For our Las Vegas Raiders NFL Draft This or That series today, we’re going to be looking at a couple of different scenarios to add a defensive tackle. One will be a pretty even value, meaning the player’s ranking is close to the draft slot, with Arkansas’ John Ridgeway, and the other will be a later pick but better value in LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. For this situation, Ridgeway would be the fourth-round pick — 126th overall — and Farrell would be their fifth-round pick — 164th overall.
How much risk each person is willing to take will certainly play a factor and that’s where the debates can begin!
For a reminder of the overall structure/premise of this column, revisit the inaugural piece from Saturday. UTSA cornerback Tariq Woolen won our last competition by a small margin, 52 percent of the votes, over Washington State tackle Abraham Lucas. Lucas made a strong push at the end but Woolen’s early lead was too much to overcome.
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 128th, 4th round
Full Scouting report link (via The Draft Network)
As a transfer from FCS Illinois State, Ridgeway only played one season against high-level competition, but he was a standout in the SEC with 39 total tackles, four for loss and 23 defensive stops while primarily playing nose tackle. At 6’5 and 321 pounds with 33 3/8” arms, he has excellent size and strength to be an effective run-stopper in the NFL but lacks athleticism and pass rush skills.
Ridgeway fits what defensive coordinator Patrick Graham looks for in a defensive tackle. The former Razorback has great size and strength to get extension against offensive lineman and be a space-eater against the run. He can two-gap and the team might not need much from him as a pass rusher with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones on the line, and Ridgeway would bring youth to a position group that could use some.
The Raiders have signed plenty of run-stuffing defensive tackles during free agency with new faces like Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings and Kyle Peko in addition to re-signing Johnathan Hankins. What they are lacking is someone who can put pressure on the quarterback up the middle as Bilal Nichols — 84 pressures and 11 sacks in four years — is the only one with a consistent track record of success in that department. Plus, relying on two to three guys to get pressure becomes a bigger issue if one of them goes down, so it might be better to get someone who impacts the passing game here and wait on a run-stuffer.
Neil Farrell Jr.
NMDD rank: 145th overall, 5th round
Farrell is another standout SEC defensive tackle who is an impressive defender. He has the strength to hold up at the point of attack as a two-gapper and the get-off to get penetration when one-gapping. However, his lack of athleticism is very evident on tape, and he’ll be a 24-year-old rookie which limits his ceiling.
Against the run, Farrell showed a lot of the same traits and success that Ridgeway did in the same conference and even the same division, SEC West. So, while both have the two-down stigma attached to their names, the former Tiger would be the better value with the later pick. Farrell also notched more pressures than Ridgeway last season — 24 to 11 — and has the larger body of work against top competition.
Ridgeway being younger and having the size advantage — Farrell measures in at 6’4”, 330 lbs and 32 1/4” arms — gives the Arkansas product a slight advantage as far as potential goes. Plus, the latter carries more bad weight than the former and will likely need to drop some pounds at the next level. While yes, Farrell outproduced Ridgeway last season, that’s kind of expected since he had four more years of experience in the conference, and the Illinois State transfer had a short turnaround between his junior and senior seasons. All FCS schools played their 2020 season in the spring of 2021.
Who are you drafting?
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John Ridgeway, 4th round (126th overall)
Neil Farrell Jr., 5th round (164th overall)