The Oakland Raiders appear to have their minds set on who they want to draft at fourth overall, but they might have to change their strategy depending on the first three picks. Defensive end Leonard Williams will likely be a Raider if he’s available, otherwise Oakland will have to look at other options.
According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland will take Williams if given the chance. The USC standout is viewed by many as the best defensive player in the draft, having been made a First Team All-American in his final two years of college football and after an impressive performance at the Scouting Combine.
“Leonard Williams can play all four or five defensive-line positions, and I think the difference there is he’s a 300-pound guy (who) can make the difference in both the run and pass game,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said, regarding why the Raiders have zeroed in on Williams, via sfgate.com.
It seems like a forgone conclusion that Jameis Winston will be taken with the first overall pick, and Marcus Mariota will more than likely be taken at No.2 overall, even if the Tennessee Titans trade the pick. That leaves the Jacksonville Jaguars at No.3 ahead of Oakland, and most mock drafts have them picking either Williams or Dante Fowler Jr. of Florida.
Assuming Williams is no longer on the board at No.4, the Raiders could decide to go with Fowler. The outside linebacker had 15 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks last year, and Oakland is in desperate need of a top pass rusher. In 2014, only the Cincinnati Bengals recorded fewer than the Raiders’ 22 sacks.
“Dante Fowler is really close because he’s 261 pounds and he’s gifted in the pass game,” Mayock said. “Trust me, for me they’re 1 and 1A, and they’re both really special players.”
Other than Williams and Fowler, Oakland would have a chance to draft an impactful defender with their No.1 pick. Outside linebackers Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree are highly regarded, as are Shane Ray and Randy Gregory, whose draft stock might be impacted by issues with marijuana.
But Oakland could look to improve their offense with the fourth pick if Williams is gone. As much as their defense struggled last year, their offense ranked last in the NFL in total yards.
Wide receivers Amari Cooper or Kevin White would be the choice for Oakland. Cooper was the best wide out in college football a year ago, but White had a strong performance at the Combine.
The Raiders need help on both sides of the ball, so their ultimate decision might come down to whom they rank as the best player, rather than a specific need. Oakland took outside linebacker Khalil Mack with their first pick last year.