As hundreds of former college football stars descend upon Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Indiana for the NFL Draft Combine, the Raiders search for young talent to add to their depleted roster.
This time of year provides a lot of fluid situations with various draft boards and rankings, as players show off their talents in various combines and pro days, but looking at the holes in the Raiders’ roster and looking at the way the talent pool is shaping up it is easy to see which way the Raiders might go.
The Raiders’ defense was in shambles last year as they lacked talent at various positions at every level of the defense. They got torched through the air and on the ground as they gave up 354.5 yards and 27.7 points per game.
Opposing quarterbacks were able to stand around with plenty of time against a meager Raiders’ pass rush that totaled just 25 sacks, which was good enough for the second worst total in the league.
This year’s draft is filled with talent along the defensive line at both the tackle and end spot. The Raiders will look to fill both of those positions and with the third pick in the draft sit in a perfect spot to select and elite defensive line prospect. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to two or three players for the Raiders to choose between.
Bjoern Werner – DE, Florida State: Werner looks to be best pass rushing defensive end in the draft. He has great quickness off the snap and is athletic to bend and flex around blockers.
He posses strong hands and upper body to fight off blocks and bull rush blockers into the pocket. Werner also flashes great short area quickness to make tackles in space. His most impressive attribute is his football instincts and awareness, which is surprising as he did not pick up the sport until later in life.
Werner can sometimes play too high or jump up straight in his stance and lose his leverage. He also has shorter arms which will allow blockers to get into his pads.
Werner’s ceiling is very high as he continues to grow into the sport, especially by improving his ability to stop the run and become a complete defensive lineman.
Star Lotulelei – DT, Utah: The Utah product is a strong, powerful human being. He possesses a thick, stout frame and elite strength as he looks to be the type of player that can anchor at the point of attack and eat up space and blockers.
He also has impressive quickness and agility for a man his size as he explodes off the snap and shoots gap to penetrate into the backfield. Lotulelei is adept at collapsing the interior of a pocket flushing quarterbacks to the outside.
However, he does not have great technique as he tends to try and rely on his physical abilities to beat blockers. He does not posses elite pass rush skills and likely will not be a consistent pass rush threat. Loutelei will be an elite run stopper with his combination of size, strength and quickness.
Dark Horse: Sharrif Floyd – DT, Florida: Floyd has been climbing up draft boards quickly leading up to the combine. Mike Mayock actually has Floyd rated higher than Lotulelei at the defensive tackle position as he believes Floyd will shine in the combine with his athleticism.
Floyd flashed his potential during his time at the Swamp. He posses good quickness and footwork to shoot gaps or even come off the edge. He shows that he can use his hands well fighting off of blocks.
Floyd is also capable of holding the point of attack and eating up space in the line. He sometimes plays with a high pad level due to a tendency to stand up straight, which allows opposing lineman to gain a leverage advantage.
Floyd has the ability to play all over the defensive line but projects to be an end in a 3-4 or a tackle in a 4-3. Floyd is nowhere near reaching his ceiling and the right coaching staff could coax the rest of his potential to break out and become a dominant force on the defensive line.
Any one of these players would step in immediately and provide an impact to an extremely work front four for the Raiders.
A lot of where the Raiders will look strongly depends on the Jaguars, who pick directly ahead of them, as they look to fix their defensive front as they only had 20 sacks last season. I
believe Werner will be the pick as he would provide an immediate improvement to their pass rush problem, while Lotulelei would open things open for more players in the pass rush, but will most likely be a solution to stopping the run. If Jaguars select Werner then look for the Raiders to jump at Lotulelei as he would be the best player available. Floyd could sneak into the discussion if he blows everyone away at the combine and pro day.