Raiders expected to get defensive in NFL draft

Updated April 26, 2017 - 11:12 pm

OAKLAND, Calif. — Wednesday was for Oakland Raiders fans.

Marshawn Lynch is all theirs.

The franchise’s newest running back is not expected to step cleat in Las Vegas. He is 31. He is under a two-year contract. He signed up to play for a Bay Area franchise, his connection with the Oakland community part of the draw in his decision to come out of retirement.

Thursday is different.

This draft is very much about Las Vegas, too.

The Raiders are scheduled to be on the clock Thursday evening, their first draft since owners approved the club’s relocation. Chances are any player selected at No. 24 overall, or elsewhere if the team trades up or back, will be on the roster when the transition to Nevada is complete. And he almost certainly will be a defender.

It’s no secret.

This draft for general manager Reggie McKenzie is about defense.

He has eight selections — one in the first six rounds, two in the seventh — and if six were spent on defense, no one should be surprised. The offense still has its question marks, right tackle chief among them, but the Raiders believe Lynch was the missing piece to a championship-caliber unit.

So, who will help that offense get on the field?

A linebacker could come as early as the first round, and McKenzie may be tempted to trade up for one if he’s intent on addressing the position Thursday.

Alabama’s Reuben Foster, Temple’s Haason Reddick, Florida’s Jarrad Davis and Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham figure to be the top options on the Raiders’ draft board, in some order. Most draft analysts consider Cunningham a fit for the second round. If the Raiders agree and are fixated on the trio, they may not be able to afford waiting at No. 24 in hopes one might fall.

But they aren’t without other options.

The cornerback class is viewed to be strong. A defensive tackle is on the shopping list, but the product quality is considered less Whole Foods and more Food 4 Less. The lack of depth could compel McKenzie to address it sooner rather than later.

Several players will be added to the Raiders’ roster this draft.

The best, in time, will play in Las Vegas.

Michael Gehlken can be reached at Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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