Under one month away from the NFL Draft and stone-wall certain the Oakland Raiders take a defensive end in the first round… or Raiders fans will be needing CPR.
The Oakland Raiders struggled to rectify the edge position in free agency. As such, the 2019 NFL Draft is a great place to add some needed talent.
Coming off an atrocious season that resulted in a mere 13 total sacks, Raider Nation is eager to see an improved pass rush. In order for Oakland to become better in this regard, the back end of the defense must play better in coverage to allow the defensive line more time to track down their target.
I am expecting the Raiders to bring in veteran reinforcements at defensive end before the free agency door slams shut. However and regardless of any free agent signings, let’s take a look at three possible options for the Silver and Black in the draft.
Per Scott Bair of NBC Bay Area, Jon Gruden was quoted saying this at the NFL owners meeting:
“We went into free agency, and the names of many expected (to hit the market) were franchise tagged or traded,” Gruden said this week at the NFL owners meeting. “We are going to look hard at that position, obviously.”
“These defensive ends, they don’t grow on trees,” Gruden said. “I know I’ve been criticized for trading one of the best, but we’re going to look hard to address that position. That’s for sure.”
“On paper it looks great,” Gruden said. “When you start studying the tape, you have to decide for yourself. Some of these guys are a bit mysterious because they’re young; they’re underclassmen. They didn’t play a high percentage of snaps, and a lot of them haven’t even completed their pro workout day yet.”
“We coached the Senior Bowl, so I got to meet (Jaylon Ferguson and Montez Sweat),” Gruden said. “I got to meet a few more of those guys at the combine. Now I’m going to get out on the airplane and go meet some more.”
Here’s a high impact player who’s stock has apparently fallen. Originally stated to go top 10 overall, Ferrell now finds himself going in the mid-to-late 20s range. He could end up in the Raiders lap gift wrapped.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther would love a prospect that he feels fit his mould in every aspect and Ferrell fits that description. At 6’5″ and weighing 260 pounds, he’s a smooth athlete and a big body on the defensive line able to get after the quarterback but also adept against the run he could be a multitask defender, which would help a leaky Raiders defense in dire need of big upgrades in every department.
Forcing fumbles is also part of Ferrell’s armour. He forced five fumbles in total over his collegiate career, something the Raiders rarely saw last year with Khalil Mack gone and an inconsistent Bruce Irvin being the lead pass rusher before he got released midseason.
In summary, I wouldn’t take Ferrell as high as the fourth overall pick, but I wouldn’t be against trading up from 24 to snag him as he could be a three-down player in the NFL.
Montez Sweat – DE – Mississippi State
Sweat is another player who has recently moved down the pecking order in terms of defensive ends that will be taken in this year’s draft. Sweat has been mooted to be picked in the early-late 20s in the first round.
Sweat needed to have a good showing in the NFL Scouting Combine and did just that with a notable 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds. From an athletic stand point and for a guy weighing over 260 pounds and measuring 6’6″, that’s an impressive time.
Sweat is far from the finished article but has a very good upside to his game and hasn’t fully grown into his frame yet. When the Raiders evaluated Sweat I expected them to see a highly competitive player who still has plenty of room to grow and has shown very impressive flashes which could become far more consistent.
To summarise, I feel pick the 27th overall pick, which the Raiders own, would be suitable unless he falls to the second round and that would be an even better value for a team in search of contributors along the defensive line.
Zach Allen – DE/DL – Boston College
The final prospect of this article is one of my own personal favourites in this year’s draft class. Allen is by far one of the best double sided players this year and what I mean by that is that not only is he a quarterback rushing threat, but he’s a colossus in the run stopping game as well.
Allen’s ability to play along the whole defensive line would be a huge bonus for Oakland. He could be a real plug and is the kind of prospect that would make you coffee if you asked him to.
The Raiders are looking for a high IQ type of player who loves football and Allen fits the bill ten-fold. Relentless from the first whistle, he fits the Gruden Grinder mentality perfectly.
Allen is the quintessential example of the principle of play-speed over track-speed. He’s never going to be the quickest defensive end in the NFL, but as soon as the pads go on, he is quick minded and that goes a long way in the NFL.
With all that said I strongly feel the Raiders would miss a trick by not selecting Allen and might go as high as pick 27 in the first round. He’s a ready-to-start player already and would only get better with coaching.