to make on Blake Martinez, Geronimo Allison, Dean Lowry, and others. Adding Oliver to the defense would enable the Packers to focus on re-signing Clark next offseason and not have to worry about replacing Daniels with another pricey free agent or high draft pick. In the short term, meanwhile, Oliver can still be an instant contributor to a defense that is still a work in progress.
Oliver would give the Packers the best defensive line they have had since the days of Reggie White, Santana Dotson, and Gilbert Brown. Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Oliver, and Za’Darius Smith is a nasty front unit that could be among the league’s best. Daniels is also coming off a season-ending injury, and could use someone to spell him in the second half of games as he tires out.
Oliver’s biggest weakness is the initial off-the-ball release. However, much of this can be attributed to him being double and even triple-teamed at times. He also didn’t exactly play the best offensive linemen in the world in the AAC, but he is unquestionably a ridiculously talented player who has a massive ceiling. If he gets to No. 12, the Packers should give him a long, long look.