The Cincinnati Bengals still need help in the secondary and cornerback Isaiah Oliver out of Colorado could be a great prospect.
The Cincinnati Bengals still have some question marks when it comes to the secondary even after a breakout season from cornerback William Jackson III. As cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick struggled in 2017, it’s not unlikely that the Bengals will still draft another secondary member. With Darqueze Dennard playing his fifth-year option for the team and Kirkpatrick already making top dollar, it could also be a security blanket if the team cannot sign Dennard to a long-term deal next offseason.
There are plenty of cornerbacks that are gaining an exceptional amount of buzz as we get closer to the draft but someone that has yet to receive enough praise, in my opinion, is cornerback Isaiah Oliver out of Colorado University. With tall and lengthy physical corners becoming more sought after in the NFL, Oliver is a great fit for Cincinnati. I was very impressed when watching his film on Draft Breakdown and think that he would be a great piece in Cincinnati’s defense especially if they really are looking to get more aggressive.
Oliver made Second-Team All American and First-Team All-Pac 12 in 2017. He’s best known for his aggressive play style at the line in a press man coverage scheme and his length. Oliver’s 33.5-inch arm length is the longest in this year’s draft and only six other cornerbacks in the last two decades have had longer arms to put some perspective on it. This allows him to have a significant advantage at the catch point and he made his money when quarterbacks tried to throw the ball up for their receiver on a 50/50 ball.
The Colorado prospect uses this length to shrink the catch radius for receivers no matter where the ball is thrown. His reach allows him to deliver a strong punch at the line of scrimmage and get into the body of receivers knocking them off their route and delaying the timing of the play. The best of his abilities still come from the catch point, however.
The ability to track the ball in the air and get his hand up to swat it away even when trailing a receiver is remarkable. Here you see what looks to be a sure touchdown but Oliver is able to get his hand up at the right time and with his long arms he is able to swat it away from the receiver.
On this play, Oliver was expecting the quarterback to lead his receiver into the end zone and ends up overshooting the route as the ball was thrown behind the receiver. Whether that was an underthrown ball or meant to be a back shoulder pass, Oliver is able to adjust his hips, locate the ball behind him, and use his long arms to still swat away the pass. An absolutely remarkable play by the young cornerback to save a touchdown.
He also does a remarkable job of minimizing the field for receivers by closing them in toward the sideline. Oliver keeps his hips with the receivers and when he see’s them looking back for the pass he will often use his elbow to press against the rib cage to keep track of the receiver and not allow the receiver to get his hand up for the pass while making a play on the ball.
Oliver’s arms also allow him to reach around the bodies of receivers to strip the ball away to force incompletions. Even tight ends cannot use their body to shut Oliver out of the play due to his length and struggle to make the catch. Here is a great example of that.
Oliver’s best attributes will come in press man coverage like most tall and long cornerbacks. Playing him in off-man coverage or zone will allow speedy receivers to make quick cuts and while his speed and acceleration are good for his size, he won’t be able to get there in time. Putting him at the line of scrimmage over his receiver and allowing him to disrupt the play by getting a hand on the receiver at the snap will bring the most success with Oliver.
This would give the Bengals another cornerback that can take on the bigger wide receivers in the league like Alshon Jeffery and Julio Jones types. Kirkpatrick has struggled covering some of the top receivers in the league and Cincinnati needs more aggressive type corners that can make plays on the ball. Oliver will likely be there at 21 if they want to take him in the first round as other teams are looking at Denzel Ward out of Ohio State and Joshua Jackson out of Iowa. We all know the Bengals like taking cornerbacks in the first round.
Oliver would be a geat boundary cornerback for the Bengals and could prove to be a very high potential with some development in his techniques. Even if the Bengals wanted to go the Marvin Lewis route and limit his rookie season role, he could be a great player in Cincinnati as a shutdown cornerback for years to come.