Regardless of what the Oakland Raiders decide to pursue in free agency, they still need to plus defensive hole via the NFL Draft. Below, three standout defenders that the Raiders could immediately envision starting sooner than later.
Shaquan “Montez” Sweat: Defensive End. Mississippi State Bulldogs. Redshirt senior.
- For starters, he’s a proven Mississippi State defensive player with a wealth of college production and dominant performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.
- There are very few 6’6 260lb human beings with 4.41 speed, elite agility, bend, good foundational football technique and versatility walking the planet. He’s a rare commodity.
- Do you honestly think any Oakland Raider offensive tackle can block this man? The Raiders are the ONLY AFC WEST TEAM with no premier pass rushers. He could feast on AFC West tackles as he grows and develops.
- He best fits as a base 4-3 defensive end whose play speed and physicality require some game planning. His best football is truly ahead of him. He can be a star on the outside while Maurice Hurst Jr. applies inside, which is a lynchpin of Paul Guenther defenses. (See Carl Lawson, Geno Atkins, prime Michael Johnson and Jordan Willis.)
- The Raiders have a history of passing on Mississippi State defensive lineman and linebackers an it’s a bad one. Defensive tackle Chris Jones, middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney and edge rushers Pernell McPhee and Preston Smith are notable draft misses. Smith is actually a free agent now. The Raiders need not let history repeat itself with Sweat. Whether they trade down from four or up from 24 and 27, Oakland needs Sweat.
Anthony Nelson: Defensive End. Iowa Hawkeyes. Redshirt Junior.
- Nelson is another talented Iowa defensive prospect. He made some noise at the Senior bowl, but he tested surprisingly well to be 6’7 271lbs at the combine.
- He’s the epitome of a “Gruden Grinder.” Nelson has been a consistent pass rusher his entire career and comes from a lineage or quality Iowa defensive lineman. He has great burst an a nonstop motor.
- He also also a great ceiling as a left defensive end in a base 4-3 defense. You would hope he has a career closer to former Green Bay Packer Kampman but he could be even better with the right coaching and NFL weight room. He has a good frame to add even more muscle and is twitchy enough to slide inside in a nickel package. He’s already a better player than Arden Key and faster too.
Devin White: Linebacker. Louisiana State University. Junior.
- The All American is the consensus best linebacker in the draft. White was a captain and had legendary battles against former LSU great Leonard Fournette.
- He put on a once in a lifetime performance at the combine. His 4.42 40 and 39.5 inch vertical makes him the perfect tight end stopper and centerpiece of a Raider defense that lacks speed, leadership, and tenacity. White checks all the boxes.
- Oakland also has this thing with constantly passing on great LSU defensive players with Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones and cornerback Tre’Davious White being at the top of a long list. Vikings All-Pro Danielle Hunter was passed over too. The Raiders are going to have to snag White at the fourth spot because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a middle linebacker at the fifth spot in the draft after Kwon Alexander signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
- White could be the lynchpin of a soon to be great defense. He’s a faster Patrick Willis who needs his instincts and vision slightly tweaked, but he brings all the nastiness and physicality you want in a linebacker with elite wide receiver athleticism. Not even Gareon Conley ran a 4.42. Let that sink in.