We've moved off the line and into the defensive backfield, where the Raiders have some star power (Khalil Mack), some veteran leadership (Malcolm Smith), some fire (Bruce Irvin), and some potential (Ben Heeney). That may carry them through. Or they could look to bolster the group. And with the GM, head coach, and defensive coordinator all former NFL linebackers, I think there's a good chance we see one become a Raider at some point.
So, who land on the Raiders draft radar...
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA - Round 1
Recently the Raiders paid Jack a visit for a private workout. They, like the rest of the NFL, would like to do their own research on the status of his knee, which he injured during last season. Some have said he is the best player in this draft at any position. His knee could cause some teams to pass on him based on how they see him holding up long term. But the farther he moves down (if he moves down at all), the more likely a team will either see no issue or be willing to take the risk for such an outstanding player. Also consider near draft season teams who want him will try to put a scare in everyone in the hopes he falls to them. So, don't believe the hype.
Jack is one of those linebackers who can do it all. He can line up inside or outside in any scheme. And his skillset perfectly fits what Ken Norton Jr wants in a linebacker. He excels in coverage, sheds blocks to play the run well, and is proficient at rushing the passer. He's a rare talent and for that reason, it may just be wishful thinking he would even be available, but that won't stop the Raiders from placing him high on their draft board.
Su'a Cravens, LB/S, USC - Round 2
Linebacker prospects don't usually get much smaller than 6-0, 226-pounds. At that size, and with his talents, Cravens falls squarely into the 'tweener' category. The Raiders could use him as a coverage linebacker or a strong safety. Or both as the need arises. They could also use upgrades and depth at either or both of those positions. It can be hard to pin down Cravens. He has the numbers of a linebacker -- with 32 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks of the past two seasons -- and defensive back skills with 5 interceptions over that time as well.
Scooby Wright, ILB, Arizona - Round 3-4
Some may forget 2014 when Scooby Wright was the best linebacker in the country. I don't. He was a man among boys that season and wreaked havoc on the Pac-12. Just a sophomore, Wright had an eye popping 163 tackles, led the nation with 29 tackles for loss and 6 forced fumbles, and led all linebackers with 14.5 sacks. Those numbers easily had him named a unanimous All-American as well as earning him the Chuck Bednarik, Rotary Lombardi, and Bronco Nagurski Trophies and the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.
A torn meniscus in his knee (same injury Myles Jack had) kept him from showing he could have a repeat performance last season. In just three games played last season, he put up 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks.
A relentless motor with prime instincts, he is one of those players who you love to watch unless you are on the other team or rooting for the other team. Always around the ball and making a play. He has drawn comparisons to former Dolphins great Zach Thomas.
Aaron Wallace Jr, OLB, UCLA - Round 5-6
Myles Jack's teammate at UCLA - which is also where Ken Norton Jr played college ball. In addition to that connection, Wallace's father Aaron Sr was a former second round pick by the Raiders and played his entire 8-year NFL career in Silver & Black.
Aaron Jr had a breakout senior season for the Bruins. After seeing a total of just four starts in his first three seasons, he starting 8 games in 2015, putting up 7.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. His lack of starts in his first three seasons was due in large part to sitting behind Anthony Barr and Myles Jack. But while he was not starting, he was a key special teams contributor.
Steven Weatherly, OLB, Vanderbilt - Round 6
We're into the ‘raw' and ‘upside' portion of the draft now. And that's just what Weatherly is/has. He has all the physical traits at 6-4, 267 pounds as well as an impressive wingspan and all the tools. His best season came as a sophomore in 2014 - his first at outside linebacker - when he put up 4.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He followed that up with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss as a junior. He could ultimately put on some weight and move to defensive end, but he will need to add some pass rushing moves to his arsenal either way.
Luke Rhodes, ILB, William & Mary - Round 7
There is nothing ‘raw' about Luke Rhodes. He was a highly productive, 4-year starter who consistently put up solid numbers, averaging 85 tackles per season and totaling 25 tackles for loss. Even still, this 6-1, 240 pounder has some upside, while currently grading out as a reserve inside linebacker and special teams standout.
His pro day numbers were outstanding and caught the attention of NFL scouts, the Raiders included who have inquired about him. Rhodes wasn't invited to the scouting combine, but his numbers would top most every player at his position at the combine including his 29 bench press reps, 4.64 40-yard-dash, and 35-inch vertical jump.