The first thought that would probably come to my mind if someone were to ask me what Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio have in common would be that both played linebacker in the NFL. That fact would naturally lead one to believe linebacker would be the position on which they would put the most emphasis.
As it turns out, that is not the position the two of them place the most value. According to Jack Del Rio, the two longtime NFL men have developed a strong appreciation for the big fellas.
"We've known each other for a long time," Del Rio said of he and McKenzie. "In terms of philosophies, I think the one thing that we both appreciate are big guys. We appreciate big men in the trenches. We believe in having a physical football team and I think it starts with the offensive and defensive line. We both have a healthy respect for what the players go through and what the demands are and how important it is to get good players. I think that's where I'd start."
If you look at each man's post-playing career in the NFL, you can see plenty of evidence of that appreciation.
Most recently in free agency, the Raiders plans began in with the middle of the trenches on both sides of the ball. Two of their top free agent signings were center Rodney Hudson and nose tackle Dan Williams.
Williams was signed after the Raiders contract offers to Terrance Knighton were rejected. Knighton too is a big nose tackle and one who adored Del Rio, following him from Jacksonville to Denver and then vowing to follow him to Oakland as well.
In Del Rio's first few years as the Jaguars head coach, he had the likes of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud clogging up the middle of the defensive line. And in Del Rio's final four seasons in Jacksonville, he drafted offensive and defensive linemen with his first and second round picks in all but one of those drafts.
Since McKenzie took over as GM three years ago, he has spent at least three picks in each draft on the offensive and defensive line including using his first ever draft pick as GM on guard Tony Bergstrom and his second round pick on tackle Menelik Watson the following year.
Last year, after the team got their pass rushing linebacker in Khalil Mack and their quarterback in Derek Carr, the next two picks were linemen. They grabbed left guard Gabe Jackson in the third round and nose tackle Justin Ellis in the fourth round. Both players started the bulk of last season (no pun intended).
Coming into this draft, defensive tackle and offensive guard look to once again be on the menu for the Raiders. They went hard after Ndamukong Suh in free agency before losing him to a monster deal in Miami. Williams can probably play 3-tech DT rotating with Antonio Smith, but neither is ideal. Williams is more suited for 0-tech and Smith is 33-years-old in his final season on a 2-year deal.
A guy like USC's Leonard Williams would sure look good in that spot if he were on the board at the fourth overall pick. That's a big "if" being that he is widely considered the best overall prospect in this draft.
With left guard filled by Gabe Jackson, and with Austin Howard moving (back) to right tackle, right guard is a huge hole that needs filling. So, you can expect the guard position to once again receive attention in the first three rounds of the draft.
Del Rio has said the Raiders want to be a power running team and building up the offensive line is the best way to accomplish that. Building up the defensive line would certainly help keep the opposition from returning the favor.