The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away. With the Raiders making significant additions this offseason, what side of the ball will they look at?
Should GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio's priority be on offense or defense?
No. 1 Team Need: Defensive Line
The Raiders have successfully developed 2014 undrafted free agent Denico Autry into a quality starter at defensive end, but DE/DT Stacy McGee would be best employed in a swing-reserve role and second-year RE/OLB Mario Edwards was discovered to have a potentially career-threatening genetic condition in his neck. 334-pound DE/NT Justin Ellis is a rotational guy. While Oakland's outside pass rush has come together nicely -- Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, eventually Aldon Smith -- this roster needs another disruptive presence between the tackles.
No. 2 Team Need: Running Back
Since last season ended, both GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Jack Del Rio have stated publicly the Raiders want more running back talent. Lacking elusiveness and mistake prone in the passing game, the team was not satisfied with Latavius Murray as its 2015 bellcow back. Murray wasn't all that bad, but based on McKenzie and Del Rio's words, it would not be surprising to see the Raiders draft a new starter. (Think Ezekiel Elliott.)
No. 3 Team Need: Inside Linebacker
I had safety listed as Oakland's No. 1 need as of Wednesday night, but 2015 NFL interceptions leader Reggie Nelson's signing went a long way toward addressing that weakness. It could be argued that the Raiders' other safety position needs to be upgraded, too, though T.J. Carrie is an intriguing in-house option. The Raiders also have question marks at inside linebacker, where there's a job opening next to Malcolm Smith. 2015 fifth-round pick Ben Heeney did flash potential down the stretch of his rookie year and could be the answer.
Norris' Mock Draft
Round 1 (14): RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State - What Evan wants, Evan gets. The case could be made for the Eagles, Giants and Dolphins, among other teams, to select Elliott. But the case can be made against it as well, and I’ve seen beat writers for said teams make them. Personally, I view Elliott as a foundation piece of an NFL offense and a true three-down back.
Round 2 (44): DL Ronald Blair, Appalachian State - I love Blair’s game. He is an extremely explosive and powerful player who can jolt his opponent, shed, and make plays in the backfield. He can play all the way from outside the tackle to over top of the center. Blair also has a great motor.
Round 3 (75): LB Joshua Perry, Ohio State - The Raiders have two athletic linebackers in Smith and Heeney, along with a few backups. Perry is an above-average athlete and would offer size (6’4”/254 lbs) and a downhill presence that the Raiders might be lacking at the position.
Round 4 (114): S DeAndre Houston-Carson, William & Mary - DHC is involved in almost every tackle made during William & Mary games. Seriously, turn on any game and you’ll see him flying into the box to make his presence felt.
Round 5 (143): CB Nick VanHoose, Northwestern - VanHoose missed the East West Shrine Game due to a finger injury, and we’d associate his quiet draft process with that. On the field, he shows ball skills and the athleticism to stick with receivers during breaking routes and downfield.
Round 5 (154): EDGE Curt Maggitt, Tennessee - Maggitt might fall to this spot purely due to injury. However, when on the field, Maggitt showed promise as a pass rusher and drop end.
Round 6 (194): T Avery Young, Auburn - Young’s positive traits are his movement for a 325-plus pound blocker and his experience at guard and tackle.
Round 7 (234): C Kyle Friend, Temple - Squatty, powerful and tough.
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