NFL scouts, execs and draft analysts have labeled USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams as a can’t-miss prospect.
The prevailing opinion has been that should Williams fall to No. 4 overall – where the Raiders draft – that they should abandon all other plans and take Williams.
Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, in fact, calls Williams as safe a pick there is in this year’s draft, which begins April 30.
“Williams is a devastating run-defender who controls multiple gaps and creates a push on penetration regardlessof where he lines up,” wrote Kiper recently. “He’s safe because of the scheme versatility and the fact he hasn’t even fully developed as a pas rusher yet.”
But even is Williams is there for the taking at No. 4, one former NFL executive believes the Raiders would be better off selecting Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Both Cooper and West Virginia wideout Kevin White are expected to available with the fourth pick, and the Raiders are eager to upgrade their receiving corps.
Louis Riddick – a former NFL safety, scout and director of pro player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles – told Bill Williamson of ESPN.com that he believes Cooper would be the bigger-impact player for the Raiders, giving young quarterback Derek Carr a No. 1 target.
Riddick told Williamson that with the fourth overall pick, he’d be looking for the player who could provide the biggest “return on investment,” so he believes Oakland would be better off with Cooper.
“Amari is a guy that has been trained in a pro-style offense, in a pro-style program, with pro coaches and has shown the ability to produce at an extremely high level in that environment,” Riddick told Williamson. “He is exactly what Carr needs to take his QB game to the next level, being that he can win inside, outside, short, deep … whatever is needed.”
Plus, Riddick cited Cooper’s “A+” football character.
Riddick believes Williams will be a good player, but isn’t sure he’ll produce the kind of impact a team will need from the fourth overall choice. In fact, he told Williamson that the former USC standout – because he’s not yet a proven pass rusher – may not even be a three-down lineman in the NFL just yet.
“I just do not want to pay that kind of price for a good two-down player that I don’t know if he will be a good third-down producer,” Riddick said.