Defensive Line Woes, Part II

Part II of S&BI's look at the Raiders' defensive line struggles analyzes the team's options in the draft. Although the team is looking to add to their offensive line in the first round, it is not out of the realm of possibility the Raiders would look to assuage their defensive line woes.

Although the general consensus among so-called draft experts is that the Raiders are looking to pick up an offensive tackle in the first round, it would not be a surprise if the Raiders selected a defensive linemen with the eighth overall pick in this year's draft.

Much of the talk has focused on the great combine performances of USC safety Taylor Mays and Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell. Mays is an athletic freak and it's simply for that reason his name has been mentioned to go to the Raiders at the eighth spot. Like former Cowboys safety Roy Williams, Mays is a one-dimensional safety (a big hitter) with a serious defect (pass coverage) so it would be a disappointment of the Raiders went that route.

It's looking like the Raiders might go with one of the talented offensive tackles available in the first round. Along with Campbell, Rutgers' Anthony Davis, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga and Oklahoma State's Russell Okung are possibilities, although Okung is projected to go somewhere in the top five.

If the Raiders elect to choose a defensive linemen, it will be interesting to see if it will be at end or tackle. It is unlikely that Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy will be available at eight, but if the Raiders should be lucky enough for that to happen, then the pick is a no brainer (the same goes for Tennessee immensely talented safety Eric Berry).

After Suh and McCoy, the most intriguing possibilities at tackle are UCLA's Brian Price and Tennessee's Dan Williams. The biggest knock on Price might be his size – he's an even six feet tall and his body might be maxed out in terms of muscle mass. Still, Price was a disruptive force in his three years at UCLA and has been compared to the Eagles' Mike Patterson in terms of size and a poor man's Warren Sapp in terms of production.

Williams is a big run stuffing tackle who struggles as a pass rusher, but it is believed he still has plenty of room to develop. Both Williams and Price would be a reach at eight, and there hasn't been any serious talk of the Raiders trading down in the first round. That being said, Price and Williams are two names to keep in mind.

Among the defensive ends, there are a number of possibilities.

Jason Pierre-Paul is the athletic pass rushing end out of South Florida. Although he's somewhat of a project as a run stopper and is a bit one-sided in that regarded, his athleticism is exciting and he would be an immediate threat as a pass rushing specialist.

Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan is a versatile end in that he can be slotted at either side and is equally adept against the run or pass. In deciding between Pierre-Paul and Morgan, it's a matter of how patient a team is willing to be – do you go with the raw but athletic Pierre-Paul or the more polished but somewhat stiff Morgan? Of the potential first round defensive ends, Morgan is the most balanced and would immediately challenge for the weakside spot and even switch over to the other side of need be.

Another name that is out there, albeit not to the degree of Pierre-Paul or Morgan, is Michigan's Brandon Graham. Graham is severely undersized for an NFL defensive lineman at 6-1, 263 lbs and is even less athletic than Derrick Morgan. With that said, Graham will find a place in the NFL. He was immensely productive in his career at Ann Arbor and has great intangibles.

Everson Griffen out of USC is projected as a late first round pick at defensive end. Again, the Raiders are not looking to trade down and there are better options available than the athletic but inconsistent Griffen.

One name that was thrown around earlier but has since fallen out of favor is Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap has great size to go along with a world of potential. However, the defensive lineman from Florida has seen his draft stock fall due to questions of his character and work ethic. There is a good chance Dunlap will fall into the second round, and if the Raiders have the opportunity to draft him, the potential rewards might outweigh the risks.

Another possible second round pickup on the defensive line is Alabama's Terrence Cody. Cody is a monster at 6-5, 365 lbs, but with that kind of size, there are often questions of stamina and durability, and there are legitimate concerns if Cody can keep that weight down.

This is only a brief look at the possible players the Raiders might take a look at on the defensive line. Ideally, you would like to see the Raiders pick up a lineman a piece for the offense and defense with their first two picks, but it's possible the team might not even go that route and pick up a safety (either Eric Berry if he falls or Taylor Mays) or a middle linebacker like Rolando McClain or Florida's Brandon Spikes.

Whatever the case, it looks like the Raiders might have to address their defensive line woes in the draft. There are still a few guys left on the unrestricted free agent board but none are considered a long term solution or on the downswing of their careers.

Update: Adam Caplan of ScoutNFLNetwork.com has confirmed the Raiders have released defensive tackle Gerard Warren. The Raiders now only have two true defensive tackles on the 80-man roster in Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant. Richard Seymour can play inside if need be, but with the release of Warren, it's become imperative that the Raiders address the interior defensive line in the draft or through free agency.

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