It's draft week and we move to the defensive side of the ball, starting with the defensive line. Of all the positions the Raiders are in a decent position, they could still use at least one defensive lineman, if not two. They could use a defensive tackle to play alongside Dan Williams as well as a defensive end opposite Mario Edwards Jr. Or perhaps even as insurance in case Edwards' neck injury becomes a long term issue.
This is the right draft to need a defensive lineman because there are a lot of good ones, including several who the team would be pleased should they be on the board when they make their selection at 14 overall. Here are those defensive lineman who should have a place on the Raiders draft board and which round they would likely take them.
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson - Round 1
Those who know Lawson and his playing style say he has a motor that never shuts off. Whether it be in a game or in practice, he is running full tilt all the time. After two seasons as a rotation as a pass rush specialist, he got the starting job fulltime last season and exploded onto the scene, racking up an FBS leading 25.5 tackles for loss and tied for fifth in FBS with 12.5 sacks.
He is seen mostly as a 4-3 defensive end, but putting him in a small box like that is unwise. At 6-3, 275 pounds, he can play at just about any pass rushing position on the defense. He could stay at his current weight and be ideal as a 4-3 defensive end, gain 10 pounds and play 3-4 defensive end, or take off a few pounds and play rush outside linebacker. He has that kind of talent and versatility.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville - Round 1
Arguably the best 3-tech defensive tackle in this draft. If it weren't for his ‘short' stature at 6-1, he would be a lock for the top ten. He could very well still come off the board in the top ten, but if he somehow managed to make it down to 14, he would be an incredibly intriguing prospect.
His shortcomings are literally that -- he's just 6-1, 300 pounds. His size and raw pass rush abilities (14.0 sacks the past two seasons) could be why he's being compared to Aaron Donald. If he were able to live up to that lofty comparison, he would solidify the Raiders defensive line and add the ability to play at just about every position in any set along the line.
No FBS defensive tackle has more combined tackles for loss and sacks in the past two seasons than Rankins (40.5).
Chris Jones, DT, Miss St - Round 1
They like their defensive linemen big in the SEC. So, they took this former 5-star defensive end and basketball star and had him pack on the pounds to play defensive tackle. Jones is currently 6-6, 310 pounds. Taking off 10-15 pounds would allow him to better utilize his pass rushing skills as defensive tackle. Even with the weight, he's got the body type and foot quickness teams love. Even as deep as his position is in this draft, he will be among the first to hear his name called.
Even with all the measurable and an impressive 34 QB hurries last season, there are questions about his effort. If he is passed on, that would be the culprit. Though it seems unlikely he makes it out of the first round.
Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida - Round 2
He's a lot like Shaq Lawson in that he is a high motor pass rusher. His versatility comes in his ability to play inside or outside either as a 3-tech DT or a DE in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. Also like Lawson, he broke out in his final season. The 6-3, 285-pounder had 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as a senior, more than doubling his junior totals. He can add pass rush and is outstanding against the run. His presence would open up the Raiders pass rushing outside linebackers in 3-4 sets.
Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU - Round 3-4
Like many players who come out of BYU, he is overaged (24). But having 11.0 sacks last season and a combined 49.5 tackles for loss and sacks over the past two seasons will tend to forgive the age a bit, especially in the mid rounds. Versatility is the name of the game for this 6-6, 285-pounder, who ranges anywhere from 3-4 defensive end to outside linebacker. He would most likely stick on the defensive line in the pros, but having put up 7.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss as a junior playing linebacker shows he isn't limited to having his hand in the dirt. Along with his 33 hurries last season, he had 34 run stops. All these factors could keep him on the field no matter what down or alignment
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State -- Round 5
His numbers at the FCS level are off the charts. Over the past two seasons, he has 46 tackles for loss and 29.5 sacks. Simply put; he was unstoppable. Being available this low in the draft is due mostly to the talent level he played against, but he dominated that level, so he deserves a shot to do it at the NFL level. His size (6-1, 300 pounds) may also play a factor in him not being drafted higher than this.
Jonathan Woodard, DE, Central Arkansas - Round 7
Plenty of potential in this small school star. Set a school record with 29.5 sacks in his four seasons. He also had 51.5 tackles for loss. He needs a lot of work, but with the right coaching, he could be a solid situational pass rusher.