Greetings, Raider Nation! The wonderful thing about following football is that no matter how bad your team is, they can always improve, and there is no offseason when it comes to scouting. The Raiders have a ton of needs on many levels of their team, and the quickest and easiest way to address any deficiencies a team may have is via the Draft.
In the following weeks, I will take the positional needs one by one, and address some of the college prospects eligible for the next draft who might be a good fit in the Silver and Black. I’ll start with pass rusher, because that seems to be the Raiders’ greatest weakness this year.
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Early on this season, Bosa was an absolute force from the defensive end position, wrecking offensive tackles who dared single-block him. He is the younger brother of Chargers DE Joey Bosa, and is considered to be just as good as Joey, if not better. Personally, I think he’s better.
But Bosa was injured a few games into the season, and this week announced that he won’t be returning to Ohio State, but will instead leave school to prepare for the upcoming draft. That’s probably a good idea because Bosa has been dominant for a few seasons now and has little left to prove at the collegiate level. He has been one of the best edge rushers in college football since his freshman year. He is not quite as good against the rush, but is as elite as it gets when rushing the passer.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The 6’5” Ferrell, who weighs the same at 265 as Bosa does at 6’3”, plays on a Clemson defensive line composed of nothing but first-round prospects and as a result has had more help than other pass rushers in this draft. Offenses simply can’t focus on him. But Ferrell has easily been the best and most consistent member of that Tigers group, and projects as a big-time end at the NFL level.
Ferrell is a sack artist with a penchant for forcing fumbles and can be extremely disruptive. He had 9.5 sacks last year and 18 tackles for loss, which is absurd. Ferrell is extremely quick off the edge and is an absolute nightmare against the pass or run.
Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky
One of the surprising stories of this college football season has been the ascension of the University of Kentucky, which is not known as a football school. One of the big reasons for that has been the consistent excellence of linebacker Josh Allen. Kentucky snapped its long losing streak against Florida almost entirely on the back of Allen, who can take over games the way Khalil Mack can.
If you’re looking for someone to fill the Khalil Mack role, Allen is the closest thing you’re going to find in this draft. He’s 6’4”, 250 pounds and runs a 4.6 40. He has a 33.inch arms and 8.5 inch hands, and is every bit the physical marvel you want from a rush linebacker. Allen would have been a first-round pick had he come out in this year’s draft, but he chose to go back to school to raise his stock further. Allen had seven sacks in both 2016 and 2017, and has the versatility to play inside or outside.
Jalen Jelks, DE/OLB, Oregon
While the first three men on this list are first-round picks, Jelks probably isn’t, and could be had in the second or perhaps even third round depending on his Combine performance. But Jelks is no less a pass-rush whiz, and has tremendous speed and quickness off the edge at 6’5” and 244 pounds. He has the ability to bull rush or spin around blockers, and is superb in pursuit of quarterbacks and ball carriers. He has a high motor and excellent football instincts, but is lanky will need to add more weight to his huge frame to handle the rush at the next level. His ceiling is very high and he will be a good value pick where he is projected to be drafted at this point.
Ed Oliver, DT. Houston
It is entirely possible that Oliver will be the first pick in the 2019 Draft, and if the Raiders suck enough to have that pick, they should strongly consider taking Oliver despite the fact that they took two defensive tackles in the 2018 Draft.
Oliver is without question the best interior lineman available in this draft, and is the best since Aaron Donald, to whom he compares favorably. Donald fell in the draft due to his height at only six feet tall, but Oliver has no such concerns at 6’3” and 295 pounds. He looks the part more than Donald did.
Oliver is almost always double and triple teamed, and manages to produce at an elite level despite this. He is quick and explosive at the point of attack and is always providing pressure in the opposing backfield. In addition to pressuring the quarterback, he is adept at getting his hands up to bat down passes. When you think Oliver, think prime Fletcher Cox mixed with Geno Atkins.
The Raiders already have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft and may not be done wheeling and dealing, and it’s feasible that they could take more than one pass rusher in the first round despite their other needs (which I will be addressing in forthcoming articles). This is a terrific class of pass rushers and if the Raiders want to be competitive again, they absolutely must take advantage of that fact and secure more talent in that area.