The Oakland Raiders have played well above expectations in 2019. After seemingly spending most of the first half of the season on the road, they came out with a chance for a wild card. Week in and week out however, the question remains: can they stop anyone?
Despite some positive performances earlier this season, last Sunday against the Jets, Oakland’s defense was exposed yet again.
Vontaze Burfict was an offseason addition but he was suspended after the Colts game when the league apparently had enough of his “dirty play.” The Raiders were left again with Nicholas Morrow, Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Wilber to man the linebacker spots. They have since added guys off the street like Will Compton and Preston Brown. With the defensive line looking better this year, Oakland must add some new blood to the linebacker corps in next year’s upcoming NFL Draft.
To that end, let’s take a look at some potential prospects.
Dylan Moses, Alabama, 6-foot-3, 235 pounds
I know, I know, every Raider fan is wary of Alabama players with Rolando McClain and Amari Cooper never playing up to expectations (though Josh Jacobs is proving to be the real deal). Moses does have some injury concerns (Torn ACL in 2019), but the bottom line is that Moses is the best inside linebacker available in my opinion. The kid was sensational last year as a true Sophomore, being a Butkus Award finalist and finishing the season with 86 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Many fans still remember the Raiders passing on linebackers Myles Jack (Jaguars) and Jaylon Smith (Cowboys) because of knee injuries and both guys have turned out to be pretty good pros.
Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds
Simmons is a “do-everything” type of linebacker and will be the best cover linebacker available next year. Simmons made the smooth transition from safety to linebacker in 2018 and finished the season with 97 total tackles, 1.5 sacks as well as seven pass breakups and one interception. This season, he has been one of the best defensive players in college football by having 74 tackles, five sacks, and one interception in 11 games. He is also a Nagurski Award finalist. A linebacker that can actually cover somebody would be a dream come true for Raider Nation. Simmons looks like he is shot out of a cannon sometimes. He is that fast. His primary weakness or area needed drastic improvement is adding some strength.
Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma 6-foot-2, 243 pounds
Murray isn’t as good as the aforementioned linebackers, but he is not bad either. Surely he would be an upgrade for the Raiders. Murray will run sideline to sideline and make plays as he did versus Houston earlier this season. He must learn how to read plays better but is still a good prospect overall. In 2018, he had 155 total tackles and 4.5 Sacks. In 2019, he has 79 tackles and three sacks.