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NFL Draft prospect to know: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

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The talented Colorado defensive back could be an option for the Cowboys in April.

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Washington State v Colorado Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Blogging The Boys will begin taking a look at some of the NFL Draft prospects that will be in the 2018 NFL Draft class. We’ll try to do this on a Friday night or Saturday morning so you can pay attention to that player in their next game if you should so choose. Some weeks, we will look at potential targets that will be within the Cowboys’ expected draft range. Others, we will highlight some of the elite members of the class.

Another week, another draft prospect for Dallas Cowboys fans to familiarize themselves with right here at BTB!

All of the talk surrounding America’s Team right now is how the team will respond and perform without its star running back, Ezekiel Elliott. Even without Zeke, the Cowboys still have opportunities to strengthen their playoff push in the coming weeks. Dak Prescott has been playing like an elite quarterback, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, and Darren McFadden are all options at running back, and the defensive line has been playing great in recent weeks. Our own DannyPhantom wrote a great piece on how the Cowboys can still find wins without the All-Pro sophomore running back.

In other news, it’s never too early to get familiar with the draft prospects in the upcoming class. We have taken a look at some of the expected top prospects over the last couple of months, and this is our ninth installment of this series. Thus far, we have looked at three defensive tackles two edge rushers, one wide receiver, one cornerback, and one offensive lineman. Each are all options for your Cowboys when they announce their first selection in Arlington this upcoming spring.

While the Cowboys have been improving on the defensive side of the football, especially with Sean Lee suited up, there is still more room for improvement. A big, run-stopping nose tackle would be great alongside Maliek Collins. Another linebacker that can cover and run from sideline-to-sideline would be nice. A safety to play with Byron Jones would be ideal.

One position that I would like to see addressed is the second outside corner. If the Cowboys opt to spend a first-round pick on a defensive back, here is one name that I would love to hear called.

Isaiah Oliver — cornerback, Colorado Buffaloes

6-foot-1
190
Junior

NCAA Football: Colorado at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys spent premium picks on the defensive backfield in the 2017 NFL Draft. The team spent their second-round pick of the draft on Chidobe Awuize, a versatile DB out of Colorado that can play all over the secondary at corner and at safety. The third-round pick was Jourdan Lewis, an excellent coverage corner with upside from the Michigan Wolverines. He has been worth every bit of that investment. The Cowboys also drafted Marquez White from the Florida State Seminoles and Xavier Woods out of Louisiana Tech on day three. Woods has been improving each week at safety.

There is another Colorado defensive back that the Cowboys should be monitoring throughout the draft process this year: Isaiah Oliver.

Isaiah Oliver has been flying up draft boards over the past month. His play, along with his coverage skills and length, has been garnering first-round hype in draft circles. Bleacher Report’s lead draft analyst Matt Miller and CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso both have Oliver in the first-round in their recent mock drafts.

Miller has the Colorado DB heading to Seattle, a team that certainly knows a thing or two about superb secondary play. He says that Oliver has the physicality that the Seahawks love:

24. Seattle: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

The Seahawks nearly traded Jeremy Lane before he failed his physical, and they already needed an upgrade opposite Richard Sherman at cornerback. Isaiah Oliver has the size (6'1", 194 lbs) to fit into the Seattle defense and plays with the speed and physicality they like, too.

Trapasso also has Oliver in the 20’s, but he has him being picked up by the Steelers. He notes Oliver’s “track speed”:

29. Pittsburgh Steelers

Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado. The Steelers like what they've gotten out of Joe Haden thus far in 2017 yet realize he's not a long-term solution at the cornerback spot. Oliver can be. He's a smooth athlete and has the track speed to stay with wideouts down the field. He has three interceptions and 22 pass breakups in his Colorado career.

They are not alone, either. Pro Football Focus is on the Oliver train as well. PFF has Oliver heading to Cleveland with the 22nd pick of the draft. Here is their analysis on the corner:

CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

There is still work to be done on the defensive side of the ball in Cleveland and Oliver’s size and athleticism will be coveted at draft time. He has excellent balls skills, leading to 21 pass breakups on only 134 career targets and he’s only allowed 44.8 percent of his targets to be completed in his two-plus years of action.

Isaiah Oliver is without a doubt one of my favorite corners in this class. His unique combination of size, length, speed, and coverage skills makes him a very, very intriguing prospect in the first round. The Buffaloes lost Awuzie to Dallas (2nd round), Ahkello Witherspoon to the San Francisco 49ers (3rd round), and Tedric Thompson to Seattle (4th round), yet Oliver has been the latest star in the secondary in Boulder.

Through two-and-half seasons in Boulder, Oliver has been a big time and reliable corner for one of the Pac 12’s most solid defenses. He originally arrived to Colorado as a wide receiver, but he ultimately chose to play on the defensive side of the ball instead. Through his two-and-half seasons, Oliver has recorded 76 total tackles (57 solo), 22 passes defended, and three interceptions — including two through eight games this season alone. Here is one of them:

He is able to cover any wide receiver he lines up against by using both his technique and his track speed that Trapasso alluded to in his personal mock draft.

Track speed isn’t just a term used to hype up and boost his draft stock, either. He is a full-fledged track star that has ran two seasons for the Buffaloes in college. From his Colorado profile:

He has competed two seasons in the decathlon on CU’s outdoor track team, and is a two-time All-Pac-12 performer in the event … As a sophomore, he finished fourth at the Pac-12 Championships with 7,394 points (just 136 out of the lead), and he won the 100-meter (10.82) and 400-meter (48.15) dashes and the long jump (24-1); placed second in the 110-hurdles (14.36) and the shot put (42-2) and third in the discus (121-7) … In just his second meet as a freshman, he finished seventh at the Pac-12s with 6,952 points (a huge leap from his first effort of 6,415 at the California Invite) … As a sophomore in the California Invitational, he had posted the highest score by a CU decathlete in 43 years in rolling up 7,331 points in finishing third until topping it at the Pac-12 multis.

Another aspect that will surely intrigue the Cowboys’ coaching staff is that Oliver is a quality special teams performer. It’s no secret that Jason Garrett and Co. love to see prospects able to contribute on that unit. Oliver is a punt returner and, according to his CU profile, Oliver was recognized for his special teams contributions in 2016:

The coaches named him the recipient of the team’s Bill McCartney Award, honoring a player for special teams achievement.

Oliver seems like the total package in terms of being a cover corner. Speed? Check. Coverage skills? Check. Size and length? Check.




Jourdan Lewis on one side and Isaiah Oliver on the other? And potentially Anthony Brown moving into the slot? Sign me up for that. What do you think, BTB?

*Gifs courtesy of Joao Marcelo Thalhofer, Campus Insiders, and Aj I; stats from sports-reference.com

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