Take a look at the various college players linked to the Raiders in 20+ expert mock drafts.
NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis spoke to the national media via conference call Thursday and defense dominated the discussion. Jeremiah led the call by echoing colleague Mike Mayock's recent statements about the depth of the defensive tackle class in this year's Draft.
"It's one of the best defensive tackle drafts I can remember, and I started in 2003 in scouting, and I can't remember this much depth of talent at that position. So it will be interesting to follow what the strategy is with teams. Do they want to go get these guys right away or is there a thought process that there's so much depth that maybe we'll see some of these guys slide down? Because they'll know, they can get another one in a subsequent round. So that's an interesting story line to follow."
The Denver Broncos defensive performance in their Super Bowl 50 victory has been well-documented and there has been a well-deserved focus on players who can get to and affect the quarterback. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, edge rushers are at a premium.
Davis says there is more to it than just accumulating sacks.
"What's been hard for a lot of people is these quarterbacks get rid of the ball pretty fast, too, now. And that's made it very difficult. So we're trying to take numbers from guys getting the five, seven step drop and hanging in the pocket and getting it, and it's harder and harder to get that now. So you have to get your numbers in different ways," Davis said. "Can they get their hands up and knock the ball away sometimes like a JJ Watt, who is so famous for doing that. These guys are taught that because a lot of times the ball is snapped, and you might get two, three steps in towards the quarterback, and you better get your hands up because the ball is on its way out. But developing these guys and getting them, as you know is, never an easy thing anyway."
Jeremiah says that there are several lesser known pass rushers who will be available in the second round and beyond.
"It's interesting this year from the edge rushers, maybe not in that first round but outside the first round, I think we've got some guys, not from traditional powerhouse programs that are going to be fun to follow and see where they go," Jeremiah said. "Obviously Boise State is a big time program, but it's not coming out of the SEC. Kamalei Correa is one of my favorite players; the ideal outside linebacker can really rush. He's got a great motor. He's been very productive. He's one to keep an eye on. As we go down lower in the level of competition, Victor Ochi from Stony Brook is a fun player to watch. He's kind of got that same height and frame as Dwight Freeney. He doesn't have that same juice, but, man, he knows how to rush the passer. Matt Judon from Grand Valley State is another one. These guys are in that fourth, fifth is probably where they end up going. And Noah Spence, he's technically the smaller school at EKU, but obviously, the Ohio State transfer is somebody else that it will be fascinating to watch."
When it comes to the Raiders specifically, the Raiders have one dominant edge rusher in Khalil Mack and now have a potential running mate in the recently acquired Bruce Irvin. With Mario Edwards Jr.'s health still a question mark, it is conceivable the Raiders could add a lineman. With the release of Curtis Lofton, many experts have the Raiders looking at Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland in the first round. Despite the addition of cornerback Sean Smith in free agency, many mock drafts have the Silver and Black going the corner route. Depth would be the key here.
"For inside linebacker, if you didn't want to take Ragland in the first round, I think you can come right back in the second round and get a Josh Perry from Ohio State. We've spent so much time talking about Darron Lee because of his athleticism. Josh Perry's a really good player on tape," Jeremiah said. "He has a little more 'take-on' ability, a little bit stiff. But he can take on a block and play aggressive between the tackles. He's another one like Ragland that he's got more range than he gets credit for. He can run, but he's not a real fluid athlete. I think he'd be an option for them if they wanted to look outside the first round there. But for the other needs on this football team, I still think getting some more depth in the secondary and even just continue to double down on that offensive line. They're building a really, really good offensive line there. Got a chance I think in this upcoming season where they've had one of the three or four best offensive lines in the league."
"One of my guys, I don't want to call him a sleeper, but Nick Kwiatkoski from West Virginia. He tackles people. He goes to the middle of the field and that's what he does," Davis added. "I think you get him deep into day three and have a chance to plug him on the field. If you're trying to play a one down, two down guy, I think he's the type of guy you can look at and get. But those corners are a big deal. Because you know how the league is trying to match up with what vendor's thrown at you with their wide receivers and Philip Rivers presents and you're trying to win your division. William Jackson from Houston, which tells you what you're talking about there, trying to increase your level of play in the secondary and William Jackson would fit that need."
Quite a bit can change between now and the 2016 NFL Draft. Last year, as the weeks ticked off, the experts narrowed the Raiders projected first round selection down to a choice between wide receivers Amari Cooper and Kevin White. As we move forward this year, the experts are varied in their opinions, and those opinions change on a weekly basis but it is starting to look a lot like defense for the Raiders.