INDIANAPOLIS – The Raiders built most of their offensive line through free agency. Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson and Marshall Newhouse were all acquired that way, with Gabe Jackson the only starting home-grown product.
The line has a strong reputation after years of success, one that took a hit during 2017’s offensive downturn.
New head coach Jon Gruden pointed out a weak spot, on the right flank.
“We had some inconsistency at right tackle,” Gruden said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “(Marshall Newhouse) had his moments where he played well, and moments where he obviously struggled.”
The Raiders will want to shore that up. They also need a long-term solution at left tackle, given Donald Penn’s in the twilight of his career.
Present and future problems could be solved in this NFL Draft. General manager Reggie McKenzie has tried to draft and develop lower rated prospects – David Sharpe and Jylan Ware are currently on the roster – but has not selected an offensive lineman in the first two rounds since Menelik Watson in 2013 and hasn’t picked one before the fourth since 2014.
The Raiders could buck that trend this year, especially if they believe a player can help immediately on the right and transition to left tackle after Penn’s done.
Raiders fans wouldn’t be thrilled with an offensive tackle in the first round – they’d need to trade down from pick No. 9/10 to get appropriate value – considering the team’s stark defensive deficiencies, but it’s a prospect that must be considered.
Finding a sure thing at a premium position like offensive tackle generally takes a high pick. There are a few worthy of such a selection. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown or Texas’ Connor Williams are ranked highest in this class. The Raiders are interviewing several offensive tackles at the combine, including some top prospects, a league source said Thursday.
Draft analysts favors McGlinchey, but have confidence all three could be primetime players.
“The reason I have him as the No. 1 tackle in the draft, and by the way, I believe very much that those other tackles -- Orlando Brown, Connor Williams -- are in the same category as players, but I love two things about Mike McGlinchey,” Mike Mayock said in a conference call. “I love that he got coached by Harry Hiestand at Notre Dame, which tells me when he comes out, he's going to be ready to play. I don't care if you put him at right tackle or left tackle, he's going to be ready to play.
"And, number two, his work ethic and passion for the game of football is unparalleled. So I know what I'm getting with that kid, and that's why I bang the table for him.”
Each guy believes they're the best tackle in this draft class, and each guy has different strengths and weaknesses. Raiders scouts will take information from the combine and add it to game-tape evaluations compiled over the past year to rank these prospects. If one is considered a sure thing and worthy of a high draft slot, they could fortify a line that already stands as the Raiders' offensive foundation.
Gruden loves his interior line, with Osemele, Hudson and Jackson from left to right on the interior. The outside is more of a question mark.
Mayock stood up for McGlinchey. Williams believes he has assets that could help right away, with traits a powerful line would enjoy.
“I believe I instill my will,” Williams said Thursday. “I’m a finisher and I go to the whistle and at the same time, balance that with athleticism and 100 percent effort and you get somewhere with it.”
Brown thinks his pedigree – his father Claude played in the NFL – will help at the next level.
“My football IQ is one of the best in the country,” Brown said. “That’s my biggest asset. I understand the game, the NFL, these schemes and what’s expected of me. I’m a good learner and a guy who understands an NFL job won’t be given. It has to be taken.”