After a busy offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders aren’t likely to make a ton of noise on draft day. Their first pick is not until the third round. With that being said, there are plenty of ways in which they can still improve their roster with that pick. One way would be to upgrade the offensive line. Given the current state of that position group, I would guess that Las Vegas would most likely opt for a tackle here rather than an interior offensive lineman. Given that, here are the three best options at tackle in the third round.
Raiders Draft: Methodology For These Prospects
The key here is to remember that the Raiders aren’t picking until the third round. So that means guys like Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, and even Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa shouldn’t be considered at all. Using Pro Football Focus’s Mock Draft Simulator, I looked at their 10 highest ranked tackles that were consistently available by round three. Now, some of these guys are mocked to go somewhat early in round three, but they are close enough to where they could fall, or the Raiders could move up pretty easily.
After watching the tape, each player was graded on a 1â€“10 scale in five categories: athleticism, strength, technique, pass protection, and run blocking. After that, I took an average of those five scores to give each player an overall grade. Here are the three that graded out the highest.
Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
Height/Weight: 6’9″/384 lbs.
- ATH: 7
- STR: 9
- TECH: 5
- PP: 8
- RB: 6
- OVR: 7.0
- Floor: High-end 6th OL
- Ceiling: Elite Tackle
- Comp: Trent Brown (but bigger and leaner)
Out of everyone that I looked at, Faalele was the only one that I felt had the potential to become elite. This is because he has the one thing that cannot be coached: size. At 6’9″ and 384 pounds, he dwarfs a lot of NFL tackles. Yet, he moves incredibly well for someone pushing four bills. His size isn’t the only reason he has potential. There is also the fact that the Melbourne, Australia native has only been playing football for five years.
However, this is also his biggest drawback. You can see on the tape that he is very much still in the process of learning how to play. It becomes especially apparent on run plays. He appears a bit hesitant, as if he is still thinking through his assignment. Also, you don’t see his full power on display because his blocking technique has yet to become second nature. He isn’t quite able to take advantage of his size yet because the learning curve is keeping him from playing at full speed. This could really hurt him at the next level.
There is still plenty of reason to be optimistic. For starters, he graded higher every year, according to PFF. While that might not be gospel, it does signal that he is improving. He managed to hold down a starting spot in the Big Ten, where you face quality defensive linemen week in and week out. While the learning curve could keep him from reaching his peak for a while, his size will allow him to be competitive immediately, especially in pass-protection. The most impressive thing about his college tape wasn’t how he won, but the fact that even when he was beat cleanly, the defender had to go about 10 yards deep into the backfield just to get around him.
Faalele’s size, coupled with his mobility, is such an outlier that he could almost not know how to play at all and still be serviceable. Of the three prospects here, he’s third simply because of how raw he is.
Zach Tom, Wake Forest
Height/Weight: 6’4″/304 lbs.
- ATH: 7
- STR: 8
- TECH: 8
- PP: 7
- RB: 8
- OVR: 7.6
- Floor: Utility lineman
- Ceiling: Starting tackle
- Comp: Rashawn Slater-lite
By far, the best tape I saw was that of Tom. The redshirt senior was a dominant force at left tackle for the Demon Deacons. He moves well, his technique is sound, and he’s strong at the point of attack. He really doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Tom is one of those players that quietly does his job to the point where you almost forget about him on tape.
Despite all this, there are some concerns. He did not see a ton of truly elite competition this season. There isn’t an Aidan Hutchinson or a Kayvon Thibodeaux in the ACC. The best Tom saw was Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson (he shut him down for what it’s worth). The level of competition he saw likely masked what could be a fatal flaw: length. He is a bit on the short side for NFL tackles, and he doesn’t have super long arms. While it didn’t seem to matter in college, those physical limitations can be a lot harder to overcome at the next level.
If this sounds familiar, it should be. Last year, we heard a lot of these concerns about Rashawn Slater. I think it is safe to say that he alleviated those concerns. Zach Tom is not nearly as gifted as Slater. As good as Tom’s tape was, I don’t see a Pro Bowl tackle. If he does have to move inside, it won’t be totally foreign. He has experience playing center. He would be a decent fit with the Raiders, as they have enough needs up front where they could find a spot. However, they might be better off getting a true right tackle.
Max Mitchell, Louisiana
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/297 lbs.
- ATH: 8
- STR: 6
- TECH: 8
- PP: 7
- RB: 7
- Floor: Fringe of the roster backup
- Ceiling: High end starting tackle
- Comp: Garett Bolles
If you need a true right tackle, look no further. This is a guy who can pave the way for ball carriers down the field in the run game and hold up in pass protection against opposing teams’ top edge rushers. Mitchell is very technically sound. He has by far the best hand placement I’ve seen. Also, he doesn’t get caught out of position too often. When he does, he uses his athleticism to stay in front of his man rather than resorting to holding him. This isn’t just based on small-school tape either. The praise holds up when he plays against big 12 teams like Texas and Iowa State.
Mass is a major worry. It is hard to be a successful offensive lineman in the NFL under 300 pounds. Right now, he just doesn’t have the functional strength to block the top defenders in the NFL. The problem is bad enough that it is actually affecting his technique. He tends to sometimes lean too far out to get more of a push, which gets him over-extended.
Luckily, plenty of linemen have to bulk up when they make that jump to the next level. It is rarely a big problem. Plus, it helps that Mitchell’s frame has plenty of room for more mass. He could easily still be ready to start for an NFL team in Week 1. His skills and football IQ are strong enough that the transition should be easy in that regard. Of all the guys I looked at, Mitchell is the best fit for the Raiders.
*Top Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images