Don’t be shocked if you peruse the mock drafts and see the Las Vegas Raiders pegged to pick an offensive tackle. Yes, it’s early in the NFL Draft process. And also yes, a tackle isn’t the sexiest pick at No. 7 overall.
But the projections aren’t likely to change drastically as we careen towards the April event. And that’s due to the dire need Las Vegas has on the offensive line. NFL games are often won and lost in the trenches so it isn’t shocking to see the top offensive tackle as the projected pick at seventh overall.
Let’s start here: Credit Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo for fielding a surprisingly good run blocking line this past season. And the front five wasn’t atrocious pass blocking, either, despite the assumption the group would be due to a musical-chairs type rotation Las Vegas deployed to find the best starting combo.
Yet, reinforcing the offensive line, the heart of any NFL offense, is a must for the Silver & Black. And like noted above, there’s a clear-cut favorite as the best offensive tackle in this draft class. Add to that the Raiders need at right tackle and this thing can play hand-in-hand, really.
Let’s take a look at five prospects who can help the Raiders improve not only improve the offensive line but give the team bookend offensive tackles. The first two are projected first-round talents, but the latter trio are potential mid-round selections.
Peter Skoronski, Northwestern: The 6-foot-4, 294-pound junior is a well-rounded prospect who has the top and bottom strength required to be on an island. What he lacks in deal length (shorter arms) he makes up in game tape. Skoronski is fast out of his stance and can match speed rushers and while he may budge against power rushers, he has the base to anchor. He’s also a powerful deflector in pass protection. Skoronski is equally quick and strong in the run game and engulfs defenders, highlighting his awareness. Many draft pundits see Skoronski as a day-one starter and it’s hard to argue.
Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State: At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, this junior fits the bill with ideal height, weight, length, and agility. His quick feet combine with his powerful hands well to create a blend of speed and power in both pass protection and run blocking. Johnson’s downside is he tends to play too high (lack of knee bend at times) causing him to lose leverage — low man tends to win. But he has the speed and agility to deflect and recover and is keen on not getting fooled by stunts — a Raiders weakness.
Broderick Jones, Georgia: The 6-foot-4, 315-pound redshirt sophomore plays with ruthless aggression. He’s mean and nasty and that tends to result in an inability to adjust on the fly due to his go-get-’em nature. But Jones has solid top and bottom strength to anchor in pass protection and is a drive blocker in the run game. His punch and mean streak make him an ideal fit for a team that seeks to run the ball — a lot. If he goes to a team that can control the mean streak, then you’ve got a mauler of a tackle.
Darnell Wright, Tennessee: A gargantuan redshirt junior at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, Wright is an engulfer that once he gets his hands on defenders, they’re completely wiped out of the play. It’s when he misses, however, that gets Wright into trouble. But when he’s engaged, whether it be in pass protection, or in the run game, Wright is a classic eliminator of a tackle. He’s faced serious SEC pass rush competition and held his own and he’s a nasty drive blocker that’s eager to plant defenders into the ground.
Cody Maunch, North Dakota State: This 6-foot-6, 303-pound redshirt senior anchored the Bison offensive line by displaying balance and awareness. His quick fit allowed him to mirror defenders and he’s able to drive defenders to the ground as a run blocker. But he does lack the ideal length (like Skoronski) and there’s concerns about the level of FCS competition. But he’s a moldable piece of clay that can pack on weight and become more powerful.
Other prospects to note: Anthon Harrison (Oklahoma), Blake Freeland (BYU), Dawand Jones (Ohio State), Jonah Monheim (USC), Matthew Bergeron (Syracuse).