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Raiders 2015 draft watch, defensive needs

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Steve Dykes

While 2014 is supposed to be the season that the Raiders see some progress, their first game against the Jets would suggest otherwise. The quickest way to improve a team is through the draft. So what defensive positions do the Raiders need to fill and who can plug the holes next May?

Cornerback

With both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers signed to one-year contracts, the Raiders will be extremely thin in their secondary next year. D.J. Hayden is a quality cornerback if he can stay healthy. T.J. Carrie is more of a nickel cornerback. That leaves the Raiders in need of a talented starter across from Hayden.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

Last year, the Oregon star was the best cornerback in college football. He was widely viewed as a top ten pick until he decided to return to Oregon for his senior year. Olomu had a beautiful interception against Michigan State when he dove and caught a tipped pass. While he is only 5'10" and 195 pounds, his coverage skills and instincts are exceptional. He is also not afraid to provide run support and make tackles. Pairing him up with D.J. Hayden would vastly improve the secondary giving the Raiders young talent.

Pass rusher

The best way to counteract a strong offense is to get after the quarterback. Khalil Mack, Sio Moore and Justin Tuck specialize in rushing the passer. If the Raiders can get one more elite pass rusher, their defense will be much improved.

Leonard Williams, USC

The USC defensive lineman is the best player in college football. Last week against Stanford, Williams dominated the offensive line for 11 tackles and a sack. To make the performance even more impressive, Williams was doubtful to play with a high ankle sprain.

At 6'5" and 292 pounds, Williams is the exact same size as J.J. Watt was coming out of Wisconsin. He is dominant in both pass and run defense. The only way Williams falls out of the top three picks is if he gets injured so it is unlikely he will be there when the Raiders draft.

Randy Gregory, Nebraska

At 6'6", 245 pounds, Gregory has the prototypical build for a speed pass rusher. Last season, Gregory was one of the most dynamic players in the nation after racking up 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He is extremely talented but raw, kind of like Anthony Barr. But, Gregory comes with behavioral concerns and rumor has it Gregory is not a team player.

While the Nebraska product is ultra-talented, he does come with strings attached.

Free Safety

Charles Woodson is not going to play forever. This will likely be the future Hall of Famer's last season. That would leave Usama Young as the starting free safety. Sometime during the first three rounds, the Raiders need to draft a free safety.

Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State

The senior is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. He has great ball skills and is a physical playmaker that provides run support. While his 6-1, 200 pound frame is undersized for a safety, he makes up for it with great intelligence and ball awareness. Last season, Drummond totaled 91 tackles, ten passes defended and four interceptions. If the Raiders have a poor year, it is possible Drummond could slip to them in the second round.

Landon Collins, Alabama

He enters his junior campaign as one of the most experienced players on the Crimson Tide's defense. Last year, Collins saw time at both safety positions and had 87 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions. He is a great athlete with decent size (6'0", 215 pounds). While he made mistakes last season, part of that was because he was forced into the starting job after Vinnie Sunseri tore his ACL.

What I like about Collins is his ability to open-field tackle. He rips at the ball upon contact and forced two fumbles last season.