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Zack Oliver NFL Draft Scouting Report

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Oliver isn't a terrific athlete and started just one game at Northwestern, but his strong arm could earn him a chance with an NFL team.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Oliver was a three-star recruit out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana whose only Power Five offer was from Northwestern. After a redshirt year, Oliver backed up Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, who split quarterbacking duties, for two seasons. Once Colter graduated, he served as the primary backup for Siemian and, after Siemian suffered a season-ending injury at Purdue, Oliver made the only start of his career against Illinois.

Northwestern needed to win that game to secure bowl eligibility. But Oliver turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions in the first half — two fumbles and two interceptions — and Northwestern found itself down 26-7 at halftime. Oliver added an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the second half for a total of five turnovers. He did throw for 221 yards and a touchdown, but most of that production came long after the outcome of the game was decided.

Despite the sour taste that performance left, Oliver entered the offseason with a legitimate chance to secure the starting job. He was, however, beaten out by redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson, though Oliver beat Matt Alviti for the backup spot.

As we've chronicled in detail, Thorson had an up-and-down freshman season, and Oliver saw playing time in five games. Three of those appearances came in blowout losses to Michigan, Iowa and Tennessee, but Oliver came in to the Penn State and Purdue games to provide a steady hand after Thorson struggled. Oliver was mostly asked to manage those games, not putting up particularly impressive numbers, but he did guide Northwestern to two victories. There's something to be said for that.

Measurables, Pro Day results

40-yard dash Bench press reps Vertical jump Broad jump 3 cone drill 20-yard shuttle
4.88 sec. DNP 34 8'11'' 7.13 sec 4.38
Height Weight Arm length Hand size Wingspan
6'3 223 lbs 31 in. 9 1/12 in. 76 1/2 in.

The first thing that jumps out is Oliver's 34-inch vertical. That's a really impressive mark, though I'm not sure how much weight scouts will put into a not particularly mobile pocket-passer's vertical leap.

Oliver's hands are relatively small — for comparison,  Carson Wentz' hands are 10 inches and a main concern of team's about Jared Goff is that his hands are only 9 1/8 inches — and his 40 and agility measurables won't stand out.

And when you started just one game in college, your measurables need to stand out.

Strengths

- Size. Oliver is a big guy, and his 6-foot-3, 223 pound frame is around NFL average for a quarterback.

- Raw arm strength. Oliver can sling it; that's never been the problem. He's made some impressive downfield throws during his limited time on the field, particularly when he came on for the injured Siemian against Purdue in 2014.

- Vertical leap. Again, not sure how useful this is, but Oliver can certainly dunk a basketball with ease.

Weaknesses

- Lack of playing time/production. Many were/are shocked that Trevor Siemian, with his relative lack of production, has latched onto an NFL roster and is the proud owner of a Super Bowl ring. But Siemian split time as a starter for two years and was the undisputed starter in 2014. Oliver started just one game in his college career and really struggled in that start.

- Athleticism. Oliver ran a 4.88 40-yard dash and didn't fair much better in the agility drills.

Highlights

As stated previously, Oliver's strength is his ability to throw the deep ball. This completion kept Northwestern alive. He also showed a cannon of an arm against Northern Illinois.

Career Stats

Completions Attempts Yards Completion % Touchdowns Interceptions Sack
2012 2 2 14 100 0 0 0
2013 0 2 0 0 0 1 0
2014 30 57 367 52.6 2 3 2
2015 23 53 267 43.4 1 4 6

Projections

NFL Draft Scout lists Oliver as the 78th best quarterback available.

CBS Sports does not list Oliver.

Neither site projects Oliver to be drafted.

Outlook

Oliver has a chance to sign on with a team as an undrafted free agent, but he's fighting an uphill battle. Oliver simply didn't see the field enough in college and didn't impress when he did get some snaps. Oliver spent this year earning his Masters in Management Studies from the Kellogg School of Management, so he should be more than fine if he cannot carve out an NFL career for himself.