We are now less than a week from the 2017 draft. Coming into it, there’s no position the Raiders have a greater need than at linebacker. Primarily at inside linebacker. Sicne taking over as GM Reggie McKenzie has never taken an inside linebacker in the first two days of the draft.
With needs at so many positions over the years, neglecting inside linebacker in favor of other positions wasn’t considered a big deal. This year it might be.
While McKenzie isn’t about to tip his hand on his plans, he said today in his pre-draft press conference, alongside head coach Jack Del Rio, that there will be a couple new additions at linebacker when the team hits the field this season.
“We want good linebacker play. Jack [Del Rio] and I know what a good linebacker is supposed to look like,” said McKenzie. “We’re going to get us a couple I hope at some point before we play in September. Whether they’re in this draft or post draft or trade or somebody gets released.”
The first time the Raiders had the chance to get a linebacker into the fold was in free agency. They added one in Jelani Jenkins, but he wasn’t a priority signing. He was added 11 days into free agency on a one-year deal. He is also seen as a weakside linebacker, replacing the departed Malcolm Smith, not as the answer at inside linebacker.
Instead the team focused on offense, which was somewhat surprising considering how their defense was in most need of upgrades.
“It’s not like we didn’t try to get defensive players in the offseason,” said McKenzie. “The best ones were on offense that could help us. More impactful.”
Those ‘impactful’ players were tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, and quarterback EJ Manuel (ok maybe not this last one so much).
The emphasis on offense in free agency sets the team up even more to lean defense in the draft, with linebacker topping that list which also includes defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety.