Top defensive prospects take center stage on Day Four of the Combine

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It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: a chance to hear from the top defensive linemen in the 2019 NFL Draft Class.

Nick Bosa, Rashan Gary, Josh Allen, Quinnen Williams, and many more were designated to speak with the media Saturday afternoon, as they shared what it’s been like to prepare for the upcoming draft. Any of the players mentioned would be a fit for the Oakland Raiders and after totaling 13 sacks in 2018 the team knows it needs to address the pass rush in the Draft if it wants to improve for next season.

Maurice Hurst Jr. and P.J. Hall were nice additions to the Raiders interior line following the 2018 NFL Draft, but the edge rush struggled to create pressure. Hurst led all defenders with four sacks last year, so the coaching staff is expecting the former Michigan Wolverine to build on his impressive rookie campaign, but he needs some help. Gary, Bosa, and Allen all boast freakish-athleticism, which is hard to ignore on film. Swim moves, great technique, and raw power all come to mind when you talk about this trio, and each would best serve as an outside rusher. Gary has the capability to line up in the three-technique, but in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s system I think the coaching staff would consider unleashing him on the edge. Not only would Gary provide a unique skill set, but he’d be reunited with his former college teammate in Hurst.

“If I had the opportunity to be a Raider, I would love it,” Gary told the media Saturday. “I miss my man, Mo [Hurst]. I would love playing with him again, so if I get the opportunity to that’d be good.”

Gary also shared that he met with Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock, “I had a meeting with them yesterday… [actually] two days ago. They’re a great group of guys. I had a good time sitting down with them and we had a good meeting.”

The majority of mock drafts have suggested the Raiders will select Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams at No. 4 overall, which wouldn’t be a bad pick by any means. As Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock pointed out during his media availability Wednesday, the majority of NFL quarterbacks feel the most uncomfortable when they’re unable to step up in the pocket. Williams proved that against some of the best talents in the SEC, he could rip a hole in the offensive line and barrel his way to the quarterback.

With the aforementioned players headlining the Combine, and the depth of this defensive line class, some players get lost in the mix, but defensive ends like Zach Allen, Montez Sweat, and Brian Burns aren’t worth overlooking. Allen, who attended Boston College, was a member of the Raiders’ North roster at the Senior Bowl, and during his media availability he opened up about the experience of learning from Head Coach Jon Gruden.

“I think the Senior Bowl was a fantastic learning experience,” Allen said. “I know I didn’t play the best I could, but coming off of not playing for three months that was the first time getting back into it with a foot injury. The amount of stuff I was able to learn from [Defensive Coordinator Paul] Guenther and [defensive line coach Brenston] Buckner, their football knowledge is really off the charts and just learning how to conduct yourself with Coach Gruden and Mr. Mayock. They’re really two guys that are the most well respected in this business, so it was an honor to play for them.”

Many of the players here at the Combine shared a similar sentiment, noting that it would be an honor to get selected by the Raiders with the No. 4, No. 24, or No. 27 pick, but each believes they’re worthy of going No. 1 overall.

Gruden and Mayock won’t reveal their draft plans, but a few of the defensive linemen that spoke Saturday — Rashan Gary, Josh Allen, Quinnen Williams, and Brian Burns — confirmed they’ve already met with the Raiders, or are scheduled to. It was fun to hear from the prospects Saturday, but it should be even more exciting to watch them compete in the drills on Sunday.

Until then, continue to check raiders.com for more news and updates regarding prospects.

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