As many analysts and fans alike would certainly attest to, the Raiders’ best-case scenario would be to find a trade-down partner, and even multiple at that.
At this point, given the uncertainty with not only this year’s top ten but the entire first round as well, that idea seems quite unlikely. As such, pre-draft projections and predictions must operate under the assumption that the Raiders will indeed stay in their original spot at third overall.
What they choose to do with that first-round pick, as well as the rest of the draft, will go a long way to determining the direction that this new regime is taking the franchise.
Given the moves that have been made thus far this offseason, both additions and subtractions, the Raiders’ ideal pick is Florida DT Sharrif Floyd.
When it became apparent that both Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly wouldn’t be in silver and black in 2013, the defensive tackle position became one of the roster’s most glaring holes.
Some very solid and underrated signings of Pat Sims and Vance Walker have somewhat eased that need, but adding a potentially dominant force to that new rotation inside is something that the Raiders cannot afford to pass up.
Sharrif Floyd has established himself as an elite NFL prospect, projecting to be a 3-technique defensive tackle. It is here that he will best put to use his pass-rush skill that sets him apart from the others at his position in the draft.
Floyd possesses the necessary size, strength and quickness to be an effective player against both the pass and run, and that versatility will be important for the Raiders to build around.
Many fans and experts around the league will have the Raiders targeting some of the draft’s best edge rushers and defensive ends instead, and understandably so.
The Raiders’ pass rush was non-existent in 2012, and having an elite talent rushing the passer off the edge would go a long way to helping that.
However, one must not discount the effect that an interior pass rusher, like Sharrif Floyd, can have disrupting an opposing offense’s passing attack.
It would be irrational and premature to boldly state that Floyd himself will be as productive as certain pass rushing interior linemen around the league, like it is for any prospect at this point.
At the same time, when looking at the success that players like Houston’s JJ Watt and Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins have had on their respective defenses, the potential for similar impact on the game cannot be ignored.
In the 2012 season, JJ Watt totaled a league-leading 20.5 sacks, while Geno Atkins finished with an impressive 12.5 himself.
What’s more, and in some cases more significantly so, is the impact that they have beyond those sack numbers. Even when Watt and Atkins weren’t bringing down the quarterback, the hurries and non-sack hits that they produced, not to mention the contributions stopping the run, have their own effect on the offense.
Interior pass rushers have the potential to consistently collapse the pocket in the middle, which can have an equal or even greater effect that that of providing pressure off the edge.
Again, a statement saying that Sharrif Floyd is the next of these two players is premature, as is it would be for every draft prospect heading in. The NFL, simply put, is a whole new level.
However, Floyd undoubtedly has the rare talent to do similar things from an interior defensive line position.
Should he be drafted, Floyd would likely start at the 3-technique, Pat Sims and Vance Walker would for the most part split running and passing downs respectively, and the Raiders also would be able to keep their best defensive player, Lamarr Houston, at defensive end.
Overall, it is clear that the Raiders need pass-rush help. Often, the solution is to find a dominant edge rusher, but that is not always the case.
As aforementioned, there are several examples around the NFL of interior defensive linemen who not only provide their respective defenses with anchors against the run, but have become consistent nightmares for opposing passing attacks as well.
Sharrif Floyd’s skill set gives him the potential to be one of those dominant interior pass rushers, and thus he is a prospect that the Raiders cannot pass up in the first round.