The NFL draft’s coming up quick. The Raiders will be on the clock before the sun sets on April 26, armed with the No. 10 overall pick.
That’s a valuable spot, with several quality options at multiple areas of need. It could also be a tradable asset should a quarterback-starved team want to trade up for a passer slipping down the chart.
Let’s assume, for a moment, the Raiders stand pat. A quarterback run at the top should shove some elite prospects down, even if some coveted talents get taken before the Raiders pick.
Let’s take a look at five good options that could be available at No. 10. There's enough quality atop the draft that the Raiders will have good choices even if some guys are gone.
1. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The former Hokie is a do-it-all linebacker with amazing physical tools, viewed by many as an all-star at the professional ranks. He can play off the ball or rush the passer. He can stop the run and tackles well. Edmunds has ideal size at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, with long limbs to pair with great athleticism. He has all that, and he won’t turn 20 until May 2. There’s tremendous upside there, and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden won’t hold age against him.
“There’s a 19-year-old football player in this draft that’s a hell of a player,” Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings. “We’re not going to discriminate against him because he’s 19. You’re the best player and you fit what we’re looking for, we’ll take you.”
The Raiders could take Edmunds and help a lackluster linebacker corps. Analysts say some development is required to become a top-end pro, especially on the mental side of things, but Edmunds can be a disruptive three-down force in all aspects of a defense.
He can play any linebacker spot, and could help the Raiders right away on the outside opposite Tahir Whitehead or in the middle. Edmunds, however, can do several things well.
“Right now what I say is a starting-off-the-ball linebacker and a potential sub at edge rusher,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said after the NFL scouting combine. “He's got a skill set -- I don't use this word often, but he has a skill set that's unique.”
2. DT Vita Vea, Washington
The Milpitas native plays the position of the greatest Raiders need. They’re desperate for help on the inside, especially rushing the passer. Vea’s a run stopper first, but can still get after the quarterback. Washington used him across the defensive line to capitalize on freak athleticism for someone who stands 6-foot-4 and 347 pounds.
Vea could step right in an make an impact on run defense and keep offensive lines honest with Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin.
“He can really roll his hips and he's got tremendous power as a run defender,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in a conference call. “And I think he does have upside as a pass rusher.”
The Raiders need a complete defensive tackle in Paul Guenther’s defense, and they’re hard to find. Vea might be one, which makes him tough to pass up.
3. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
Inside linebackers are getting lighter, faster and more agile these days, a response to pass-happy NFL offenses throwing to varied targets. The Raiders need someone like Smith (6-1, 236), a true sideline-to-sideline presence in the second level. They have struggled covering tight ends and running backs for several seasons. Smith could help immediately in those areas. He’s also an effective run defender with tremendous instincts and a nose for the football. Smith is also known as a disciplined leader who the Raiders could plug into the middle and play. He and Tahir Whitehead would offer a significant upgrade to the Raiders linebacker corps, and improve a weak area right away.
“He's so easy to love when you look at everything he brings to the table,” Jeremiah said. “And I think interview wise and teams doing their background on him, I think that puts him way up there. To me you look at the Bay Area teams, 9 and 10, that makes a lot of sense for him there. And you look at Jon Gruden having been around Derrick Brooks (in a previous coaching stint with Tampa Bay), I would think he could see a little bit of Derrick Brooks in a guy like Roquan Smith, so that makes sense there.”
4. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Raiders drafted an Ohio State cornerback in last year’s first round. They might need another one, even with big things expected from 2017’s No. 24 overall pick Gareon Conley and recent veteran signing Rashaan Melvin. The Raiders are revolutionizing their secondary, and teams need three quality cover men these days. Ward is the draft’s stickiest cornerback, even with less-than-ideal size at 5-foot-10, 191 pounds.
He can play in the slot, and would make an excellent addition to his position group in Alameda considering his pro-ready technique, speed and agility.
5. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Fitzpatrick can do most everything well in the defensive backfield, and the Raiders might jump at the opportunity to select such a dynamic versatile talent. He probably wouldn’t be on the board at No. 10 without a quarterback rush, and could still go before the Raiders pick.
Derrick Ansley was Alabama’s secondary coach before assuming that position with the Raiders this winter, and knows firsthand how dominant Fitzpatrick can be. He can cover the slot, play nickel linebacker or deep safety. He has great range, plays physical and is completely committed to the game. He’s also a solid blitzer. Analysts say Fitzpatrick makes smart reads and fits well in any coverage.
He would be extremely difficult to pass up if available when the Raiders select.