Apparently picking up a player in round five to fill arguably the defense’s most important position just isn’t enough for Raiders fans to feel secure.
On Wednesday, we put out a poll asking the question of what the Raiders’ biggest need was following the draft. Fans voted overwhelmingly that linebacker remains an issue for the team.
With over 3500 votes cast, 68% of fans voted linebacker at the team’s top need. A distant second was defensive tackle with 26% of the vote.
Even despite Pro Football Focus’s assertion that the interior defensive line was the biggest concern, the fans disagreed.
Linebacker was the top need going into the draft, which had many projecting the team would take a linebacker in the top two rounds. However, the team went with defensive backs in the top two rounds and didn’t go address linebacker until the fifth when they selected Marquel Lee out of Wake Forest.
Last offseason middle linebacker was the top need as well. And the team opted to go with another fifth round pick, Ben Heeney, to be the starter instead of aggressively addressing it then either.
After two games, Heeney wasn’t working out, so they turned to rookie sixth round pick, Cory James. After two games with James as the starter, they decided to finally bring in someone else. They signed street free agent Perry Riley Jr.
Riley performed admirably after being inserted into the starting lineup beginning in week five. He has not been re-signed this offseason by the Raiders or any other team. A return by Riley would help infuse some competition to the position with Lee, Heeney, and James.
Other potential inside linebackers include Jelani Jenkins, who comes over from the Dolphins on a one-year free agent deal, and a host of undrafted rookies whose specific role with the team is yet to be determined.
There is once again a good deal of uncertainty as to who the Raiders will be fielding as the quarterback of their defense this season. It contributed to them having the league’s 26th ranked defense last season, so the uneasiness of the fans is understandable.