The physical specimen or the polished product? The Oakland Raiders are no strangers to this debate. Moreover, neither is the team’s rabid fanbase, Raider Nation. Not surprisingly, the team and its fans are face a dilemma in this year’s NFL draft.
If linebacker is the pick at No. 10 overall, do the Raiders go with the specimen — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds — or the polished — Georgia’s Roquan Smith?
This conundrum is reminiscent of the Silver & Black quarrel of 2015: Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White at No. 4 overall. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie went with the more polished prospect taking Cooper (6-foot-1, 211 pounds) as opposed to the physically gifted and imposing White (6-3, 216 pounds).
To be fair, while Cooper is blossoming into a weapon for the Raiders, injuries beset White’s NFL career thus far, and we may never truly know what type of professional he will be thanks to the ailments. Therefore, the comparison is a little amiss.
Nevertheless, it still holds plenty of weight.
Edmunds (6-5, 253 pounds) is the beast incarnate. The Hokies’ linebacker is uniquely built with freakishly long arms (34 ½”) and impacted games in all phases (in coverage, against the run and rushing the passer). A matchup nightmare who improved as the season wore on.
Smith (6-1, 236 pounds) is the cerebral assassin. The Bulldog linebacker is not the biggest cat on the block but his speed and intelligence are unparalleled. He is an asset in coverage and is a hellacious tackler. He can diagnose a play in a blink and has the reflexes to pounce.
Of the two, Smith is more day-one ready than Edmunds.
The knocks on both are apparent. Smith is “undersized” and can be engulfed by blockers. Edmunds, on the other hand, does not always play to his frame.
Both, however, were productive at the college level. Edmunds (108 total tackles, 14 for loss, 5.5 sacks) and Smith (137 total tackles, 14 for loss, 6.5 sacks) were all over the field for their respective defenses.
Here is one more for the freakfest: Despite being about four inches taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier, Edmunds clocked in a 4.54 40-yard dash time to Smith’s 4.51 at the combine.
This battle is eerily similar to one in the Al Davis days and, not surprisingly, it was at wide receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey, the speed demon and Michael Crabtree, the vice-gripped pass catcher. Different position, but an ending RaiderNation is all too familiar with, no?