Oakland Raiders NFL Draft Needs – Defense

Too often we wait for the off-season to analyze teams’ strengths and weaknesses. We end up looking back at statistics and box scores in an attempt to find deficiencies. Last week I took a look at the Raiders offensive draft needs. This week I’ll take a look at the defense, in season, with an eye towards the Oakland Raiders NFL Draft in 2020. As it stands now, the Oakland Raiders have two first-round picks, no pick in the second round, and three picks in the third round. With that many high end picks, expect a few new impact faces on defense in 2020. 

Oakland Raiders 2020 NFL Draft Needs on Defense

Defensive Line

The last two drafts have seen the Raiders bring in a couple of tag teams. They loaded up on defensive tackle, with Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall in 2018. Then they turned around and drafted defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby in 2019. That’s a young, solid foundation for the defense. Crosby appears to be a star in the making while the other three have flashed at times. Even with the young core, pass rush is still a need. Benson Mayowa and Dion Jordan are both on one-year contracts and I can see a scenario where neither are Raiders next season. Johnathan Hankins has graded out well as a run-stopper and will be back in the rotation with Hall and Hurst.

Draft Need: Low. A third defensive end is definitely a need but a considerable amount of draft capital has been spent on the position. Unless an elite prospect falls to the Raiders, I think free agency will fill the needs here. Look forward to Gruden and Mayock letting the young defensive linemen prove themselves in 2020. 

Linebacker

This is one unit where I can see a complete overhaul coming for the Oakland Raiders. Tight ends and running backs have killed the Raiders in the passing game and as a result the team has been terrible on third down, allowing teams to convert 44% of the time. The league seemingly wants to do away with Vontaze Burfict. Tahir Whitehead and Will Compton have filled in admirably but neither look like the long term answer. Nicholas Morrow and Marquel Lee have shown flashes over the last two years but neither have graded out at a high-level with any consistency. We’ll see if new addition Preston Brown can provide a spark in the last quarter of the season. 

Draft Need: High. Linebacker was not a draft priority for the last regime and so far Gruden hasn’t shown it’s a priority for him either. The lack of explosive talent shows. That has to change this offseason. Isaiah Simmons is a great fit and would be a steal if he’s available when the Raiders are on the clock in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Much like wide receiver, I can see the Raiders double dipping and adding a second linebacker in the middle rounds. 

Defensive Back

Whew, where do I start?? The good- rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen looks like a keeper. Versatile veterans Daryl Worley and Erik Harris have stepped up and been playmakers. First-round safety Johnathan Abram only played in one game but looked like the enforcer the Raider defense needs. The bad- Lamarcus Joyner has not played well in the slot and looks like he needs to move back to safety. Karl Joseph was lost for the season just when it started to look like he was turning a corner. Nevin Lawson still hasn’t figured out the whole catching the ball thing. The jury is still out on rookie corner Isaiah Johnson who needs more snaps after missing half the season. 

Draft Need: Moderate. Having Abram back next season will make a big difference. As a whole, however, the Raiders defensive backfield is littered with replacement level players. While an influx of talent is needed at both corner and safety, I think linebacker and wide receiver are bigger needs at the moment. I expect the Raiders to look hard for a starter or two for the defensive backfield in free agency and use the draft to pick up a project or two. 

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  1. Simmons would potentially transform the D in the ‘moneybacker’ role, but the D still needs more Pressure on the QB…?

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