Coach Gruden likes what he sees in a pair of potential first-round linebackers

When it comes to drafting a linebacker in the first round, the Raiders haven't had a lot of success in recent memory.

Since 2000, the Silver and Black have drafted two linebackers in the first round: Napoleon Harris and Rolando McClain. Each experiment lasted three years, and while they contributed some decent numbers, neither evolved into the Pro Bowl-caliber players they were supposed to be. It's no secret the team has struggled to find exceptional players at the position, but this year could be different.

With two picks in the first round, the Raiders are slated to select with the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks. In numerous mock drafts, NFL pundits expect General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden to select a linebacker at 19. This would be the first time the team has selected a linebacker in the first round since 2010 (McClain), but it's a position the Raiders need to address before the start of the 2020 campaign.

The two biggest names who could possibly fill that void are former Oklahoma Sooner Kenneth Murray and LSU Tiger Patrick Queen. Both are the ideal modern-day archetype for a linebacker and would be phenomenal fits for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system. This week, the Raiders had the opportunity to meet with both players, and each side felt confident the meetings went well.

"I did talk to the Raiders," Queen said Thursday during his media availability. "The meeting went great, I felt really comfortable with those guys, had a few laughs and jokes and stuff. For the most part I feel like I'm very confident [in how it went]."

The interview portion of the combine is arguably the most important phase for prospects and coaches at the Combine. The tape speaks for itself, so even though the combine workouts are important, getting to know the players entering the draft pool is a unique

The first time prospects meet Coach Gruden, they usually walk away feeling invigorated and Queen shared a similar sentiment. Gruden requires his players to have a deep passion for the game of football and it doesn't take him long to bring that aspect out of them in an interview setting.

"I can't really impersonate him that much, but he's a great person," Queen told reporters. "He was really, really fired up from the time I walked in, to the time I left, he never had that one 'chill' moment. That was something that wowed me when I was in there."

Murray and Queen are both outspoken leaders with similar play styles. Each boast incredible sideline-to-sideline speed and are able to diagnose plays before the snap. Their shared 6'2" build allows them to play with physicality and size at a position that demands it.

Thursday afternoon, Gruden sat down with the Las Vegas media to discuss the combine thus far, and I was sure to ask for his thoughts on the pair of linebackers.

"Queen is interesting, you know. Earlier in the season he wasn't starting and then when you watch the championship run that they were on he was a big part of that. Very fast, twitch, athletic linebacker and impact playmaker," Gruden said. "Murray is a Type A alpha, he's a fun guy to talk football with. Two really good young linebackers. We met with a couple others, we feel like there's a good group in this year's class as well."

The past 20 years, the Raiders haven't found a consistent core of linebackers they can trust at the second level of the defense, but Murray or Queen would be a great first step to building a solid core for the future, and would pair nicely with Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, and Johnathan Abram.

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