Summary: In 2016, Colorado fielded a very good cornerback tandem that helped lead a resurgence for the Buffaloes program. Chidobe Awuzie and Akhello Witherspoon ended up being second- and third-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. While Colorado lost two good corners to the NFL, the team had a talented replacement ready to assume a big role in Isaiah Oliver.
Oliver saw his first action as a freshman, when he recorded 22 tackles with six breakups. In his sophomore year, he was the third corner behind Awuzie and Witherspoon, but still chipped in seven breakups with an interception and 34 tackles. In 2017, Oliver totaled 13 passes broken up, two interceptions and 25 tackles in his final season for Colorado.
For the NFL, Oliver is a man-cover corner who excels playing press man. He is able to turn to run with receivers to blanket them running downfield. Oliver is adept at running the route and preventing separation. He has vertical speed to run with speed receivers to go with height, long arms, and size to take on big wideouts. Oliver also possesses quality ball skills to tip passes away, and he uses his size and quickness to recover. With his good footwork, body control, and ability to redirect, Oliver is able to keep receivers from getting open consistently.
Colorado played Oliver on the island, and he was consistently in man coverage. He is not as comfortable playing zone or off-man coverage. If Oliver goes to a team that plays a lot of zone and off-man coverage, he will need more development. The Colorado coaching staff has raved about Oliver's makeup, so his NFL team can be confident that he will work hard to improve at zone and off-man coverage.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Oliver is likely to be a second-round pick. It isn't out of the question, however, that he sneaks into the end of the first round.
Player Comparison: Akhello Witherspoon. I don't like to use players who are so young in their NFL careers, but in speaking to team sources, Witherspoon was the player who Oliver was compared to. Witherspoon is taller and longer than Oliver, but Oliver is tougher and more physical. They both have a good combination of size, speed, and the ability to be press-man cornerbacks. Witherspoon was a third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and Oliver should go higher this year.
NFL Matches: Oakland, San Francisco, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Orleans, Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Oliver in the 2018 NFL Draft. Late in the first round, there are some options. Buffalo could consider Oliver because the team has to find a replacement for Ronald Darby. The Saints have bigger needs, but they also might consider a corner if he's the best player available, plus that would give them a partner to go with Marshon Lattimore. Oliver could be in play for the Saints. Atlanta could use a cornerback to replace Jalen Collins. The Vikings, meanwhile, have to consider a replacement for Terrance Newman, while the Bengals could use a replacement for Adam Jones. Oliver could interest both Minnesota and Cincinnati.
The Patriots could consider taking Oliver with one of their first-round picks or their high second-round pick. Malcolm Butler left in free agency, while Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in his first year in Foxborough. New England's Super Bowl opponent also could consider Oliver. Philadelphia may not sign Darby to a long-term extension, and Oliver could be selected as a future replacement for the Eagles.
In the second round, there are a lot of potential fits for Oliver. The Browns have to upgrade their cornerback talent, and Oliver would make a lot of sense for one of their second-round picks if he gets there. Tampa Bay could use more young cornerback talent to go with Vernon Hargreaves, and Oliver could be a fit for the Bucs in the second round. The Colts need a young corner to go with Quincy Wilson and replace Vontae Davis. Oliver would be a great fit for Indianapolis with one of its three second-round picks.
Shortly later in the second round, the Raiders and 49ers both could use more cornerback help. Green Bay has used a lot of picks on cornerbacks, but it remains a position to potentially address for the Packers. Oliver could get consideration as a second-rounder. In Los Angeles, the Chargers could use a cornerback to go with Casey Hayward. Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has had durability issues. Oliver would be a nice scheme fit across from Casey Hayward. Dallas could use a third cornerback to go with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Oliver could make sense for the Cowboys in the second round.