The Oakland Raiders are finally reaping some of the rewards of trading top young talent, having spent the now available cap wisely.
Newly appointed General Manager Mike Mayock has proven to be the Raiders best off-season acquisition so far, handling himself in trade talks and negotiations impressively. Here is where he truly makes his mark however, he was brought in to select the winning balls in the lottery. With four shots in the top 35 of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders are relying on his experience to build a dangerous roster to both excite in the franchise’s final year in Oakland, and then contend in the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Here are four prospects the Raiders could look to target this coming draft.
Pick 4, Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
While not the seemingly bust-proof prospect of Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, the SEC’s sack leader, would be a dangerous piece to add to a lacking but young Raiders defensive line.
Allen does possess something Bosa doesn’t have however, burst. The Kentucky EDGE fires off the snap, using his 6’5” frame and long strides to eat ground quickly up the arc. His explosiveness was only highlighted more when he played with his hand in the dirt, something he was asked of rarely in the Kentucky defense. Combining this twitch with developed bend and flexibility despite an increase in weight gives you a prospect that threatens the corner consistently. Not only has Allen displayed that he can beat offensive tackles to the edge, dip and bend past the block then flip his hips and flatten to the quarterback, which is mouth-watering in of itself, he has also shown, with improved technique in his hand usage, the ability to shorten the corner. Allen has developed a plethora of pass rushing moves to compliment his athletic gifts, frequently using his hands to keep clean, and flashed some physical dominance by the way of the push-pull.
🚨FILM REVIEW KENTUCKY EDITION🚨
Josh Allen was just ridiculous last night pic.twitter.com/8o0elSMbJ2
— Brett Hudson (@Brett_Hudson) September 23, 2018
Allen exploding out of a three-point stance, tackle forced to hold to avoid giving up the sack.
An improved feel and timing for counters is needed to truly utilise Allen’s speed of the edge. Offensive linemen would consistently over-set outside to combat his get-off, recognising this and switching inside with a counter would punish any tackles looking to cheat towards the corner. Allen rarely converts speed to power which is unsurprising given his success in other areas, however injecting some power into his rushing repertoire by way of the long arm or hump could convert a threating pass rushing prospect, into a deadly one.
Allen can’t just be a pass rushing specialist as a defensive end in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s 4-3 base defense however, especially if playing opposite slippery, projected weak side defensive end Arden Key. Again though, Allen has shown improvement in his run defense, demonstrating the ability to stack and shed, as well as maintain the edge. He doesn’t currently have the power to consistently reset the line of scrimmage, and occasionally gets engulfed when not set and ready. Allen could also stand to be a bigger hitter in the run game but doesn’t miss tackles often and displays good awareness of the ball when making plays on both the quarterback and rushers.
— PFF OAK Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) March 3, 2019
While not an element of Guenther’s scheme thus far, Allen has shown the fluidity to drop into coverage and be successful. Versatility is a coveted attribute in the NFL and Allen has it in spades, providing something to think about for the Raiders staff, especially with Head Coach Jon Gruden already breaking the mould with the signing of small, yet versatile safety Lamarcus Joyner. Gives the Raiders the option to drop him off the line and have somebody with the size and athleticism to finally cover a tight end.
One of my favorite plays of the college football season:
Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen running with TE Jace Sternberger and breaking up the pass
Allen has the top pass-rush grade in the nation and he's dropped into coverage 101 times this year pic.twitter.com/NKl7fldlS2
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) October 29, 2018
While there is work to be done for a prospect like Allen to dominate in a 4-3 front, his remarkable and consistent improvements year on year (starting as a special-teamer and finishing as Kentucky’s all-time career sack leader) will give NFL front offices confidence in selecting him for the role of a starting DE. With the Raiders defensive line being the league worst at getting to the quarterback, and only naming two defensive ends, they must target pass rush early, and if a sack artist like Allen is still available, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gruden sprint to the podium himself.
Pick 24, Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
A high floor high ceiling prospect, Cody Ford, would fill a need at guard to round out a potentially dangerous offensive line for the Raiders.
This past year the offensive line wasn’t dangerous for anyone not named Derek Carr, but with a record signing of free agent offensive tackle Trent Brown, it looks as though the Raiders are building to fix this. Cody Ford, a mauling, nasty blocker could be the man to fill the hole left by the trade of left guard Kelechi Osemele. While Ford played the entirety of the 2018 season at right tackle, he boasts the tape and athletic traits to project as an even better guard prospect.
Power is the name of the game with Ford. He showcased good hand placement when setting blocks and mean finish when completing them. His impressive play strength means that once he gets his hands on you in pass protection it’s generally over. In the run game his power is highlighted again, able to create movement at the point of attack with ease, as well as seal and anchor showing his rotational strength.
Oklahoma RT Cody Ford is nastyyy! pic.twitter.com/lU2tbBHsvX
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) December 28, 2018
Ford displays the best finish of any offensive line prospect in the draft. After trading Osemele it would be great to bring in someone just as nasty.
OU RT Cody Ford (#74) – Was burying this poor soul all game, plus a little extra – pic.twitter.com/1biDv4bF9L
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 9, 2019
The block doesn’t stop when the defender is on the ground in Ford’s mind, inflicts punishment on this EDGE. This attitude invites a timid rush.
Ford’s as athletic as it gets for an offensive lineman prospect even with his massive size, an important trait for the Raiders indicated by last year’s draft (Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker). This athleticism allows the Raiders to fully execute a variety of blocking schemes, and gives Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable every opportunity to implement his run-blocking system.
Cody Ford is also valuable due to his versatility, he has experience both inside at guard and at the tackle position meaning he could help across the line if required. His football IQ is also impressive considering him only starting at tackle for a year, this indicates he’s a quick learner and will improve under NFL tutelage. Playing next to two-time Pro Bowler Rodney Hudson will only help develop his mental game.
Cody Ford does have some wrinkles he will need to iron out to reach his huge potential. His dominant strength and athleticism have allowed him to play with poor balance and leverage, something which would be exploited at the next level. He can allow players to get beneath his pads being too upright which may lead to him being on the receiving end of one of those nasty finishes. Ford also needs to work on his timing, he too easily exposes his chest letting the rush come to him and allowing rushers to take control. He gets more aggressive in his pass sets, which he may be more comfortable doing as a guard, not only will his protection be more consistent, but also more intimidating.
Cody Ford’s agility is off the charts. Dude is an elite athlete. pic.twitter.com/Bfyg3BCGuj
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) December 10, 2018
Is more active in this pass set, allows him to make full use of his athletic gifts.
Picking Cody Ford here would give Cable absolutely no excuses in bringing the Raiders offensive line back to league dominance.
Pick 27, Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
Nasir Adderley looks like the top safety in this year’s class already impressing Jon Gruden as a captain on his Senior Bowl team.
To play in this game, to be elected a captain and finish with a victory is truly a dream come true. Thank you @JimNagy_SB @seniorbowl for the opportunity of a lifetime and such an amazing experience pic.twitter.com/O7ZjiAP0aq
— Nasir Adderley (@NasirAdderley) January 28, 2019
Adderley impressed at the Senior Bowl, finishing with two Raiders stickers slapped on his helmet, one for his captaincy, the other for an interception.
While the Raiders have already invested in the safety position in free agency and in the resigning of Erik Harris, it would not be surprising if a defensive back was taken early given Paul Guenther’s draft tendencies with the Bengals. With free safety Lamarcus Joyner expected to be seeing a lot of time in the slot, Nasir Adderley could be the player to truly unlock Guenther’s defensive scheme while also providing competition at the safety position.
It’s very difficult to pick holes in Adderley’s game, the biggest problem not being with him, but the weakness in competition he faced. Adderley provides complete versatility in his game having moved from cornerback to safety to help his team, a decision that would have both Gruden and Guenther drooling. Being a fluid athlete with great range, he would serve as the cover safety the Raiders have been missing for a while. The Delaware prospect has also shown improved recognition of developing routes, finding success playing instinctively. A little better discipline will be needed when playing a deep zone however, as he occasionally got burned being too eager to make a play.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 24, 2019
From the hash to the opposite sideline, this play is only more impressive when you consider the wider distance between the hashes. Adderley covered a lot of ground.
Adderley’s experience as a cornerback is highlighted in man coverage despite finding himself covering one on one very rarely over the last few seasons. Has the physicality and technique to be effective at the line of scrimmage, showing patience with quick clean feet to match receivers. His athleticism shows up when playing in off coverage, displaying good click and close ability to drive on routes. Adderley has also proven to be a player to avoid throwing at, attacking the catch point well, playing the ball as opposed to settling for a hit and reception.
Reminder that Delaware safety Nasir Adderley is a round 1 talent – pic.twitter.com/JmVPStULlZ
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) January 20, 2019
His tendency as a slight gambler paid off here. With his explosiveness and playmaking ability it would be a waste to restrict him from taking these risks.
Perhaps the most desirable trait to Adderley’s game, at least for Gruden, is his attitude. Adderley is an incredibly physical player, taking on blocks with some ferocity and looking like a bullet in run support. Despite this mentality he shows great form as a tackler, not raging in with a shoulder but making sure to finish the job wrapping up, usually resulting in a crunching hit anyway. Adderley has also expressed his love for special teams, another testament to his desire to help his team win. Gruden has spoken about wanting to find a leader at all three levels of the defense, he would have one in Nasir Adderley. If you’re still not convinced, you should be able to find his ridiculous one-handed pick on a highlight reel somewhere, but I’ll save you some time and let your jaw drop.
Another #BlueHens top play?
Nasir Adderley does his best OBJ impression on this #SCTop10 INT
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) October 28, 2017
Pick 35, Lyndell “Mack” Wilson, LB, Alabama
It feels like forever since the Raiders last had a diagnosing menace patrolling the middle of the field. While Mack Wilson still has some growing to do to be that menace, he would be an instant upgrade over the middle linebackers the Raiders are currently fielding, and if he hits his potential, the Raiders have snagged an All-Pro calibre player in the 2nd round.
The Raiders are currently one dimensional in their linebacking group. Marquel Lee, Tahir Whitehead and Jason Cabinda are stout in the run game but struggle in coverage, while Nicholas Morrow is the reverse. Wilson is a player that can excel at both facets of the game, possessing violence downhill attacking blockers, as well as unteachable instincts dropping into coverage.
Wilson’s biggest attribute is his playmaking ability in coverage, a growing need in an increasingly passing NFL. He is fluid in his drop and reads the quarterback feeling the routes develop around him, and when breaking on the ball he displays elite ball skills that will have you questioning his position at linebacker. His playmaking has got him into trouble on occasion though, sometimes undercutting routes to play on a pass and being burned on a break, or getting his eyes on the ball early and losing his man in coverage.
Every interception that Alabama LB Mack Wilson has recorded during his career. Wilson is just a straight up playmaker with insane instincts. A true three down linebacker. pic.twitter.com/w0OyLxeO9H
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) January 17, 2019
In the run game Wilson has been inconsistent. One snap he would show quick diagnosis trusting his keys, accurate hand placement, low pad level, strength at the point of attack and impressive finish on the runner, another snap he would be caught reading the backfield and swallowed up in the box. Developing that consistency is paramount to him becoming a successful three-down middle linebacker in the NFL. He has good range to make plays on the sideline and scrapes through traffic well. He is not quite the outside run killer in the same way that speed demons Devin White and Devin Bush Jr. are, instead taking advantage of reading the triangle (offensive line keys and mesh point) to diagnose and react quickly, which you could argue is more valuable.
Wilson also has shown inconsistencies in his tackling, something that will have to be cleared up at the next level. The Alabama linebacker sometimes took bad angles in space or would whiff due to not breaking down well enough. He also aims a little high on occasion, relying on his upper body strength to complete the tackle, an issue that didn’t flare up in college, but most probably would do against stronger, faster NFL competition. This being said, Wilson did put good form on film, and when he was disciplined and stalked his prey correctly, you could hear the crack from the back of the stadium. Wilson left quite a few players heaving themselves off the floor, wiping crimson marks off their jerseys.
Texas A&M : “We Want Bama”
Mack Wilson : pic.twitter.com/0oniOq6VuT
— Alabama DieHards (@AlabamaDieHards) October 7, 2017
— Justin King (@JustinKing) October 24, 2016
Wilson is a ferocious special teams player, eager to set the tone. This mentality makes him a more desirable player, especially in the eyes of a coach like Gruden.
In picking Mack Wilson here, the Raiders are finally accepting that the linebacker position is of increasing value, and that they currently have little value at linebacker. Wilson provides instant playmaking in coverage and the intelligence to develop as a green dot in Guenther’s scheme. He also possesses the leadership Gruden is looking for, being one of Alabama’s defensive captains. Wilson’s collegiate career was full of highs and lows, but when he was at his best, he looked like a top Alabama talent standing right next to Quinnen Williams. If Wilson grows to hit the highs consistently, or even something a little below, the Raiders have a special middle linebacker.
In selecting these players the Raiders upgrade their roster with high upside, scheme versatile players at positions of need. The Raiders would also change the attitude of the team bringing these guys on board. Josh Allen tirelessly worked his way to the position he is, improving dramatically year on year to now captain his defense. Cody Ford carries a nasty demeanour with his game which could change the offense in a similar way the addition of Osemele did. Nasir Adderley and Mack Wilson both lead as captains on their defenses as well, and both like to set a tone with physical play that has been missing from the Raiders defense for a while. Perhaps the most telling thing about the attitude of these players is simply their desire to win by any means. Despite their calibre on their college teams all three defensive players play special teams with some ferocity, and Ford was completely willing to slide around the line to help his team succeed. This win by any means mentality is what the Raiders have always thrived off, and what Gruden will love in these four.