Raiders Draft Outlook: Defensive Line

Although offensive line is a concern, it's arguable that the defensive line might be a bigger priority. The Raiders' run defense has struggled mightily for some time now, and at the heart of the issue is the interior line. With only three defensive tackles on the roster, the Raiders are hoping to pick at least one up in the early rounds.

Although there is certainly a need on the offensive line, it is arguable that the defensive line is a more pressing concern. Since 2002, The Raiders have ranked at or near the bottom of the league in run defense, and unless the team moves on a lineman or two, the prospects look dire for 2010.

Currently, the Raiders only have three true interior linemen on defense, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant, and William Joseph. Kelly is limited to brief moments of adequate ability, but it is unlikely that he will ever play up to his massive contract. Joseph was brought back on a one-year deal, but he is viewed as nothing more than a body on the depth chart. Bryant is perhaps the one guy Raider fans can appreciate for his solid rookie campaign (after coming in as an undrafted rookie free agent), but he is still raw and should not be starting at this point in his career.

The Raiders placed a franchise tag on Richard Seymour this offseason, and he is the one marquee name on the line. Seymour is listed as an end, but is skilled enough to move inside. The team let go of veteran Greg Ellis in the hopes that second-year man Matt Shaughnessy can step into the weakside end spot, but he is still an unproven commodity. Jay Richardson and Greyson Gunheim fill out the depth chart, and former end-turned-linebacker can move down if need be. The team also traded for pass rush specialist Kamerion Wimbley, and although he is listed as a linebacker, he too can move down to end during passing situations.

Unless one of the big two of Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy fall to the Raiders at number eight, it's looking like the Raiders will have to address their needs on the defensive line starting in the second round. It's a relatively deep year for defensive linemen, so the Raiders will have some quality options after the first round.

Defensive Tackle

If Suh or McCoy fall to the Raiders at eight, then the pick is obvious regardless of the offensive linemen available. Suh and McCoy might be the best interior linemen to come out of the draft since Haloti Ngata in 2006, but with the Lions and Buccaneers picking at two and three, the chances are unlikely for the Raiders to grab either one.

After those two, there is a slight drop off in elite talent, but solid options still remain. Dan Williams out of Tennessee is a powerful interior defender who has all the skill to thrive in the NFL. He's got a good first step, does a great job at shedding blocks, and is more than capable in pursuit. Like many young linemen, Williams tends to rely on his strength too often, but his biggest flaw might be his inconsistent motor. Williams is best suited for a 3-4 defense, and that's something the Raiders might experiment with sometime this season. He will be available at the eighth pick, but taking him here would be a serious reach.

Penn State's Jared Odrick is projected to go in the first round, but like Dan Williams, he would be a reach for the Raiders at eight. Odrick is a big guy as it is (6-5, 301-lbs.), but you would think with his frame he could add some more good bulk. Odrick is an athletic lineman for his size and is versatile enough to play inside or out. At this point, he's probably better suited as a strongside end, but he has the potential to be a very good interior defender.

The next guy on the list is a guy the Raiders have a legitimate chance of grabbing in the second round. UCLA's Brian Price was projected early on as a definite first round pick, but perhaps due to scouts' over-analysis of him and his peers, he has dropped on many teams' draft boards. The biggest knock on Price is his size and frame. At only 6-1 and 303-lbs., Price is undersized for the interior line and there are questions as to whether he can put on any more weight. Still, as evidenced by his 23.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks during his junior campaign, Price is as disruptive of a force as Suh or McCoy, and if here were to fall into the second, he'd be a great value pick for the Raiders and would probably be an immediate starter.

Most pundits project Alabama's Terrence Cody as a second rounder, but despite incredible his size and strength, his weight issues and questions of durability are a real concern to most teams. "Mount Cody" is a brick wall on the line, but at the NFL level, it's hard to see him doing more than occupying an offensive lineman or two. He does a good job at disrupting the flow of the offense and creating opportunities for his teammates, but it's hard to see him maintaining such a level of play throughout the course of an entire season, let alone one game.

The Raiders brought in Tyson Alualu for a pre-draft workout, and there is legitimate interest in the former Cal Golden Bear. Alualu is a bit of a tweener as a tackle or an end, but on the defensive line, that just means he is scheme-versatile. Alualu had a very productive career in Berkeley, and his durability and non-stop motor make him an attractive prospect in the third round.

Defensive End

End is not as big of a priority as tackle, so it's unlikely the Raiders will select one in either the first or second round. Although improving the team's run defense is key, the pass rush hasn't fair as well either.

Jason Pierre-Paul is the type of athlete Al Davis likes, but he's projected as a mid-first round pick, so it would be a major disappointment if the Raiders went with him at eight. The exact same goes for USC's Everson Griffen.

Carlos Dunlap is a guy that's on the Raiders' radar, and there's a legitimate chance he could fall into the second round. Dunlap has excellent size at 6-6 and 290-lbs., and can even play on the interior line in a pinch. However, Dunlap's attitude and work ethic are questionable, and with Richard Seymour as the Raiders' designated strongside end/occasional tackle, Dunlap would not make much sense schematically.

Northwestern's Corey Wooten is an intriguing prospect because of his size and versatility. At 6-6, 270-lbs., Wooten is an explosive pass rusher who has experience playing inside. Mentally, Wooten is more than capable to handle the rigors of the NFL, and it's scary to think he still has room to grow physically. The major concern with Wooten is his durability. He's projected as a low first to second round pick.

Georgie Selvie was a four-year starter for South Florida, and had an outstanding and productive career. Still, over-analysis has hurt him a bit as he's been pegged as a fringe defensive end, too slight to hold up on the line. While that may be true, Selvie's productive cannot be ignored, and it's arguable that he's the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Like former Louisville Cardinal and current Denver Bronco Elvis Dumervil, Selive is an elite college pass rusher who will have to move to make the transition to a 3-4 linebacker in the NFL. That being said, Dumervil has had a productive career thus far, and specialists like Selvie will always find a home somewhere in the league.

Mississippi's Greg Hardy is an athletic specimen at defensive end. Standing 6-4, 279-lbs., Hardy has great speed off the edge, can get to the quarterback, and also does a good job in containment. He's projected as a second rounder, but could very well fall to the third, given his questionable work ethic and extensive injury history.

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