The Oakland Raiders defensive tackle position was oft injured and underachieving last season, and will rely on rookies and other young players to turn the tide in 2017.
Oakland’s defense ranked No. 26 last year, had a lack of interior pressure, gave up 117.6 rushing yards per game (No. 23) while giving up 90 passing plays of 15 yards or more in 2016. With the secondary bolstered, the Raiders will need rookies to step up at defensive tackle in 2017 if they hope to go deep in the playoffs.
Here is a look at the players who will be vying for snaps at the defensive tackle rotation in 2017.
Raiders defensive tackle Justin Ellis started in combination with former fellow defensive tackle Dan Williams last season.
However, Ellis will still have a role with the team. At the very least, he will make a major impact on first and second down and run heavy situations. Ellis has shown to have the size to stuff the run but doesn’t have the needed pass rush ability (zero career sacks) to keep him on the field for three downs.
Ellis could be upgraded if a player comes along with a better pass rush arsenal and a similar run-stuffing ability.
Overall, he is not a weakness nor a strength of Oakland’s front seven.
After whiffing on all of his mock drafts for the Silver and Black, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. gave Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie a ‘C’ draft grade for his efforts in Philadelphia this weekend.
To begin his dissent from McKenzie’s draft class, Kiper began in on Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.
“This is obviously a really difficult class to be assessing, given all that was swirling around Gareon Conley going into the draft, and without much time to gather information. I really just need to remove him from the equation here. On ability, he’s a top-15 player, and the Raiders obviously feel comfortable with what they know of his off-field situation. But that situation really transcends a discussion of player value. I do think the Raiders could have taken a few other players in that spot and felt good about it.”
Conley has no charges filed against him, multiple witness statements which back his position that he did not assault the alleged female victim and a passed polygraph test that he astutely sent to the Raiders (along with all other NFL teams) on draft day.
Shortly thereafter, Kiper goes on to critique Oakland’s second and third round selections, stating that former Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu’s tape “doesn’t quite live up” to his combine marks and calling former UCLA nose tackle Eddie Vanderdoes a “puzzler” in the third round.
What’s confusing about the first part of Kiper’s analysis is the fact that if Melifonwu “lived up to his combine marks” on tape, he would arguably be the best draft prospect in the past decade.
In respect to Kiper’s position on Vanderdoes, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio thinks his best football is still ahead of him. Moreover, Vanderdoes’ freshman tape was some of the best in the country prior to his ACL tear in 2015.
Kiper wraps up his analysis of McKenzie’s later selections saying former Florida offensive tackle David Sharpe will provide depth along the offensive line, calling former Wake Forest linebacker Marquel Lee “a bit of a reach,” stating that former Washington State safety Shalom Luani has “a chance to stick” before circling back to Conley.
“The Conley situation clouds this, and I would have liked for them to get an inside linebacker,” Kiper concluded.
It did come down to a middle linebacker in former Vanderbilt standout Zach Cunningham and Melifonwu at pick No. 56, however, Kiper completely misunderstood the point of the draft — which was to stop a defense that gave up 60 explosive plays one year ago from being exposed again.
As such, Melifonwu gives Oakland a true tight-end stopper, Lee offers a very rangy and athletic interior linebacker presence and McKenzie keenly attacked this draft by stacking a secondary and both lines at vital positions.
Given that Kiper has so many draft classes to analyze, perhaps he wasn’t afforded the time to understand the context of McKenzie’s selections. A fact that means we give his draft grade of C for the Raiders, a big fat F.