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Raiders mock draft: Look for defense to be priority

The Raiders got their first up-close look at some key players in the NFL draft, and while it’s still early in the process, their draft board is beginning to take form.

Several defensive players stood out this week at Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Alabama, though none appeared to make a case as the Raiders’ potential first-round pick at No. 17.

But a handful of prospects solidified themselves as second- and third-day picks, including some intriguing defensive ends, linebackers and safeties.

Here is an early look at what could unfold for the Raiders with their seven draft picks:

First round, N0. 17

Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

The effectiveness of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s cover-three defense is predicated on creating pass-rush pressure from the front four, which allows him to creatively utilize seven defenders in pass coverage. For that to work, the Raiders need improvement and reinforcements along the defensive line. At 6 feet 6 inches and 250 pounds, Rousseau has all the physical traits to develop into a premier pass rusher. He had 54 tackles, including 19.5 for loss, and 15.5 sacks in 2019. But an ankle injury in the first game of 2018 and his decision to opt out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 meant that 2019 was his only year of real activity. The result is a raw prospect. The upside is too intriguing for the Raiders to pass up, though.

Second round, No. 48

Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina

Free agency will play a role in what direction the Raiders take with this pick, and if they strike out on adding a veteran free safety, they could look at Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu, Central Florida’s Richie Grant or Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen with this selection. Surratt is a three-down linebacker who can defend the run and provide quality pass coverage. A former quarterback for the Tar Heels, he is an intelligent player with an understanding of pass coverage.

Third round, No. 81

Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State

A deep offensive tackle draft could benefit the Raiders later in the draft, and Lucas represents great value in the third round. With the status of Trent Brown unclear — and a long-range solution needed even if Brown returns — Lucas has the talent and polish to take over early in his career.

Fourth round, No. 112

Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh

The athletic rush end turned heads at the Senior Bowl and would be a great addition along the Raiders’ defensive line.

Fifth round, No. 146

James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati

Regardless of what the Raiders do at safety in free agency, expect them to add more reinforcements in the draft.

Sixth round, No. 179

Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon

The Raiders have invested heavily at cornerback in the past two drafts, but Lenoir adds value and the potential to develop into a slot corner.

Seventh round, No. 212

Khyiris Tonga, DT, Brigham Young

Tonga doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but he holds up well against the run and takes up space in the interior.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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