Oakland Raiders

Raiders mock drafts: Analysts agree that defensive help is Oakland's biggest need

Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, center, seen with quarterback Jake Browning of Folsom, celebrate a victory over Washington State on Nov. 25, 2017. Vea is among the players draft analysts say the Raiders should draft with the 10th overall pick.
Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, center, seen with quarterback Jake Browning of Folsom, celebrate a victory over Washington State on Nov. 25, 2017. Vea is among the players draft analysts say the Raiders should draft with the 10th overall pick. The Associated Press

Now that the NFL scouting combine has passed, the next major events for teams are free agency and then the draft.

The Raiders, who went 6-10 this past season, are believed to be looking at boosting their defense. Unless they address this need when free agency begins March 14, they'll likely do so when the draft kicks off April 26 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

After losing a coin toss to the Bay Area rival 49ers at the combine, the Raiders will have the 10th pick in the first round.

Who will coach Jon Gruden and Co. select? Here’s a look at what some analysts are saying about the team’s draft prospects.

ESPN (Insider)

Updated Feb. 21 (Kiper) and March 7 (McShay)

Both of ESPN’s top NFL draft analysts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have the Raiders taking Roquan Smith, a linebacker from Georgia. According to NFL.com, he has “elite athletic ability” while playing with discipline, but “will need more schooling on hand work when taking on blocks.”

Kiper previously had the Raiders taking Smith. "This match makes too much sense, so I'm sticking with it," he wrote. "Smith could be the centerpiece of Jon Gruden's defense. ... He was a force in the College Football Playoff, making plays from sideline to sideline."

McShay switched to Smith after previously putting Oakland on Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. "Oakland has needs all over on defense ... and not enough available cap room to make huge upgrades in free agency," McShay writes. "Smith would be a good building block for the Raiders' defense, as a rangy weakside linebacker with fast eyes and terrific closing speed. He's also a great leader and possesses tremendous football character."

NFL.com

Updated March 8

There are seven draft experts on the site offering analysis. For these purposes, we'll focus on the newest mock. The link above will lead to the site's full list of analysts.

Draft expert Lance Zierlein has the Raiders selecting Denzel Ward, a cornerback from Ohio State. According to his NFL.com draft profile, Ward has “supreme athletic ability” and allowed just a 32 percent completion rate over the last two seasons, but his size (5-foot-10, 191 pounds) and strength are question marks.

"Ward is a talented mirror-and-match cornerback who has enough talent to play inside or outside," Zierlein writes. "The pass defense takes a step in the right direction."

CBS Sports

Updated March 7

Like NFL.com, CBS has multiple analysts offering mocks, so we'll use the most recent, done by Will Brinson. Follow the link above for more from CBS.

Brinson agrees with ESPN's analysts in tabbing Smith for the Raiders, and seems enthusiastic about the Georgia product.

"He might not be a prospect who plays a perfect position in terms of value in today's NFL, but, MAN, he is a fun prospect to watch," Brinson writes. "I just don't see him plummeting down the board. THIS GUY is a football player."

USA Today

Updated March 7

Draft analyst Nate Davis has the Raiders taking Edmunds. NFL.com’s draft profile says he “combines length with rare reactive athleticism and agility to access and tackle opportunities from unconventional angles” but adds that his “instincts are average” and “can be a step slow to diagnose.”

"At 6-5, 253 pounds, he's bigger than (Roquan) Smith yet nearly as athletic," Davis writes. "Edmunds racked up 30 1/2 tackles for loss over the past two seasons and is just the kind of asset a disappointing Oakland defense, ranked 23rd in 2017, badly needs. Only 19, Edmunds' upside is insane."

Walter Football

Updated March 8

Analyst Walter Cherepinsky keeps the Raiders on defense, tabbing Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea. According to his draft profile, Vea "has power to press blockers off of his frame and the hip rotation and flexibility to dislodge them," adding that he's "still very raw with much more talent to unlock." His downsides are that he "loses his feet and hits the turf too often" and that he could be viewed only as a run-down player.

Vea, who was hurt at the combine, "is a freak athlete, as few man can do what he's able to at his size," Cherepinsky writes. "He has enough athleticism for a 340-pound defensive lineman to make Jon Gruden think that he's potentially getting some sort of version of Warren Sapp, despite the vast difference in body types."

U-T San Diego

Updated March 8

Draft expert Eddie Brown also has the Raiders taking Smith.

"Smith is built more like a strong safety — he’s 6-1, 225 pounds — than a linebacker" Brown writes. "The modern NFL prefers its linebackers speedy and is willing to sacrifice size if the prospect features athleticism, physicality and football intelligence. The Bednarik finalist and Butkus award winner (best linebacker) is blessed with all three."

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