Throughout the offseason, Leonard Williams have largely been considered the best overall prospect in the 2015 draft. This led many to assume he would be off the board before the Raiders picked at fourth overall. But as the draft approaches, it seems the opinion is shifting.
First draft projections began having Williams actually still on the board at fourth overall, which would seem to make the pick by the Raiders a no-brainer. Some of this had to do with the Jaguars, who own the third overall pick, signing Jared Odrick and therefore no longer in the market for a defensive tackle such as Williams. Now many have the Raiders passing on him as well in favor of wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Earlier this week, former NFL executive and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said the Raiders should pass on Leonard Williams in favor of Amari Cooper. Some people saw this as insane or at least not overly smart. That seems to be the opinion of Raiders fans who in a recent poll on this site were heavily in favor of Leonard Williams with 78% of the vote to Cooper's 19% ('other player' received 3% of the vote).
Wednesday NFL.com's Charles Davis put out his latest mock draft and he too has the Raiders taking a pass on Leonard Williams in favor of Cooper. Said Davis of his projection of Cooper:
An even tougher decision for the Raiders with my top-rated defender (USC's Williams) still on the board, but getting second-year QB Derek Carr his primary target for the next 5-7 years wins out.
The prevailing thought is similar to what it was prior to when anyone thought Williams would be on the board at fourth overall -- Raiders need a number one receiver, Derek Carr needs weapons, and Amari Cooper is the best receiver in this draft (although some favor Kevin White over Cooper). The Raiders also signed defensive tackle Dan Williams this offseason, drastically lowering the need to take a DT in this draft.
Certainly, if you look around enough you can find someone with opinions about anything, especially as the draft creeps closer. But prior to this week, I had yet to see anyone who would suggest, should Leonard Williams be on the board when the Raiders pick at fourth overall, that they should pass on him for Cooper.
That's not to say I believe either projection is correct. Sometimes where there's smoke there's fire.