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Raiders 2018 Draft Radar: Defensive tackles

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Washington v Oregon Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

It’s well past time to get Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin some help from the interior defensive line. The Raiders have tried to find the answer the past three years with day two picks used on Mario Edwards Jr, Jihad Ward, and Eddie Vanderdoes. And yet the glaring need remains. They also re-signed Justin Ellis, but he is at best a mid-tier rotational player.

If they are to find that answer in this draft, these are the prospects they could look to.

Vita Vea, Washington – Round 1

A lot of people like to point to Vea’s 3.0 sacks as proof he isn’t a pass rushing defensive lineman. Nonsense. Vea is a 347-pounder who moves like a 300-pounder and constantly requires two and three blockers to keep him from disrupting every play. He also had 29 hurries which is three more than Maurice Hurst despite Hurst having 16 more pass rush snaps according to Pro Football Focus numbers. But he is indeed an elite run stopper with the fourth best run stop percentage among interior defenders in this draft. He would be a fantastic pick at 10 overall.

Maurice Hurst, Michigan -- Round 1-2

There is little question about Hurst’s talent. It’s his heart. If he is fully cleared, he worthy of the 10 pick. If there are still questions, he may tumble a bit and become more worth a shot later in the first round (should the Raiders trade down) or even when the Raiders pick at 41 at the top of the second.

Even with Vea’s versatility and athleticism, Hurst has the best combination of pass rush and run stop ability in this draft. He is undersized at 6-1, 292 pounds, but that has never stopped Geno Atkins from being named an All Pro twice and heading to six Pro Bowls. Atkins is the exact same size as Hurst. Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther enjoyed Atkins’s presence on the interior line in Cincinnati immensely. He would enjoy Hurst as well.

Harrison Phillips, Stanford -- Round 2

This could be a sneaky great pick if he is on the board. For some reason he’s the interior lineman who you consistently see not coming off the board until the top of the second round. One look at his numbers and you kinda wonder why that is. He had 7.5 sacks last season and 17.0 tackles for loss – both phenomenal numbers for an interior lineman. He is also THE best run stopper in this draft. He had 56 tackles against the run last season and no one else even comes close to that. We’re talking no one comes within 15 tackles of that number.

PJ Hall, Sam Houston State – Round 5

Hall may have played against lesser competition at Sam Houston State, but he absolutely dominated his level of competition, putting up some monster numbers there. A four-year starter, he didn’t miss a game. Every single season his numbers were incredible, finishing with 42.0 sacks, 86.5 tackles for loss, 9 forced fumbles, and 33 passes defended.

Even with those numbers, an equally, if not more shocking stat for him is his blocked kicks. At just 6-foot and 308 pounds, Hall blocked 14 kicks! He also ran an impressive 4.76 40-yard-dash with 36 reps on the bench press at his pro day. These numbers speak to what a tremendous athlete he is. Being on the shorter side has never affected him and it has also never bothered either Raiders DC Paul Guenther or DL coach Mike Trgovac.

Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee – Round 6

No player in this draft is more on the Raiders radar than this former 5-star high school recruit. Reggie McKenzie has known Kahlil literally since birth. He’s his son. Some have criticized Reggie Jr for coming out early despite lackluster numbers, but that could be because the 6-2, 314-pounder knows he has an NFL team that will absolutely give him his shot. The Raiders have four sixth round picks, so using one to bring Kahlil back close to home. No doubt though that his 3.0 career sacks at Tennessee is a concern, regardless of his bloodlines. Then again, if any team is going to get the best out of him, it’s the one that will have his dad watching him like a hawk on the daily.