For the past several seasons, the Raiders have been helpless against the run.
As new General Manager Reggie McKenzie prepares to make his first selection in the NFL Draft Friday – the 95th overall, at the end of the third round – it’s hard to say which players will be available.
But from the outside looking in, it seems McKenzie is well aware of Oakland’s defensive ineptness and will be looking for help. It’s not going out on a limb to suggest that first pick will be either a defensive lineman or a linebacker.
As Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group noted, the past five seasons the Raiders have ranked 27th, 29th, 29th, 31st and 31st in the NFL in run defense.
While the Raiders have many needs – in the secondary, the offensive line and tight end – Oakland must get better at stopping other teams' rushing games if it wants to be able to consistently compete in the AFC West.
McDonald noted three players who might be available when the Raiders pick are defensive tackles Mike Martin of Michigan, Josh Chapman of Alabama and Alameda Ta’amu of Washington. Each is rated strong against the run and could be just what the Raiders need to start re-building a solid defensive front.
But as McKenzie looks at the draft he knows he’ll have to pick the best players available from the draft positions he holds. He needs good players, and lots of them, across the field.
“We need some depth, regardless,” he said earlier this month. “To compete and hopefully win jobs. And that’s what we’re targeting. When we say ‘best player,’ whether it’s D-line, linebacker, O-line, tight end, I mean, it doesn’t matter. We want to get a good player.
“We’ve got five picks. We need to make them all count.”
Aside from the third-round pick, the Raiders also will have a fourth-round choice, two in the fifth round and a sixth-round pick.
McKenzie could move up in the draft Friday – he hasn’t ruled anything out – but to do so might require him to trade a player off his already-thin roster or trade future picks, something he says he will not do.
So, expect McKenzie to stand pat, wait his turn and take the best players he can mine from this year’s college prospects. With so many holes to fill, so much change with new leadership, new coaches, new schemes, McKenzie knows he can’t remake the team overnight.
He’s in it for the long haul.
But, picking a few guys who can tackle, stop the run and do it without committing penalties might be a nice start.