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The Raiders will choose from quality players who also fill a need when they select No. 4 overall in this week’s draft. They need a receiver and a pass rusher, and there should be plenty to choose from at that those positions.
The stressful part about having so many options: Can’t miss. General manager Reggie McKenzie has spent plenty of time evaluating and receiving council on these players. There has been lots of inclusion talk regarding how McKenzie runs his personnel department. That’s true, but he’ll ultimately pull the trigger. Because of that, credit or blame will hover over him accordingly.
McKenzie isn’t one to spill trade secrets, so little is certain at this stage. We'll analyze five options McKenzie must be considering at No. 4. Let’s get started:
1. DL Leonard Williams, Southern California -- This versatile defensive lineman is considered the best player in this draft by many, the best defender by most. He could go No. 2 overall to Tennessee. But, with quarterbacks possibly going in the top two picks, there’s a chance Williams could be sitting there at No. 4. The Raiders would certainly snatch him up. I think he will be there.
Williams is 6-foot-5, 302 pounds with strong hands, power and a relentless motor. There are some health concerns. The Raiders are more than a little sensitive about injuries these days – let’s call it the Hayden effect -- which is the lone red flag regarding Williams. He’s also a bit raw, but Williams plays like a Raiders target.
2. WR Kevin White, West Virginia -- There’s been plenty of comparison shopping in recent months, and the debate over whether White or Alabama’s Amari Cooper is a superior talent rages on. Something similar, though less extreme, took place last season with Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. The Raiders were on the Evans side of that argument.
While White isn’t as physically imposing as Evans, he falls into the mold of a big, fast, physical receiver who can make plays downfield. There’s concern about one-year wonder status -- White's only strong season was his last -- but he is believed to have greater upside and has the tools to be groomed into a top tier receiver.
3. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama -- The junior from Alabama has a track record of success in the SEC. He’s a smooth-as-silk route runner and is adept at finding space. People say he's the safest bet of any receiver in this draft. Reports indicate that he’s a high-character player with football as a top priority. He finds space. Despite all the talk about White’s blazing speed, Cooper’s 40-yard dash at the combine was just 0.07 seconds slower. Cooper doesn’t have top size or frame, but could help the Raiders right away.
4. OLB Dante Fowler Jr., Florida -- Fowler is considered a Khalil Mack clone. The Raiders already have the original. Why would they need another? Because both men are versatile talents who can play upright or on the line. Having both could add an air of unpredictability to the Raiders defensive scheme that could prove difficult to handle. And, with so many sub-package snaps these days, the Raiders would have a nasty nickel pass rush off of both edges. Fowler is a top edge rusher, and could help the Raiders disrupt the quarterback.
5. OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson -- Selecting Beasley at No. 4 overall would be somewhat of a surprise. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory might’ve been a consideration here without a failed drug test. Still, it’s hard to ignore someone considered to be the best pure pass rusher in this draft. The Raiders had 22 sacks last season, and need someone who can create havoc off the edge. He’s a better scheme fit for a 3-4 defense, but the Raiders might take this talent and make it work.
OLB/DE Bud Dupree, Kentucky: -- The Raiders could opt out of the No. 4 overall pick and still get talent with additional selections. Dupree would be a top target in this case. He’s an athletic freak, with size and speed and power teams want from an edge rusher. He’s raw, but there are plenty of former linebackers on this Raiders coaching staff to groom him. The Raiders like this kid, but he’s tough to slot. How far could they drop and still pick him up?
OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska: -- There’s little doubt Gregory is a top talent that is better than his draft slot. Failing a drug test at the combine is a major no-no, because it’s something you can plan for and easily avoid. Teams consider that careless. Can the Raiders get over that? If so, he might be a worthy option later. He’s extremely light for his position at 235 pounds, but he’s a terrific pass rusher.