Editor’s note: Scott Bair will provide daily content previewing the NFL draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects among edge defenders, and whether the Raiders should select one.
After watching Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware wreck shop in the Super Bowl, it seems necessary to have two threatening pass rushers. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio disagrees. He thinks you need three.
That desire isn’t cause for concern. The Raiders have three. Sort of.
They have All-Pro Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Aldon Smith under contract, though Smith is suspended until November at least after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. They’ll have three once Smith returns.
Right now the Raiders have two top players, and lost some depth when restricted free agent Benson Mayowa was allowed to sign with Dallas.
Who’s here: Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Mario Edwards Jr., Aldon Smith (suspended)
Draft needs: The Raiders obviously don’t need a front-line edge rusher. They have a few of those already. They do need depth and injury protection off the edge with Mayowa gone.
Also, it should be noted that there’s no guarantee Smith will be reinstated on schedule or in time to make a significant impact this season.
They could find some hybrid players – Edwards Jr. and Mack could be considered edge players and more prototypical defensive linemen – up front or with a linebacker who can cover and rush might fit here.
Quality edge rushers typically go fast in the NFL draft, meaning one might have to go early to find some immediate impact.
Good fits: Given the Raiders current personnel, finding a versatile talent who can pressure the pocket and anchor an end spot would be ideal. Enter Clemson’s Shaq Lawson, who is a better undersized at 6-foot-3, 269 pounds but has real power and talent against the run and pass. Having someone like him inside Irvin at times could be overwhelming. He plays aggressive and analysts sets an edge well. That’s mandatory for Raiders in his position.
Lawson’s teammate Kevin Dodd could also fill a need off the edge as well, and has the athleticism teams like in a developing prospect. Some analysts believe he'll be the better half of the Clemson duo.
There’s value on the second day, possibly from Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah. He’s a solid pass rusher who checks all the boxes and plays with great power. He is a competitor who can develop behind some top-flight pass rushers.
Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, who could be a solid rush linebacker, is another day 2 option. According to Pro Football Focus, Wisconsin outside linebacker Joe Schobert has pass rush ability despite being more of a complete linebacker. The Raiders need more of those. He’s projected to be a third or fourth round pick.
NFL.com suggests that Vanderbilt’s Stephen Weatherly could be a solid third day option with upside.