It’s the middle of the offseason which means that that mock draft season is in full swing.
From ESPN to Bleacher Report and everywhere in between, pundits around the league are feverishly putting together their predictions for how the 2017 NFL Draft will shake out.
The Oakland Raiders are slated to select No. 24 overall, so now that we’re just a few months out from Draft Weekend in Philadelphia, let’s see who the experts think the Raiders will pick in the first round.
Expert | Brent Sobleski
Breakdown: During his time as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and now the Oakland Raiders, Jack Del Rio preferred to use a pair of massive run-stuffers at defensive tackle. Whether it was Marcus Stroud and John Henderson or Dan Williams and Justin Ellis, plenty of beef has resided along the interior of Del Rio's defenses.
The coach reassessed his approach, though.
"Interior pass rush is critical for us to get that going," Del Rio said, per ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez. "We were not nearly effective enough. ... I didn't feel like we got enough inside push."
The Raiders finished dead last in the league in 2016 with only 25 sacks. This is astounding since Oakland's defense featured the Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack. But one exceptional defender can't provide a team's entire pressure package. The defensive interior must be able to collapse the pocket, too.
Malik McDowell didn't post overwhelming pass-rushing numbers at Michigan State, but he did display traits—such as upfield explosion, flexibility to turn the edge and strength to work through double-teams—that indicate he's a prospect who can be productive at the professional level. Plus, his combination of size (6'6", 276 lbs) and athleticism will offer system flexibility alongside former second-round pick Mario Edwards Jr., who is 280 pounds.
Expert | Will Brinson
Breakdown: There are probably bigger issues of need than cornerback, at least from a group of active guys on the roster, but overall this is just a defense that needs to get better. Adding a championship-caliber defensive player to the roster will only help improve an area of weakness.
Expert | Dane Brugler
Breakdown: A defensive back-turned-rusher in college, Reddick makes the move to linebacker in the NFL and has the athleticism to be a star.
Expert | Pete Prisco
Breakdown: You can never have enough corners and David Amerson is just OK as the starter.
Expert | Rob Rang
Breakdown: The Raiders' rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to its explosive offense but if the club is to take the next step -- and remain a consistent post-season threat - help must be on the way for a defense that surrendered an average of 375 yards per game, 26th in the NFL. In his postseason wrap-up, Jack Del Rio stressed the need to create more of disruption on the interior, which is exactly what the 6-5, 285 pound McDowell does best.
Expert | Mel Kiper, Jr.
Breakdown: The Raiders have a big need here, and Wilson offers length and experience at cornerback, where he has played in nearly 40 games for the Gators. For the first time in a while, the Raiders can be drafting in the midst of a title window, and I think cornerback help should be a part of the equation on Day 1 or Day 2. Wilson is a good value in this range, too.
Expert | Todd McShay
Breakdown: At 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Davis' best fit is at weak-side linebacker. He's an explosive athlete with great range who profiles as an every-down player in the NFL. He could also play middle linebacker if he bulked up a bit. Oakland has needs at both positions and could use a Kwon Alexander-type player like Davis at the second level.
Expert | Dieter Kurtenbach
Breakdown: The Raiders still love to take the best athlete available, right? Well, McDowell, who looks like he could play power forward in the NBA, fits the bill and will help solidify the Raiders’ porous defensive front.
Expert | Emily Kaplan
Breakdown: He’s a tall, physical corner with the size most NFL teams covet these days. David Amerson and Sean Smith have been inconsistent this season. Reggie McKenzie, it’s time to give your secondary and upgrade.
Expert | Bucky Brooks
Breakdown: The Raiders can't continue to ignore their pressing need on the island. The ultra-explosive playmaker isn't a polished defender, but he has a knack for delivering splash plays as a CB/KR on the perimeter.
Expert | Charley Casserly
Breakdown: Raiders need to upgrade their cornerback position; White is a nice start.
Expert | Daniel Jeremiah
Breakdown: One of the cleanest players in this draft, White can play outside or in the nickel.
Expert | Chad Reuter
Selection: Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Breakdown: Jack Del Rio wants an interior pass rusher. Brantley's relentless inside? That's a good fit.
Pro Football Focus
Expert | Steve Palazzolo
Selection: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Breakdown: While they’ve added key pieces to the defense in recent years, the middle of Oakland’s defense is still lacking along the defensive line. McDowell can move around the defensive front, but he can be a disruptive presence along the interior, where he graded at a solid 83.2 against the run and 85.7 (12th in the nation) as a pass-rusher. McDowell has continued to improve each year in college, and while he didn’t take the massive step forward we hoped for in 2016, he still has room to grow as a player at the next level.
Expert | Dan Kadar
Breakdown: The Raiders are one of the teams that needs some guaranteed hits in the draft this year to take the next theoretical step. Davis can be that player. He can play inside and outside linebacker in four-man fronts and has the athleticism to make plays all around the field.
Should they draft a quarterback? Unless the Raiders are concerned about Derek Carr becoming an injury liability, this is an obvious no.
Expert | Eric Galko
Breakdown: Oakland is fine with Latavius Murray and DeAndre Washington, but they’d really like to add Cook to pair with their dominant offensive line. Cook will likely fall on draft day due to injury concerns, but the Raiders have been known to take chances on prospects with some injury red flags.
Expert | Charlie Campbell
Breakdown: Oakland's defense improved as the season progressed, but there was always a big void in the middle of the defensive line. I imagine the Raiders will want to spend a high selection on a prospect who can generate some pressure in the interior, and Caleb Brantley is one of the top prospects available.