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2019 New Orleans Saints draft prospects: Josh Oliver

A sleeper no more, this tight end could prove to be the best one out of a deep and talented class.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints signed veteran tight end Jared Cook this offseason with the expectation that he will significantly improve the production that the team will get from the position. The Saints got little receiving production from their tight ends in 2018, as Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill, and converted wideout Dan Arnold accounted for only 17% of their passing game. Watson, a well-respected leader and underrated player throughout his career, retired at the end of the season, while Hill and Arnold have done little to convince anyone that they are a number one caliber tight end. Cook is expected to give a major jolt to the passing game, but he is entering his 11th pro season, and just turned 32-yrs. old. Many people expect that New Orleans will look to the draft to add another piece at the position for quarterback Drew Brees. This draft looks to be deep and talented at the tight end spot, and perhaps the Saints look to the west coast for today's draft prospect.

Josh Oliver, TE (San Jose State)

6'5 249

AutoNation Cure Bowl - Georgia State v San Jose State Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Oliver was originally recruited to San Jose State as a DE/LB when coming from Paso Robles High School in California. He was moved to tight end during his freshman year due to some injuries the team suffered at the position, and actually started four games there. After a combined 7 receptions for 62 yards and two scores over his first two years, Oliver became a much bigger part of the Spartans offense in 2017, catching 35 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown. He was dominant in 2018, hauling in 56 receptions for 709 yards and 4 touchdowns, earning 1st team All-Mountain West honors in the process.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Oliver has shot up draft boards since the end of the college season, even being projected by some as a second day pick. He stood out in one on one match ups at the Senior Bowl, then displayed impressive athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. His 4.63 40-yd. dash was third among participating tight ends, and his 22 reps in the bench press (at 225-lbs.) were second most at the position. Oliver's 34inch vertical jump, 117 inch broad jump, and 12.01 second 60-yd. shuttle also ranked among the top ten of all tight end participants. comparison:

Vance McDonald (Steelers)

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Oliver is a prototypical receiving tight end for NFL standards; an athletic mismatch for most linebackers and a size advantage over many defensive backs. He can threaten defenses on short and intermediate routes, as well as getting deep down the seam. He has good understanding of the route tree, and is accustomed to being the primary focus of defensive coverages. Oliver accelerates out of his breaks extremely well to gain separation, and tracks the ball well in mid-air. He has very good body control, and quick hands to adjust to off target throws. Oliver is composed in traffic, and maintains concentration to come down with contested throws. He is a dangerous open field runner, turning short passes into big gains and absorbs contact well, fighting through tacklers for extra yardage.

Oliver may struggle a bit as an in-line tight end to begin his professional career. He can be a bit slow to get into his routes off the line of scrimmage, getting caught up in extra traffic or with press coverage. He shows effort as a blocker, but has inconsistent footwork and technique.

San Jose State v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Josh Oliver was popular among coaches and teammates for his tireless work ethic in college, which combined with his natural athletic ability gives him a tremendous upside. He will most likely best be utilized initially as a pure receiver, mostly from the slot or in obvious passing situations, until he improves his technique as a blocker and an in-line receiver. His natural skills, work habits and consistent improvement in college suggests that he can become an every down tight end sooner rather than later however. Oliver's meteoric rise up the draft charts, even in a deep class of tight ends, is reflective of his incredible receiving ability and desire to be a success.