Oakland Raiders Go Defense In Mel Kiper Jr.'s First Mock Draft

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ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Bruce Irvin said that going forward the Oakland Raiders needed some help along the interior of the defensive line, and it looks like ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. agrees with the versatile linebacker.

Just over a week out from the 2017 Senior Bowl, Kiper unveiled his first mock draft of the season, and in it he has the Raiders selecting Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell at No. 24 overall.

"How can a team with Khalil Mack rank last in the league in sacks? That happened this season -- he had 11 and the rest of the defense had 14," wrote Kiper. "McDowell had only 7.5 sacks in his career, but the talent is there to produce much more in the NFL. He's a tremendous athlete with a 6-6, 290-pound frame who is still raw."

McDowell finished his three seasons as a Spartan with 90 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks, as well as garnering 2016 First-Team All-Big Ten Honors to boot.

At times during his career in East Lansing McDowell looked every bit like a top-five pick, but Kiper was also quick to note the reasons he had the athletic defensive tackle falling all the way to the Silver and Black at No. 24.

"He's an enigma," said Kiper. "He's got all this talent, and he showed it two years ago, and then this year, he was underwhelming. His grade kept dropping. He's now 20 on the big board. I've got him going to Oakland at 24. He should be in the top-five based on talent. He should be a top five-pick, but the production wasn't there. The consistency wasn't there. Now, he did have the injury late, but he needed to really step up, and I thought he could have been one of the elite defensive players in this draft, and as I said, his performance was underwhelming."

A closer look at McDowell's scouting report praises the athleticism and high motor of the big defensive tackle, but it's also important acknowledge that after a dominant 2015 where he finished the season with 4.5 sacks, and 13 tackles for loss, McDowell saw his numbers dip dramatically in 2016.

That being said, Kiper believes that McDowell's measurables – as well as the Raiders perceived need for some additional interior rush – make him a good fit for the Silver and Black at No. 24.

"He's kind of an underachiever right now, and somebody is going to roll the dice," Kiper explained. "They want inside pressure coming up the gut, Oakland does, and he can provide that. There's no question he could end up being a really good pick at that point if you can push the right buttons, and get this kid to maximize all that ability. For what they need, inside pressure, inside pass pressure, hey, he has the ability to provide that."

The 2017 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday April 27 in Philadelphia.

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