The Draft Scout's Matt Miller joined Raiders.com's Eddie Paskal on The Morning Grind to offer some early prospects for the Silver and Black in the upcoming draft and the type of player he expects to be available with the Raiders' 17th pick. With the 2021 NFL Draft 100 days away, let's take a look at some of the players he mentioned on the podcast.
Defensive Lineman • Michigan
Out of the many mock drafts that have been released up to this point early into the draft process, Kwity Paye's name has been tied to the Raiders No. 17 pick more than any player.
New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has made it clear upon his arrival that he is planning on building up the defensive line first and letting everything else fall in place. This may be the best route to go after the Raiders finished the season with 21 sacks, the fourth lowest in the NFL.
The standout from Michigan has shown great speed and a knack for getting to the ball. The 6-foot-4, 272-pound defensive lineman accumulated 8.5 sacks his previous two seasons in Ann Arbor, including a breakout junior year with 50 tackles. The young man also has a powerful backstory, as his mother who left Liberia, West Africa during a civil war to give him and his family a better life in Providence, Rhode Island, is his biggest motivation to make it into the NFL.
Out of the Raiders realistic options, along with the void they are trying to fill on the defensive line to get more pressure on quarterbacks, Paye might be the safest pick for the Silver and Black to make.
Defensive Lineman • University of Miami
If the Raiders are going to turn their attention to the defensive line, I believe this man may be the highest risk/reward player the Raiders can take.
Gregory Rousseau opted-out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, he's already proved to me that he has to potential to be a Pro Bowl defensive lineman. The Miami Hurricane had a monstrous redshirt freshman year with 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. The 6-foot-7 giant has an extremely tall and lanky build to him, but with great power and speed to back it up and a tremendously high-motor. I would consider the Florida native one of the top 5 best athletes in the entire 2021 draft class.
What makes Rousseau a huge high risk/reward player is the time he's spent playing the defensive end position. He played wide receiver and safety his entire life before being converted over to the line in Coral Gables. Many scouts consider Rousseau to still be very raw and green as a defensive lineman and recognize that he might be a pet project that will have to be coached up well before he starts making production.
Considering many great defensive ends such as JJ Watt and Jason Taylor didn't make a full time transition to defensive end until college, I wouldn't sweat it too much. The year he's spent training for the draft should've helped him develop and refine those skills as well. If Rousseau is still on my draft board at No. 17, I would be intrigued to see him complement Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell.
Defensive Tackle • Iowa
Miller regarded Daviyon Nixon as the best defensive tackle prospect on The Morning Grind Tuesday morning, and I must say I agree with Mr. Miller.
Nixon may be one of the more underrated prospects in this years draft, despite the production he's shown in being the anchor of an impressive Iowa defense. Nixon was a JUCO transfer from Iowa Western before deciding to stay in-state and become a Hawkeye. Nixon's decision paid off for both him and Iowa, as he was named Big 12 defensive player of the year, Big 12 lineman of the year and was named a consensus All-American in 2020.
Nixon used his sheer strength to get 5.5 sacks, and his speed and instincts to get him a big boy pick-six against Penn State. No. 54 has an extremely unique gift of being so instinctive and elusive for a tackle over 300 pounds. The Wisconsin native has the potential to be a Quinnen Williams type of player, the rising defensive monster for the New York Jets.
Nixon would be a great choice for the Raiders to plug up the middle and assist a run defense that allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL in 2020.
Preview the Raiders' 2021 home and away opponents with a look back at past matchups.