Raiders Have Two Routes to Grab Elite Edge Rusher

While most predict Raiders will use the fourth overall choice in the draft to get a defensive end, team could also pluck a pass rusher from potentially deep free-agent pool

The Raiders’ greatest need is a dynamic edge pass rusher. They have the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft, so it’s been widely projected that Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will select the best pass rusher available at No. 4.

But the Raiders also could go another direction.

This offseason’s cast of available veteran edge rushers is deep and talented. It’s possible that Gruden and Mayock could bring in a player who already has proven his ability in the NFL, and then use the fourth pick for the best player available.

This week, the analytic website Pro Football Focus produced a review of possible veteran free-agent edge rushers, led by the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence, who had 10½ sacks in 2018 and 14½ in 2017. While Lawrence – just 26 years old -- may be the best defensive end available on the market (if he and Dallas can’t reach an agreement), there are several others almost equally attractive.

“This year’s edge class is stockpiled with upper-echelon talents for teams to pursue, highlighted by the fact that the top three players on this list combined for 221 quarterback pressures throughout the (2018) season,” wrote Mike Johnson of PFF.

The other two are Trey Flowers of the Patriots (14 sacks over the past two years) and Brandon Graham of the Eagles (13½ sacks combined in 2017 and 2018).

Also potentially in this class are former No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney of the Texans, Frank Clark of the Seahawks, Dee Ford of the Chiefs, Shaquil Barrett of the Broncos, Preston Smith of Washington, Za’Darius Smith of the Ravens and Ziggy Ansah of the Lions.

Of course, the Raiders also could sign a free-agent edge rusher and use the No. 4 pick (or one of their two other first-round choices) to take a defensive end with pass-rush skills to immediately transform the defensive front.

The best available figure to be Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Ohio State's Nick Bosa, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, Michigan’s Rashan Gary and Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat.

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