NFL Mock Draft: Raiders GM Dave Ziegler builds his D-line

Raiders 3-Round NFL Mock Draft: Dave Ziegler Builds His New Defensive Line

With free agency set to take over the football landscape this week, NFL mock draft scenarios will begin to take a more realistic look. Take the Las Vegas Raiders, for example, as their fans are clamoring for a quarterback. The likelihood is high that Dave Ziegler will find a signal-caller at some point during this player’s selection meeting. Now, whether it’s in the first round is another question entirely. What we do know for certain is that Patrick Graham’s defense has some serious holes. Perhaps none is larger than their inability to get to the quarterback. Other than Maxx Crosby, the entire defensive line needs some fine-tuning.

Ziegler has gone on record with regard to how he views building an NFL defense. Most organizations these days build from the inside out, meaning they start with the defensive line and go from there. Well, Ziegler, too, believes this.

“I think having a strong defensive line sets the tone for the rest of the defense. Now, that doesn’t mean — you can find a good player, draft a good player. We’ve talked about drafting the best available players, but I think having a deep defensive line that can disrupt, that you can run in waves and things of that nature.”

It’s no secret that the Raiders have lacked consistent pass-rushing for what seems like an eternity. Again, the exception is Crosby. Perhaps surrounding Crosby with a young, hungry, and talented line will help this team get to the next level. Otherwise, Crosby will be getting double-teamed the rest of his career; it’s bad enough he doesn’t get any calls as well. Maybe Ziegler opts to re-tool the defense early when the NFL Draft rolls around.

3-Round Raiders NFL Mock Draft: Rebuilding The Defense?

Rd. 1: Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

As Hondo Carpenter of Sports Illustrated mentioned recently, Kancey was being heralded as “John Randle 2.0” at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. That’s some high praise for the Pitt product. It certainly bodes well for Kancey that he name-dropped Crosby and would be ecstatic about joining the Raiders, but this selection goes beyond that.

At six-foot-one and 281 pounds, Kancey made waves with his 40-yard dash and 10-yard split times at the combine. 4.67 and 1.64 seconds, respectively. Admittedly, he still needs to tack on some mass as he transitions into the NFL, though that’s not an impossible task. Kancey already possesses a nice, quick first step, which is usually a natural trait that’s not exactly “coachable.” In fact, his ability to get off the line and beat blocks with a varied move set jumps out at you. While he gave Crosby his flowers by emphasizing No. 98’s motor, Kancey has a high one himself.

The Raiders desperately need a youth infusion in their defensive line, and Kancey provides exactly that. The 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year is definitely a high-risk, high-reward prospect at No. 7 in the first round. Nevertheless, the upside of having a disruptive force in the middle would be too much to pass up. That’s especially true if Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr. are off the board by then.

Rd. 2: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State

Speaking of injecting the Raiders’ defensive line, going in the second round is Anudike-Uzomah. While we can expect Chandler Jones to remain opposite of Crosby, Dave Ziegler knows that he needs to plan for the future while still managing to have production from the EDGE position this season. Plugging in the 2022 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year could certainly help with that.

Unlike Kancey, Anudike-Uzomah has a notable frame with an arm length of 33 1/2 inches while standing at six-foot-three. Considering the level of explosiveness that Anudike-Uzomah possesses, he’d be a steal in the second round for the Raiders. With 25.5 tackles for a loss and 19.5 sacks over the last two seasons at Kansas State, Anudike-Uzomah would provide an instant boost opposite of Crosby.

Along with his natural explosiveness, another strength that will make Anudike-Uzomah a “can’t miss” prospect is his own range of moves as a pass rusher. His hands are some of the best in this draft class, along with an imposing bull rush and remarkable flexibility, which allows him to get under blockers easily, finishing them off en route to nailing the quarterback. Perhaps rebuilding the defensive line is what the Raiders need after all.

Rd. 3: Garrett Williams, DB, Syracuse

Maybe you can see the pattern of where this NFL mock draft is going. In a scenario where Dave Ziegler either brings back Jarrett Stidham or rolls with Jimmy Garoppolo, the quarterback position possibly drops as a priority. Well, at least in the top half of the draft. Fielding a competitive defense in the AFC West more than anything is going to allow the current Raiders’ regime to continue building. You’ve gotten yourself some pass-rushing help on both the edge and the inside; now, you build outward. Picking Syracuse defensive back Garrett Williams in the third round is another victory here for Dave Ziegler.

Picking up Williams allows Graham to shift Nate Hobbs to his more natural position as a nickel corner, and assuming Ziegler brings back Rock Ya-Sin, it gives the Raiders a formidable group. Having recorded 239 snaps outside wide last season per Pro Football Focus, Williams was graded at 72.1 in the coverage department during that run. It’s definitely worth mentioning that Williams amassed 21 pass deflections over the last three seasons while also proving to be a reliable tackler in his own right. On top of that, he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty in defending the run despite being somewhat undersized at 5-foot-10. As a press corner that gets physical at the line of scrimmage, Williams would make a fine addition.

*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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