Oakland Raiders: Making the case to draft Nick Bosa over Ed Oliver

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 1: Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Ohio Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 1: Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Ohio Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders have some definite needs on the defensive side of the ball and here, we make the case for picking one potentially elite player over another.

With three 2019 first-round draft picks, Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders have the capital they need to start rebuilding the roster from the ground up. Among those three first-rounders will very likely be a pick in the Top 3, meaning they have a good shot to get something they desperately need – an elite defender.

While they have needs in the secondary and linebackers group, it seems beyond obvious they need to add a player (or two, or three) who can help punch the defensive line up in a big way. Just look at the dozen total sacks and next to no consistent pressure on the quarterback they’ve produced this season.

The question is not whether they should draft somebody to beef up the pass rush – the question is who they should draft to beef up the pass rush. And though a few other names are being tossed around, much of the conversation for many seems to be centered around Ed Oliver of Houston and Nick Bosa of Ohio State.

And given how talented both players are – not to mention how much either could add to this Raiders defense – it makes a lot of sense. Either one would be a solid addition and a playmaker to a defense that’s in desperate need of both.

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While a compelling case can be made for either player, the best argument can be made for Gruden and the Raiders to select Nick Bosa.

Now, obviously this is all hypothetical since we don’t know exactly what the drafting order will be. But, with the team currently holding the second overall pick and only games with Denver and Kansas City left on the schedule, it’s looking entirely possible that they’ll hold onto it.

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It’s certainly very likely that they’ll be picking within the Top 3, which makes it possible they’ll be faced with this very decision – Oliver or Bosa?

Perhaps the biggest practical reason for the Raiders to take Bosa ahead of Oliver boils down to the fact that Gruden used two draft picks on interior defensive linemen last year in Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall. Hurst, in particular, has been a standout this year and is among the best rookies in the entire NFL.

Hall has played in a backup role, logging just over 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season and clearly has some developing to do. And yet, he has shown flashes of being an explosive player on the interior of that defensive line.

In addition to Hall and Hurst, the Raiders still have Justin Ellis on the roster. And while Ellis isn’t known for his pass rushing prowess, when healthy, he’s one of Oakland’s best run stoppers. There’s also Eddie Vanderdoes, who is still under contract, and has some upside Gruden may be able to tap into once he returns from injury.

Let’s not forget that having cleared out a ton of cap space, if Gruden needs to shore up the middle a bit more, they can pick up some help in free agency.

By that rationale, some might ask, why not take Oliver and pick up a defensive end in free agency?

It’s because the crop of free agent defensive ends is thin and lacking in true impact players. As Gruden himself noted earlier this year – after trading Khalil Mack, ironically enough – game changing pass rushers are pretty hard to find.

While we can debate the merits of trading Mack away until the cows come home, in dealing with the reality of the situation at hand, we would all have to agree there is some truth to that statement. Taking the truth of that statement a step further, we would also have to agree that the Raiders lack any sort of consistent, impactful edge rusher.

Last April, they took a talented end who’s got tremendous upside in Arden Key. And while he’s experiencing growing pains, he’s flashed some big time ability. One of the biggest things holding Key back is the lack of help he’s had on the other side.

After cutting Bruce Irvin loose – though, in all truthfulness, he was as ineffective as anybody this season – the Raiders have cycled through names like Tank Carradine, Frostee Rucker, Kony Ealy, and even Shilique Calhoun to try and generate some sort of pass rush off the edge. It hasn’t been successful.

Adding Nick Bosa could fill a very big need for this team.

Putting somebody as explosive and dynamic as Bosa on the other end of the line could help unlock Key’s potential, which would give them a pretty electric 1-2 punch off the edge. Tie in some pocket pushing pressure in the middle in the form of Hurst and Hall – as well as any potential free agent acquisitions – and the Raiders could field a pretty dominant defensive line.

While Oliver’s draft stock has been rising and most believe he’s destined to be a Top 10 (if not Top 5) pick, he doesn’t necessarily fill a position of dire need for the team. Still there should also be questions about how his game will translate to the pros.

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One of the comparisons Oliver draws most often is to Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald. Where that comparison falls flat is in their collegiate numbers, which can often be a decent insight into how they’ll perform as a pro. Simply put, Donald’s numbers are far superior to Oliver’s.

Consider the fact that Donald played his college ball at Pitt, which is in the ACC and pitted him against teams like Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, Oliver played at Houston in the AAC, where he faced teams like Temple, Tulane, and SMU.

One would think that playing in a conference where there’s a step down in competition from what Donald faced would have Oliver put up superior numbers. That’s not the case though. Head to head, Donald accrued 181 total tackles – 66 tackles for a loss – and 29.5 sacks. Oliver has 192 total tackles – 53 for a loss – but just 13.5 sacks.

Can Oliver be a disruptive force and a solid run stopper? Yeah, absolutely. Will he be the pocket-pushing, pass-rushing machine some think he’ll be? Maybe. It’s hard to say at this point.

Last year, Gruden took a player who put up some astounding numbers, but played against a lower tier of competition in Hall, and it’s taking a little time for him to adjust his game to the NFL level of competition.

Though he shows a lot of promise, Hall isn’t putting up the numbers or having quite the presence he did in college, which is an area of concern given the Raiders need players who can step in right away and have an impact.

With Hurst and Hall now having a season of experience under their belts, it would be in Oakland’s interest to fill out the depth chart with some veteran talent.

From there, they can focus their attention on finding a reliable bookend for Key.

We know what the Raiders would be getting in Bosa simply because we have a contemporary comparison in his brother, Joey Bosa, who’s tearing things up with the Los Angeles Chargers. The similarities between the two from body type, to skill set, to their collegiate careers are legion.

Bosa would very likely be able to step in and contribute on Day 1 in an area the Raiders need it most.

An improved pass rush will help support a struggling secondary. Having the ability to set and keep the edges, as well as put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, would elevate the defense as a whole.

Oliver will likely be a very productive defensive tackle as a pro. But there are still questions about how his game will translate to the stiffer competition of the NFL. Will he be elite? We don’t know. We’ve seen Bosa compete and dominate higher level talent and his skillset (as well as his bloodlines) suggest that he’ll be a dominant force in the league for years to come.

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If the hypothetical situation comes to pass and the Raiders are able to choose between Oliver and Bosa, it’ll be a good problem to have. But in terms of immediate help at a position of tremendous need, the only choice they can make is Nick Bosa.