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NFL Draft Q&A: Mountain West Connection on third-round tight end Josh Oliver

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

We march on in the Big Cat Country post-draft Q&A series with tight end Josh Oliver. Oliver was the first of two third-round picks for the Jacksonville Jaguars, at 69th overall (#nice).

Oliver is another rookie who many expect to compete for immediate playing time given the lack of depth at the tight end position. He has great ball skills and should make an impact in the passing game, but as there is with any rookie, there are question marks as well —especially since he is coming from one of FBS’s most lowly football programs.

To help us learn more about Oliver, I connected with Victor Aquino — the resident San Jose State writer at SB Nation’s Mountain West Connection. Vic also covers the Spartans for the San Jose Mercury News. So, he knows Oliver’s game well. Let’s see what he had to say.

1. Oliver started his career with San Jose State as an edge rusher before changing positions as a freshman. He eventually become a productive tight end his junior and senior years. Would you say this was a natural transition for him, and what does he need still need to work on as he starts his career into the NFL?

Vic: Many athletes come in as two-way players and Oliver was no different. He played basketball as well. He was probably always eyeing tight end because he played about every game as a freshman and started the last few games back then, so there really wasn’t a transition. What he’ll need to work on is just the normal NFL adjustments every player needs to make and Oliver is capable of. Once he learns the playbook, the reads, gets use to NFL speed and gets even stronger, he’ll acclimate, no doubt. I sense another George Kittle like performer in Oliver, though Kittle is faster.

2. Jacksonville had a huge need at tight end. The starting job is wide open for the taking. Do you expect to see Oliver starting right away for the Jags, or do you believe he’ll need time to develop before he’s ready?

Vic: Honestly, I think it’ll be up to the scheme and trust of your coaching staff, especially if Oliver shows well at OTAs and camp. I’ve seen Oliver his sophomore and all his junior year when he wasn’t utilized much at all, as he was his senior year and all the initial NFL-caliber signs were clearly there back then (I also do photography work for the 49ers and get a comparative first-hand look at NFL speed). So, I guess ultimately it’s up to the type of offense (Doug) Marrone and your OC (John DeFilippo) will run. It’ll always be a learning process, but Oliver’s more than capable to learn and retain on the job.

3. Oliver is looked at as more of a pass-catching tight end. This may be good news for Oliver in new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo’s offense. However, historically with Doug Marrone at the helm, the Jaguars expect their tight ends to be able to block in the run game, which is one of the knocks on Oliver. Are these criticisms overblown for Oliver, and has he flashed as a plus blocker, or is this a serious concern?

Vic: This really should not be a concern at all. He can block and takes pride in blocking, but he wasn’t called on for big blocking schemes, except kickouts or some zone blocking, because regardless, he was always accounted for by the other teams on literally every down as a threat, especially later in the season last year, when he was doubled a lot and used as an effective decoy at times. Ultimately, he’s definitely aware of that knock on him and will prove people wrong. Every year has been a progression for him and his NFL career should be the same. If you have great teachers there, he’s a perfect student and more than ready to learn. He’s a love-the-process kind of guy, basically.

4. We’ve mentioned his perceived weaknesses, but what does Oliver do well, and how should the Jaguars utilize him?

He was scouted and known as a possession receiver with great yards after catch (YAC) ability. A majority of his senior year catches were for first downs as well. That would seem to be the way to use him right off.

5. Oliver has good size and athleticism, and slight experience on defense. He’s also been heralded as a good teammate at SJSU. Can you see him making an impact in other areas besides offense, such as special teams or inside the locker room?

Vic: He’s a student of the game and a serious-minded individual, so he should get respect in that way at the least. It also looks like he’s the fastest and possibly more athletic of your tight end bunch, minus the experience, but he can surely open up the box and middle of the field for you, if Marrone and staff start to trust him. You’ll see Oliver also trying to bond with (NIck) Foles, because he’ll certainly know that quarterback connection is a must.

6. Anything else we should know about Oliver?

You got a great character guy; great attitude, total team guy. I’ve seen some opposition try to get under his skin and he handled himself well. I’ve seen him temporarily lose his cool too, which funny enough was kind of refreshing to know he wasn’t all bionic!

Thank you to Vic for taking some time out of his schedule to chat with me. Oliver seems to have great potential, and is a willing-learner. Follow Vic on Twitter, and if you’re a fan of any of the Mountain West Teams, be sure to follow Mountain West Connection as well.

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