Monday we completed the ‘What condition the position is in’ series here at S&BP. I had my ideas of what condition each of the Raiders positions were in and asked the fans their take. Most opinions were similar with some slight variations, but the result was we came up with a ranking of the positions in most need of attention, with three positions coming in at either Critical or Serious.
Those positions were 1) Cornerback 2) Defensive interior 3) Linebacker.
When asked which were the deepest positions in the draft, guess what Mike Mayock said? That’s right, it was the same three positions, albeit in a different order. He emphasized Defensive Interior and Linebacker with potential for Cornerback to be the third.
“I think interior defensive line at the high end is outstanding,” Mayock said over conference call Monday. “I think at least four are going to go -- Vita Vea, Payne, Maurice Hurst, and Taven Bryan. Harrison Phillips from Stanford is an interesting player. B.J. Hill from North Carolina State. But I’m saying four interior defensive linemen go.
Mayock gushed especially about the Defensive Interior and most often about Washington Nose Tackle, Vita Vea (whom I have going to the Raiders in my first mock draft).
Vea compares very closely to former Ravens All Pro nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Mayock has him as the fourth best player at any position in this draft behind Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Despite its depth, Mayock says it’s top heavy which means that depth could dry up by day two.
Next up was linebacker, another position Mayock thinks could see some serious talent potentially into the second round.
“I also think the off-the-ball linebackers are really good this year -- Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans,” said Mayock. “I think those four have the chance to go as off-the-ball linebackers. Typically, there’s only two off-the-ball linebackers, so that would be a big year”
The player most predicted to go to Oakland with their top pick in mock drafts is Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. Here is what Mayock had to say about him.
“I love Roquan Smith, and I think he’s today’s NFL off-the-ball linebacker,” Mayock said. “It’s mostly about speed. You know, he’s 225 pounds. Deon Jones was drafted in the second round in Atlanta two years ago, and he’s been the prototype. I think Roquan Smith takes it a step further. Very similar type guy. I love the way he plays. I didn’t even know who he was the first tape I put in. I think it was Notre Dame-Georgia and he just jumped off the tape. I got excited sitting there going, who is this guy?”
He talked up Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch who stepped up big time in the Broncos’ bowl game against Oregon and who Mayock said “one of those guys that naturally slips under or over blocks to make the play.” He Rashaan Evans, who could potentially slip out of the first round.
“If you put his tape on against Oregon, which I believe was his Bowl game, it was as good as off-the-ball linebacker tape as I’ve seen in years. He goes sideline to sideline. He’s great in the pass game. He’s one of those guys that naturally slips under or over blocks to make the play. He’s like 6’4”, 240.
“I want to know what he’s going to run in the combine. In my head, I’ve got an over-under, 4.65. And I’m hoping it’s under. If he runs in that 2.46 range, he’s going to go late first round, and I think he’d be a great fit.
“Rashaan Evans is a great off-the-ball linebacker. He can run, shows up in coverage, comes downhill, tackles. He’s going either late one to early two. Harrison the safety, all over the field. I’ve got him as a second round pick, but he could go in the first round.
Should the Raiders go in another direction with their top pick and none of Mayock’s top four are still on the board when they pick early in the second round, there could still be some talented backers there for the taking.
“After that, I think Uchenna Nwosu from USC is an intriguing guy. He was primarily an edge rusher, is probably going to have to do what Haason Reddick did a year ago out of Temple, which is stand up, play offthe-ball linebacker and perhaps be used in the subpackages as kind of a joker rusher. Nwosu is really interesting.
“Jerome Baker from Ohio State is probably going to go to the combine and run 4.5 at 225 pounds. Now, he’s a physical specimen. He can run. Some of his tape is inconsistent. I didn’t like the Iowa tape at all, but I think there were some mitigating circumstances. He can fly.
“Darius Leonard, South Carolina State. Another sideline-to-sideline player, good in the pass game. This Fred Warner from BYU, same thing. He can run. I think there is a logical, off-the-ball linebackers for the first two, three, four rounds.”
Mayock likes the cornerback position, though he says there is still some things he’d like to see to decide the order and how high they should be drafted. But, like last year, it’s the Ohio State cornerback who stands atop the class.
“I think we’re still trying to get through the corners and figure out after Denzel Ward where everybody goes,” said Mayock. “Josh Jackson, Mike Hughes, Isaiah Oliver, Jaire Alexander, Davis from Auburn. I mean, there are six guys there. I think at least four of them are going to go in the first round.”
Players report to the combine today and how they perform will go a long way to deciding where they get selected. While what the Raiders do in free agency will affect where their priorities are.