This is a player who has really taken advantage of the opportunity that has been given to him. Prior to the season, nobody would have been thrilled to know that Oluokon would be starting half the games. It was the unfortunate case with Deion Jones going down in week one and Duke Riley’s inability to establish himself. However, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the future.
He’s far from perfect, but what sixth-round pick is. The important thing is that he can tackle, and that’s something the Falcons have shown they lack over the course of this season. He’s recorded 32 tackles over his last four games, including 10 tackles against Baltimore in which Deion Jones returned. Currently, he’s the highest rated linebacker- outside of Deion Jones- on the roster according to Pro Football Focus.
The Falcons play a lot of nickel, meaning there usually are only two linebackers on the field at one time. Oluokon has a chance of being one of those starting linebackers next year. Either way, he will have a large role in the Falcons gameplan in 2019.
To be honest, I’m a bit surprised Oliver hasn’t had more of an opportunity this season with all the injuries that have occurred in the secondary. The rookie was a second-round pick out of Colorado and has played pretty decent in the two games he started against the Bengals and Redskins. There were some obvious rookie mistakes- especially versus the Bengals- but it’s not like Robert Alford or Desmond Trufant have rocked the joint either.
We will see if that changes now that the Falcons are out of the playoff picture. It should, but regardless, 2019 sets up to be a major opportunity for Oliver. Alford, who is having a miserable 2018, is scheduled to make $9.1 million next season and can be cut with a cap hit of only $1.2 million. It seems more than likely that Alford will be a cap causality this offseason, setting up Oliver in a position to be a starting outside corner next year.
It was somewhat of a forgone conclusion Tevin Coleman would not be with Atlanta past the 2018 season. With a fat chunk of money already invested in Devonta Freeman, there is no way the Falcons are going to be able to afford to pay Coleman as well. Although, the poor numbers he has put up as a starter this year- his fault or not- may drop his price tag quite a bit.
Even so, I don’t see the Falcons reaching into their pockets and paying Coleman. Ito Smith has looked like the best running back on the team in several games and can certainly be relied on to be the backup once Freeman returns. The Falcons also have limited cap space and several other players waiting to receive new deals.
Atlanta selected Smith in the fourth-round out of Southern Mississippi. It surprised some draft analysts (many had him going undrafted) but has panned out for the DirtyBirds thus far. Despite being smaller, at 5′ 9″ and 200 pounds, his versatility and ability to get in an out of tight spaces has been impressive. He honestly reminds me a lot of Devonta Freeman with a tiny bit less physicality. His role with the team should only grow over the next few seasons.