While the heart of this series is to focus in on just one player at a time, when it came to the offensive line prospects there just wasn’t one guy who stood out amongst the rest. Depending on where you look, there are anywhere between three and five offensive lineman projected to go somewhere in the first round.
On one hand, it appears to be a “weak” draft for tackles in that this projects to be the first year since 2012 that less than two offensive linemen will be off the board in the first 10 picks. In fact, you’d have to go back all the way to 2005 to find the last time that zero offensive linemen were taken in the first 10 picks — which is how most experts see things playing out.
So why bother evaluating a position if we’re talking about such a down year? The Raiders need help at tackle.
At the moment, the Raiders have Austin Howard, Vadal Alexander and Marshall Newhouse battling it out for the starting right tackle spot (in the wake of Menelik Watson’s departure), while left tackle Donald Penn enters the final year of his contract. It’s for this reason that we’ve listed Offensive Tackle as the No. 4 greatest need in the draft.
So is there a guy out there our writers like?
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel)
What a fascinating group of guys. Atop most peoples’ boards is Cam Robinson – the three-year starter at Bama, but questions remain whether he can play tackle in the NFL (let alone left tackle). The other two guys that intrigue me are Ryan Ramczyk from Wisconsin and Garett Bolles from Utah — both of whom have fascinating stories about making the jump from junior college or Division III programs.
With all that said, the guy I like most is Bolles simply because I think connecting him with Mike Tice as an offensive line coach would be a dangerous combination for opposing defenders. At 6’5” and 297 pounds, Bolles was a first-team all Pac-12 left tackle last season despite it being his first at the FBS level.
The report on Bolles is that he has room to fill out and that, while unbelievably athletic, he requires some coaching in order to refine his raw ability. I think one year of coaching from Mike Tice while manning the right tackle position would set Bolles up nicely to be the left tackle of the future for the Raiders.
As I say all this, my stance remains the same and trumps everything I’ve just said: defense, defense, defense in the draft. While Bolles is probably the highest offensive player on my wish list, there’s a long list of defensive guys ahead of him.
Dan LeBaron (@DTLeBaron)
This year's offensive line class is awful by most indications. Some of the tackles and lineman that will be picked in the first round may have been third, or even fourth-rounders in recent drafts. It doesn't help that recent drafts have been littered with colossal first-round busts on the offensive line. What used to be the "safest" draft choices have recently become anything but.
Keeping all of this in mind, it would be absurd for the Raiders to use their coveted first round pick on an offensive lineman who—best case scenario—would only be a (potential) future starter. The line is already set for 2017 with all five starters returning to what was a dominant group last season.
The top prospects this year also have red flags; The Raiders can't invest their time in answering the health (Ramcyzk), discipline (Robinson), and strength (Bolles) questions that surround the draft's top O-line prospects. They would be much better served going after an immediate impact player on the defensive side of the ball.
Many years you'll see two or three offensive linemen go in the top ten picks. This is not one of those years. There are two, maybe three tackles worth first round consideration. The real value is at the bottom of the draft. Guys like Arkansas' Dan Skipper, Florida's David Sharpe and Bucknell's Julie'n Davenport are third day selections.
So while the Raiders have a long term and short term need at tackle, the first round is not where they should address it.
Obviously, the need on the offensive line would be at the tackle position. Primarily at right tackle, but perhaps at left tackle as well with Donald Penn likely entering his final season. The only move the Raiders made was to sign Marshall Newhouse in free agency. The question of whether Austin Howard will stick with the team remains due to his large contract that finally is in the situation where it would actually save the team money to let him go. Toss in Vadal Alexander and you have the three candidates at tackle for the Raiders. It ain’t fantastic, but it may suffice.
Whether the Raiders take a tackle high in the draft may depend more on other factors. First of all, it would depend on who is on the board. Alabama’s Cam Robinson comes to mind. Second, it is about whether there are greater needs. And being that they have several positions of need on defense, there are greater needs to be addressed with the top pick.
Do you think the Raiders should go offensive line at 24?
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