Sheldon Richardson is a stud defensive tackle.
The Oakland Raiders learned the hard way that there’s no such thing as a “can’t-miss” NFL draft prospect. Robert Gallery was a once-in-a-decade left tackle prospect and the Raiders had to move him to left guard to get anything out of him. Rolando McClain was supposed to the long-term answer at middle linebacker, but has struggled on and off the field.
Of course, we also know that a lot more goes into the success and failure of players than just their ability to play the game. How a player is used, his health, how he responds to the NFL lifestyle, how he fits in the locker room and if he’s willing to work hard are all part of the equation. The player and the team need to be a good match.
Every year there are good prospects. Some of them will turn into stars and others will be busts. A lot of players will go on to have long careers, but never really achieve greatness. A can’t-miss prospect is an oxymoron to some degree, but there are some who are more likely to achieve greatness if drafted by the Raiders.
Interior Defensive Linemen
The Raiders have several open defensive line positions. Until the Raiders have a chance to address the position in free agency, there will be a need for a quality defensive tackle on the roster. The question will be which defensive tackle fits what the Raiders want to do on defense.
It’s a deep draft at defensive tackle, which may be the only reason the Raiders go in another direction. If they do go with a defensive tackle in the first round, there are two guys who should make an immediate impact.
Provided Lotulelei’s heart condition ends up being something minor, he would replace Richard Seymour as the dominant interior defensive tackle. When paired with Desmond Bryant, Lotulelei will collapse the pocket and blow up runs in the backfield.
Lotulelei was one of the top prospects in the entire draft until the news of his heart condition that prevented him from participating at the NFL combine. Hopefully he can get treatment for his condition and resume what should be a great football career. If he can, the Raiders would be wise to snap him up.
Richardson is just as impressive as Lotulelei in many ways. Some teams probably have Richardson rated higher than Lotulelei, and he might be the top defensive tackle for most teams with the news about Lotulelei’s heart condition.
Richardson is athletic, hardworking and fits in just about any scheme. Considering that he now may come with less risk than Lotulelei medically, he should be strongly considered with the third overall pick.
Richardson put up 30 reps on the bench press, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.02 seconds, broad-jumped 9’8” and had a vertical leap of 32” at the combine. Those are respectable numbers for a guy who weighs in at around 300 pounds.
The Raiders were one of the worst teams at generating a pass rush in the entire NFL and were ranked 31st in the league in sacks with just 25. Of the worst four teams at generating sacks, three of them will be drafting in the top three.
Now more than ever, generating pressure is important in the NFL. Unlike defensive tackles, pass-rushers present considerably more value at the top of the draft. There are several good pass-rushers in the draft, but there is also a fairly steep drop-off after the top few guys go off the board.
He’ll be called a workout warrior after his combine performance, but people should keep in mind that he was already a top prospect. Mingo was expected to measure extremely well and he did, running the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, broad-jumping 10’8” with a vertical jump of 37”.
Mingo was also impressive in positional drills, showing fluid hips and good feet while backpedaling. The Raiders could really use Mingo’s athleticism as a pass-rusher and he would fit what the Raiders want to do on defense. Dennis Allen would use Mingo much like he used Von Miller when he was with the Broncos in 2011.
Who is the best option for the Raiders
Since the Raiders have so few sure things in the front seven, they can use more hybrid 3-4 fronts with Mingo using his bend around the edge. Reggie McKenzie can’t be afraid to take an athlete just because Al Davis was attracted to them to a fault. Mingo also has a relentless motor, which coaches will love.
Jordan almost matched Mingo in the 40-yard dash and broad jump, running 4.6 seconds and jumping 10’6”. Jordan’s vertical leap was just 32.5”, which is 4.5” shorter than Mingo, but he’s also two inches taller.
Unlike Mingo, Jordan already has experience dropping into coverage and looked very natural in drills. Jordan is a more natural fit in the 4-3, since he can drop into coverage when necessary. The thing with Jordan is that he’s versatile and the Raiders need a player who can stay on the field since they don’t have much depth.
Some will think drafting Jordan or Mingo with the third overall pick is a little early, but pass-rushers are second only to quarterbacks in terms of their impact on a team. The defensive tackles are probably the best players available, but they don't make as much of an impact. There are a couple offensive tackles that probably deserve consideration at the top of the draft, but Jared Veldheer has become one of the top left tackles in the league.