Even before the team made the expected release of Dan Williams, they needed help at defensive tackle. Many draft projections have focuses on the team’s need for interior pass rush, but it’s more than that. They also struggled at stopping the run.
Williams’s production in 2015 was night and day from what he offered last season. And when he came to camp overweight in 2016, he lost his job and never got it back. That would be fine if he was demoted due to another player beating him out, but that wasn’t the case.
The defensive tackle position was a revolving door last season as the team tried and failed to find a guy who could step up and take the position. They now must address it in a draft that is short of top tier talent at the position, but has several good mid-tier options who would fit with what the Raiders need.
Jaleel Johnson, Iowa — Round 2
The more I see from Johnson, the more I think he can be implanted at basically any interior defensive line position and he’ll thrive. Outside of top five prospect Johnathan Allen, Johnson could be the most complete and versatile defensive line prospect in this draft. By that I mean, he can play the nose, 1-tech, 3-tech, or 5-tech.
Not only would he offer the run stop abilities you expect from a middle clogger, but he shows exceptional pass rush abilities. He had 43 pressures, 27 hurries, and 7.5 sacks last season for the Hawkeyes. And he added 20 run stops and 10.0 tackles for loss with just 2 missed tackles. His 6-3, 316-pound frame has him projecting as a run stopper at the NFL level. And with his pass rush abilities already there, what’s not to like?
Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama — Round 3
Tomlinson is a middle clogger with some pass rushing abilities as well. The 6-3, 310-pounder had 28 stops last season with just 2 missed tackles. He added 40 pressures with 34 hurries, but could only muster up one sack of it. His pass rushing abilities are just a bonus. Tomlinson makes his hay by stuffing runs. Those abilities would take a lot of pressure off the inside linebackers. Add Mario Edwards Jr’s run stopping abilities, and you would have potentially one of the most stout fronts in the league.
Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State — Round 4
If you want pass rush from your nose tackle position, Vincent Taylor is your guy. He had 43 pressures and 7 sacks last season. He also holds up well against the run, adding 13.0 tackles for loss and 25 run stops. He has some technique issues to work on, but round 4 would be a fantastic time to take a chance he can improve on those.
Elijah Qualls, Washington — Round 5
Qualls is a bit better than just a jack of all trades, master of none. Washington moved him around a lot along the defensive line and still managed to perform well wherever he was. At 6-1, 313, he has ideal size to play the zero tech in the NFL. His experience at so many positions on the defensive line could be valuable while the ability to focus on one or two position in the pros could help get the best out of him. Qualls grew up in nearby Petaluma.
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, USC — Round 6
Tu’ikolovatu’s biggest flaw is his age. He’ll be 26 in June. If he can maintain the level of play he did for the Trojans last season through his rookie contract, he would be well worth a pick late in this draft. The 6-1, 331-pound nose tackle led the country with 36 stops, though he doesn’t offer much in the way of pass rush. He would be a good option as a rotational player.
Glen Antoine, Idaho –- Round 7-PFA
Antoine has surprising agility for a 6-1, 337-pound nose tackle. He is also extremely strong, benching 225 pounds 37 times at his pro day which would have bested any interior defensive lineman at the combine by 2 reps. You would like to see more production, though. He put up just 11 run stops last season and 7 pressures.