ALAMEDA, Calif. — It’s no mystery.
The Raiders have a glaring need at edge rusher. General manager Mike Mayock is reminded in his office, where names of the AFC West’s top defenders are placed on a whiteboard. Another name required addition Tuesday when the Kansas City Chiefs traded for Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark.
The draft starts Thursday.
It’s about time the Raiders add some names themselves.
This week could produce the franchise’s first premium investment at edge defender since All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack was dealt to the Chicago Bears last September. There’s also no guarantee such an investment comes at No. 4 overall. How Mayock and coach Jon Gruden navigate arguably their greatest need is among the club’s most intriguing draft storylines.
They have options at defensive end.
The first starts at No. 4. The Raiders could attempt to trade up for ex-Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. That, however, seems unlikely to materialize, given their breadth of roster needs and partition of draft capital the move would require. The Raiders are considered more amenable to trading back, which would allow them to amass extra picks.
A front-seven defender with pass rush ability is expected if the Raiders stay at No. 4.
Anything else would be considered a major surprise.
To pair with Arden Key, former Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen makes some sense. His 17 sacks in 2018 ranked second in Division I. But it is unclear how Gruden and Mayock regard him. Some consider Allen a more natural fit for a 3-4 defense, given his coverage ability. He also did not exhibit the sort of elite athleticism at the combine in March that was demonstrated elsewhere.
Allen, in any event, is no guarantee to be available there.
Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, Michigan’s Rashan Gary, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell and Florida State’s Brian Burns all are edge defenders expected to go in the first round. The Raiders could select a defensive tackle or former LSU linebacker Devin White at No. 4 and hope one of these options is available at No. 24 or 27.
Michigan’s Chase Winovich, a projected second-round pick, otherwise highlights the top remaining options.
Sweat is a wild card. He was flagged at the combine for a heart condition but received clearance to compete in the event, indicating the issue was not considered of significant concern. The Senior Bowl participant — the Raiders coached against him in January — dominated the event with his physical measurables. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds while listed at 6 foot, 6 inches and 260 pounds with 35 3/4-inch arms.
There is media speculation he could be drafted later than initially anticipated because of the medical matter. This also could be wishful thinking from teams.
This month, Mayock said that the Raiders’ goal is to add a foundational player with their No. 4, 24, 27 and 35 overall picks, presuming no trades are made to impact that order. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who worked with Mayock before the latter joined the Raiders in December, said that there’s no guarantee an edge rusher fitting that profile will be available at No. 24.
“When you hear ‘foundational,’ you’re talking about guys you feel are safe players that you can rely on and are going to be solid championship-caliber players early on,” Jeremiah said in a recent conference call. “And they’re second-contracts guys. I think with pass rusher, with edge rusher, once you get into the 20s in this draft, I know there’s a lot of depth, but these guys are going to fly off the board. …
“Maybe a Brian Burns could fall down there a little bit. Maybe a Clelin Ferrell could fall down there. …I would say (Ferrell is) a foundational player. He’s somebody that’s steady, that’s reliable. I know exactly what I’m getting. So that would be kind of the one guy I think has a chance to be there in the 20s that I think really fits that description. I think there’s a little more risk with Brian Burns. Tremendous upside, love his get-off and speed, but (he) played really light last year, added a bunch of weight. Can he hold that weight is a question.”
The Raiders’ need at edge rusher is no mystery.
How they approach it is.
Top edge defenders
— Nick Bosa, Ohio State
— Josh Allen, Kentucky
— Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
— Rashan Gary, Michigan
— Clelin Ferrell, Clemson