When the Baltimore Ravens traded a conditional seventh-round pick in 2022 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for tight end Josh Oliver back in March, it was viewed as a very low-risk move with the potential to yield a moderate to high reward.
Fast forward to early August and that trade has General Manager Eric DeCosta looking like a savvy front office savant yet again because the discarded 2019 third-round pick has been one of the brightest standouts in training camp this far.
“He’s doing a really good job. It’s just going to come down to . . . he’s learning, he hasn’t played a lot of football in the NFL, but he’s a talented guy,” said Head Coach John Harbaugh on Monday. “Getting out there and getting the experience of all these situations and being in those situations, taking him to the [first preseason] game, then taking him to the next week, then the next game and just seeing where he comes out at the end of it after the three games will be really … That’s the process here for him, but he’s doing well.”
Oliver has had a rough start to his NFL after injuries limited him to just four games in his first two seasons. However, he was a promising prospect coming out of San Jose State in 2019 who had a penchant for making big plays in the passing game as a seam stretching vertical and intermediate threat.
While his injuries have hampered his takeoff at the pro level, he still possesses all of the physical tools and athletic traits to develop into a playmaker. He’s consistently flashed his ability as pass catcher in practice where he exhibited strong hands, an understanding of how to use his size to his advantage and physicality at and after the catch.
“I think Josh is an intriguing guy – height, weight, speed guy with good hands, and he’s a guy who’s developing,” Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram said.
Oliver has a golden opportunity to start fresh and jumpstart his career in Baltimore, where the Ravens sorely missed the presence of a complementary pass-catching threat to Mark Andrews at the tight end position in 2020. Last offseason they traded 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst who shined but felt undervalued and utilized as the third tight end on the depth chart behind Andrews and blocking extraordinaire Nick Boyle.
At just 24-years old, Oliver is still a young player with plenty of room to grow and develop and he couldn’t have asked for a better team to get traded to than the Ravens. Under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, they utilized multiple tight end sets more than any other team and were dangerously unpredictable in 2019 when they had a terrific trio.
“He’s been through some things while he’s been in this league, so I think experience will help him out,” Engram said. “He’s a guy that’s an extremely hard worker, he fits into the room, and he’s a guy that has a desire to be a really good football player. So, we’re excited to have him, and we just want to keep growing him and keep bringing him along as a player.”
As my colleague Spencer Schultz both aptly and eloquently stated in his article linked below, Oliver will be one of the players to watch closely in the Ravens’ preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. If he can stay healthy and translate the success that he’s been having in practice into game film over the next three weeks, he’ll be a lock to not only make the roster, but to also carve out a niche on offense as another viable weapon in the passing game that might be some key pieces to start the regular season.
“Having the guys out there on the field, and to see them go out and operate – the young guys – in a real game setting, will help them and help us make the evaluations,” Engram said.