Raiders

Mayock: Plenty of draft options to help Raiders' interior pass rush

Mayock: Plenty of draft options to help Raiders' interior pass rush

The Raiders want a better interior pass rush. That’s no secret, especially after they finished 2016 with a league-low 25 sacks despite getting 18 combined from edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

Head coach Jack Del Rio said that was an issue at season’s end, and general manager Reggie McKenzie mentioned a desire to improve at every level of his defense.

He has a reputation for building a bully up front as he did on the offensive line. He can add players through free agency, but quality veterans cost a pretty penny during a time when prioritizing extensions for Derek Carr and Khalil Mack . The NFL Draft might provide an opportunity to strengthen the interior defensive front.

Respected NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said in a Monday conference call that there are plenty of interior options in a deep defensive draft. He says quality can be found when the Raiders pick first at No. 24 overall, or later in the selection process.

“I think there is really good depth in the first three or four rounds for the interior D-line,” Mayock said.

That’s good news for the Raiders. They’ll get a closer look at interior linemen during this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, when prospects go under the microscope in workouts and meetings during a pivotal pre-draft gathering.

Florida’s Caleb Brantley and Michigan State’s Malik McDowell have been mentioned as possible late first-round options who might entice the Raiders at No. 24.

Mayock believes Brantley could help the Raiders inside, especially as a pass rusher.

“I think he's intriguing,” Mayock said. “He's a quick, one-gap guy. I don't think you want him playing three downs every snap. But as far as an ability to rush the quarterback and get an edge on interior offensive linemen, I think he's got that burst that you're looking for.”

The Raiders aren’t necessarily looking for a three-down player. They have some run-stopping specialists under contract next season, especially Justin Ellis. It’s possible Dan Williams gets released to create more cap room, but the Raiders could survive adding someone who can get after the passer inside.

McDowell is an intriguing prospect as well. He has immense natural talent and physical size – McKenzie prefers drafting big guys up front – though he needs refinement. Like Raiders 2015 second-round pick Mario Edwards Jr., McDowell was a five-star recruit out of high school who had some injury issues last season. He’s a versatile piece with a high ceiling at just 20 years old, and could work well with the line rotation and create havoc inside.

Edwards Jr. is capable of doing that when healthy. He missed most of last season with a hip injury, which left too much responsibility on raw rookie Jihad Ward and other unfit to getting a steady pass rush.

“I think he's one of those guys that can kick inside in sub packages,” Mayock said. “I think he's got that kind of size and versatility to play inside and out, and they really missed him.”

Mayock also mentioned interior options outside the first round, including Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi. He considers Ogunjobi a second-round pick with pass-rush ability and potential in the run game.

“There are some guys out there that can help even through the third round,” Mayock said.

The analyst mentioned UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes, Tulane’s Tanzel Smart, Auburn’s Montravius Adams and Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson as options through the third round.

There are other options at No. 24 overall, especially if quality interior defensive linemen are available in later rounds. The Raiders need help at interior linebacker and in the secondary. Latavius Murray could leave in free agency, and while there’s plenty of depth in that position group a Stanford product could interest the Raiders at No. 24.

“Who is going to help them? Is Christian McCaffrey on the clock at that point? Who could help the Oakland Raiders at No. 24?” Mayock said. “I think the running back situation is interesting. I'm not sure there are going to be any tackles at that point. I think they also have to look at linebackers and at 24, I think there are some interesting guys off the line linebackers also.”

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

ALAMEDA -- Raiders defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes hasn’t played a lick this season while rehabbing from offseason surgery to repair his ACL, but he had an opportunity to join the active roster Monday.

The Raiders declined to do so, and Vanderdoes remained on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He has been there since the start of training camp. The Raiders started a 21-day practice window in Week 8, but Vanderdoes didn’t make the progress required to join the 53-man roster.

The Silver and Black is playing it safe with someone they consider a solid scheme fit, and who may be able to help them in 2019. This season, by contrast, is already down the drain, and there is no sense in rushing him back.

“We had a chance to look at him for a couple weeks and although he has made progress he has had a couple injuries to the knee in his background,” Raiders coach Gruden said, referring to two torn knee ligaments during Vanderdoes' time at UCLA. “We want to make sure that we give him the proper time to get ready. We are going to be very precautionary with him. I believe his season will end unfortunately, but it’s the right thing to do for him and his future.”

The 24-year-old was expected back this season, but suffered a setback in training camp that slowed his recovery timetable. He didn’t have enough padded practices to be thrust into games, so the Raiders stepped off the gas and ended his season.

Vanderdoes tore his ACL in the 2017 regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, awful timing for a young prospect known as a stout run defender. 

[RELATED: Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries]

[RATTO: Raiders owner Mark Davis is just poking the rubble by taking the blame now]

Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries

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AP

Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders' receiving corps will look much different now than it did just a few weeks back. The Silver and Black rolled into a Week 6 game against the Seattle Seahawks with Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant featured in the pattern.

It’s possible, maybe even likely, that none of those guys will be available for next week’s game at Arizona.

Cooper obviously is unavailable, as he's now a featured player in Dallas after being traded to the Cowboys.

Bryant suffered an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament in Sunday’s loss to the L.A. Chargers, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said, and will miss significant time.

Nelson has a knee injury that will be examined further this week, with a real prospect of him missing time.

That leaves Brandon LaFell, Seth Roberts, Dwayne Harris and seventh-round draft pick Marcell Ateman as Raiders receivers heading into the Cardinals game.

That’s a far less dynamic crew.

“It’s tough, obviously, with Amari gone and Martavis out. Jordy out,” Gruden said in a Monday press conference said. "We will knock on Marcell Ateman’s door and perhaps give him an opportunity to step forward. We will bring in some receivers to work out tomorrow, and if we need to make a roster spot, we will.”

Ateman was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 22, but he has been inactive each week. The Oklahoma State product will make his NFL debut if Nelson can’t go against the Cardinals.