The curious case of Malik McDowell. Some — like ESPN’s Todd McShay — believe that McDowell might be the most talented defensive lineman in the draft, and yet, here we are talking about whether he’s in play when Oakland picks at No. 24. Why? Because despite all the talent, questions remain about his attitude.
Mel Kiper calls him an ‘enigma’ — and when you look at mock drafts, you’ll understand why, as McDowell slots anywhere from a top-15 pick to completely outside of the first round (Kiper doesn’t even have him in the top-25 of his big board).
And then there’s McDowell’s own sense of worth, where as of last August he was telling reporters, “Top 10 ain't good enough for me...I ain't leaving if I'm (only) top 10. If I'm not top three, I don't leave. Really. I'm just trying to live day by day. It's one through three, that's the only way I'm going.” (McDowell ultimately decided to leave school after his junior year)
So what should the Raiders do if McDowell is still on the board at No. 24?
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel)
What do you do with a guy some believe is a perennial pro bowler and others believe is a head-case that can’t stay out of his own way? At 6’6” and 295 pounds, McDowell (in theory) is exactly the type of player the Raiders are desperate for — someone that can disrupt blockers on the interior.
The question for the Raiders is (and any team, really), is whether they think they’re the staff to get the most out of McDowell. Can they motivate him? Can they inspire him? Can they get him to buy in?
When picking as far down as the Raiders are this year, every draft pick has its pros and cons — there are no Khalil Macks sitting on the board at this point. Every pick comes with risk — do you take a guy with a high ceiling if it means risking a low floor? Or do you take a guy that will be a solid contributor but lacks ‘future hall-of-famer’ potential?
With McDowell, I think the answer is you take your chances. The Raiders need help inside, and with the talent he possesses, I think you bet on your staff and your locker room to come around him and inspire.
Dan LeBaron (@DTLeBaron)
Malik McDowell is listed as a DT, but it seems extremely clear that he is more of a prototypical DE at 6-6, 296-lbs. He is rangy and ultra-athletic, but pundits question the work ethic and technique that only resulted in 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year in East Lansing. He has the upside of a Ziggy Ansah if he moves to the outside, but his game will need significant work first.
The Raiders aren't in the market for a high-upside project right now.
The team is on the cusp of greatness and would be better off choosing a safer, instant-impact player in the 1st-round of the draft. Running backs regularly gashed the the Raiders between the tackles last season and they need a more of a prototypical run-stuffer like Carlos Watkins or Montravius Adams at DT, who would be available later on.
When I look at a defensive line prospect, I look for a few things. I look for size and speed. I look for hand use. But most of all, I look for effort. Is this guy giving his all on every play or is he lollygagging? That's why I loved Aaron Donald. He wasn't the biggest guy, but he gave max effort at Pitt at all times. You can teach technique. You can teach hand use and train speed and explosion. But you can never teach heart and desire.
That's where my questions about Malik McDowell start and end. There is no doubting his frame at 6'6" and 295. There is no doubting his ability. But there are certainly questions about his effort on the field. His teammates will tell you that he's a load in practice and a decent guy, but he didn't interview well at the Combine and I get the sense that he's a bit of a prick.
I don't like McDowell for the Raiders and I'd much prefer he become the Steelers' problem. There are DTs I like way more that can be had in the second round, namely Montravious Adams and Jaleel Johnson.
Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)
Arguably the Raiders’ most glaring need area was along the interior defensive line. There was little in the way of pass rush coming from there and a lack of run stopping as well. So, for that reason, adding a player like Malik McDowell makes some sense.
McDowell is a physical specimen at 6-6, 295 pounds. He was highly thought of coming out of high school and has all the physical talents to be special. His pass rush numbers haven’t been great — with just 7.5 sacks over three seasons — and were down last year (1.5 sacks) even from his sophomore season (4.5 sacks).
If these characteristics sound familiar, it’s because they pretty well describe the Raiders’ last two second round picks, Mario Edwards Jr and Jihad Ward. Having selected a player just like McDowell high in the second round two years in a row, it’s hard to imagine them doing it again with a low first round pick. They’d be better off giving Edwards and Ward another season to see if either can live up to their potential.