The running joke for now and the immediate future for the Oakland Raiders will be them trading away All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack. A little over halfway through the 2018 season, the Raiders rank dead last in league sacks. With three first-round picks, Oakland will most likely address the defensive end position. Whether for depth or competition, the Raiders defensive line can use as much help as it can get. The Raiders have a rich history of drafting players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and there is a defensive end that they can get late to help this rebuild.
Oakland raised some eyebrows in the 2018 NFL Draft when they traded up to select North Carolina A&T tackle Brandon Parker. Despite not giving up a sack in four seasons as an Aggie, Parker’s resume was questioned, along with his technique. While Parker continues to develop as a starter in his rookie campaign, other A&T players should not suffer because of his struggles.
On the defensive end of the ball, A&T redshirt junior defensive end Darryl Johnson has been a forced to be reckoned with in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Since becoming a starter in 2017, Johnson has quickly blossomed into the conference’s best pass rusher. Last season, Johnson recorded 6.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles and 40 tackles. These numbers were good enough for him to make the 2018 FCS Preseason All-America Team. Moreover, Johnson followed up on the honor, as he currently leads the MEAC with 9.5 sacks with one game remaining in the season. It takes more than stats to impress NFL scouts and coaches, but Johnson has the tools and potential that translates to Sundays.
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The first thing that stands out about Johnson is his speed and quick first step. A&T clocked Johnson’s 40-yard-dash time at 4.7 seconds. However, that is straight-line speed, and his ability to beat the opposing tackle off the ball is a sight to see. At 6’5 235 pounds, Johnson is the same build as Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory. He also bears a striking resemblance in stature to current Raiders defensive end Arden Key.
Johnson has several moves to get to the passer, but he specializes in the long-arm technique, utilizing his wingspan to control the edge and force fumbles. Johnson possesses good bend and athleticism for his size, a trait that can propel him up draft boards if he gets a combine invite.
The main concern with Johnson is his weight, as he will have to bulk up a bit to succeed at the next level. Johnson tends to rely on his speed to beat protection, but that will not be as easy to do against skilled professionals. When he does engage, Johnson is good with his hands, combining that with a high motor. Nevertheless, his strength is a question, as he does tend to be driven back when he cannot flat-out beat his man.
Johnson is not a perfect prospect, but he does flash potential, and the Raiders will have nothing but cap space and time to develop players. Oakland may not be looking at a day-one starter, but they can have a third-down rusher out the gate. With Arden Key being the only defensive end on the roster with a long-term deal, the door is open for someone to come in and produce. Johnson would be a good day-three pickup for Oakland, who has plenty of picks to spare.