Marquel Lee could be just what Oakland Raiders are looking for

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders are now contenders and a big threat to beat the New England Patriots in the playoffs. They had quite a free agency period, highlighted by WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Jared Cook and RB Marshawn Lynch. Combined with QB Derek Carr, WR Amari Cooper and company, they can't be stopped.

When Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes something away, there will be plenty the Raiders can still do. But to beat the Patriots, the Raiders need to improve on defense, especially against the pass. And they did that, picking CB Gareon Conley, SS Obi Melifonwu and DL Eddie Vanderdoes in the first three rounds.

Conley will be a lockdown CB, Melifonwu will shut down TE's and Vanderdoes will provide an interior pass rush. But one weakness that many don't believe the Raiders addressed adequately is the ILB position. ILB Jelani Jenkins was a solid acquisition at the WILL but the Raiders didn't get a MIKE until the fifth round.

Then many including myself clamoured for the Raiders to bring back Perry Riley Jr. But GM Reggie McKenzie said at a press conference this offseason, "Both Jack [Del Rio] and I know what a good linebacker is supposed to look like." After all, he and Del Rio played the position during their respective days in the NFL.

So why didn't they succeed at drafting the position in the past?

I believe it's because they were looking for the new-school, smaller, faster ILB the NFL uses these days. This year, they went back to the old-school, traditional, thumper in the middle of the defense. This is why the Raiders believe they have their guy in Marquel Lee as he fits in very well with their defense in 2017.

Believe what you want but there's already evidence that John Pagano is bringing his defense in. Sign No. 1 is reports out of minicamp that have 7th-round pick Treyvon Hester taking most of the reps with the starters. Pagano is a 3-4 guy but he doesn't believe in his NT or any of his D-lineman playing multiple gaps.

Every D-lineman including his NT shoots one gap to penetrate into the backfield for splash plays. Pagano did that with Brandon Mebane while he was in San Diego and Hester has the quickness for it with the Raiders. With the lineman attacking like that, you need an ILB that can take on and shed blocks.

Lee has good size at 6'3", 240 pounds and excels at shedding blocks so he's a great fit there. And he used that ability to finish fourth in this draft class in run-stop percentage according to Pro Football Focus. Only Rueben Foster, Blair Brown and Zach Cunningham from this draft class finished ahead of him.

Lee also finished fourth in tackling efficiency, ahead Foster, Cunningham and Jarrad Davis. Once Lee zeroes in on his target, he consistently gets his man on the ground as he doesn't miss many tackles. So it's easy to see that Lee will be solid against the run, which is something the Raiders need badly.

Another thing Lee does very well is get to the QB as he finished No. 6 in pass rush productivity according to PFF. He also had 7.5 sacks, making him a good fit for when Raiders bring their ILBs when they do blitz. Also against the pass Lee did what he was asked to do in coverage but there are some questions.

We need to see what Lee can do in man coverage because he wasn't asked to do a whole lot it in college. He came from a defense that ran a Cover-1/Cover-3 scheme and when they were in Cover-1, Lee was the robber. The Raiders run that Cover-1/Cover-3 scheme and use the robber underneath at times so the fit is there.

But at the combine, in position drills, Lee looked like he had no problems flipping his hips and changing directions. And if he's not good in man coverage, they can still keep him on the field as a blitzer and a robber on passing downs. Lee seems to be a fit in every way there is to be a fit with the Raiders.

The Raiders don't hold high value for the ILB position and Round 5 is around the area they start considering them. Lee finished among the very top ILBs in all the stats and analytics categories that mattered but 14 ILBs were drafted before him. So he was grossly underrated and perfect for the Raiders to pick in Round 5.

Not only is he a better player than his draft position but he fits the Raiders very well.