The past couple years the Raiders have slowly but surely looked to upgrade the linebacking corps. And it appears as if it might finally be coming together. There is still some additions that can be made through the draft.
Nick Roach was one of their first long term signings a couple years ago, but he was released this offseason after lingering effects from a concussion. They replaced him this offseason with Curtis Lofton who had been cut by the Saints. Each draft since then has yielded a player who started for them. The first being Miles Burris in 2012, then it was 2013 third round pick Sio Moore and fifth overall pick in 2014 Khalil Mack.
One of their first signings this offseason was that of Malcolm Smith who can play either outside linebacker spot and will act as a temporary replacement and insurance plan while Sio Moore rehabs from hip surgery. Burris will also be a reserve on the weakside.
Here are the linebackers in whom I see the Raiders showing particular interest
Stephone Anthony, Clemson - Rd 3
Perhaps the most versatile linebacker in this draft. Coming into the offseason he was seen as a mid-round prospect. But thanks to a stellar senior bowl week, he jumped up considerably. He figures to be a middle linebacker in the NFL, but has the range and athleticism to be moved outside to mix and match. This would allow the Raiders to have him as a contingency plan in case Curtis Lofton doesn't work out while also having him available as an outside linebacker or inside linebacker in 3-4 sets. He may not be on the board in the top of the third round, but I don't see the Raiders going after a linebacker earlier than that.
Mike Hull, Penn State - Rd 4
Another solid prospect out of ‘Linebacker U'. As is often the case with Penn State middle linebackers, he is an ideal NFL middle linebacker talent. He is extremely smart, football is in his blood (his father Tom players at Penn State and in the NFL), and he excels in stopping the run. Dude had 140 tackles last season. That's 8th most in the country last year. In addition, he is extremely athletic as a top performer among linebackers in several events at the scouting combine - 2nd most reps on the bench (31), 5th fastest 3-cone drill (6.99), 4th fastest 20-yard shuttle (4.15), and 3rd fastest 60-yard shuttle (11.52).
Hayes Pullard, USC - Rd 6
The last linebacker Jack Del Rio drafted as a head coach was out of USC (Thomas Williams, 2008, round 5). Del Rio was a linebacker at USC. Ken Norton Jr coached linebackers at USC. So, you know they both have watched Pullard closely. And considering he has started 51 games in four seasons and led the team in tackles three of those four years, they have had a lot to watch. The 6-0, 240-pounder brings with him loads of experience facing Pac-12 offenses as the core of the USC defense for four seasons.
Marcus Rush, Michigan State - Rd 7
The Raiders had Rush in for a visit this offseason and he looks to me like one of the few who the team could actually draft. The college defensive end translates to linebacker at the NFL level. The 6-2, 243-pounder started 53 games at Michigan State with 18.5 career sacks. He showed well at his pro day and looks to be an ideal special teams standout as well as hold a reserve role at any linebacker position.