We move on to the defensive ends as I work through the positions and players on the Raiders draft radar. Along with the player, I include the round in which the Raiders would be likely to take the player should he be available with their pick in that round.
Few things were more painfully obvious last season than the Raiders lack of a pass rush. Their leading pass rushers were tied with just 4.0 sacks. One of those players left as a free agent - Desmond Bryant. This lack of a pass rush affected the play of the entire defense. There is a shortage of top tier defensive ends in this draft. Most of them are better fits as 3-4 outside linebackers.
Here are those defensive ends who show up on the Raiders draft radar:
Ezekial Ansah, BYU - Round 1
Ansah is being touted as a top five pick in this draft. Based on his production, that would be a stretch, but his potential could tell a different story. He is been labeled as a premiere pass rusher in this draft and his performance in the Senior Bowl was a big reason why. The Ghana native is late to football. He went to BYU with designs on track and basketball and as he said, when he was a freshman, his teammates had to help him get his pads on. It wasn't until his senior season that he became a full time starter. Now he has taken the draft by storm. I would think it too much of a risk to take him at third overall but if they can trade down in the first round, the vast potential scouts see in him could be enticing in the Raiders pass rush bereft defense.
Datone Jones, UCLA - Round 2
This 6-4, 280 pound pass rusher has all the production and experience a team could possible want from a player. He started every game from his sophomore season on and saved his best season for his senior season when he had 19 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks for the Bruins. He can even line up as a 3-tech defensive tackle in a pinch. He showed up big time in Senior Bowl practices for Dennis Allen's North squad. If the Raiders want him, they would likely have to trade down and add a second round pick to get him.
Alex Okafor, Texas - Round 3
Getting Okafor with the Raiders' third round pick would be tremendous. The two former Longhorn defensive ends Okafor and Lamarr Houston on each side of the Raider defensive line would be ferocious. This 6-5, 261 pound defensive force got better every season at Texas, culminating in a senior season in which he tallied 12.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He, like Datone Jones, impressed the hell out of Dennis Allen in Senior Bowl week.
Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky - Round 6
Talk about a feast or famine player. Smith had 12.5 sacks all last season, but he only recorded a sack in four games. In those games he had sack numbers of 3.0, 3.5, 5.0, and 1.0. His Western Kentucky team only played one top team on the season, but it was National Champion Alabama and in that game Smith posted 3.0 sacks against the elite Crimson Tide offensive line. He also had 18.5 tackles for loss last season. He put up great numbers over the past three seasons at Western Kentucky. He posted 24 sacks and 40 tackles for loss over that time. Another aspect that raises interest is his standout play on coverage teams, which is usually what you want in a late round pick. He tore his ACL late in his senior season which is a bit concerning but the Raiders have three sixth round picks, one a late round compensatory pick, so it is a low risk flyer.
Wes Horton, USC - Round 7-FA
He has the bloodlines as Wes's father Mike played in the NFL. Horton certainly has the character Reggie McKenzie seeks as evidenced by his being on the Ted Hendricks preseason watch list prior to his Senior season. The award recognizes on-field performance, exceptional winning attitude, leadership abilities, contributions to school and community and academic preparedness as some of the criteria. In the end, he would receive All Pac-12 Honorable Mention. As a senior, He improved on all of his numbers from previous seasons, finishing with 43 tackles (6.5 for loss) and 5.5 sacks. As a USC player used more as a situation pass rusher, he is worth a shot as a late round pick or priority free agent.