This is one in a series that covers each team, offering viewers information for homework, suggestions and then the opportunity to make a draft pick.

When the NFL Draft begins selections in Philadelphia April 27, the
Oakland Raiders
have the No. 24 pick in the first round.

Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by’s experts.

Who would you pick and why?

Top five needs

1. Running back: The Raiders are believed to be closing in on
Marshawn Lynch
, which would give them a power back to go along with
Jalen Richard
DeAndre Washington
and alter their draft plans. If Lynch doesn’t come aboard, there remains a vacancy for a back to replace leading rusher
Latavius Murray
, who departed in free agency.

2. Inside linebacker: With
Malcolm Smith
off to the 49ers and
Perry Riley
Jr. unsigned, the Raiders need a body or two, preferably someone who can play inside but also in a set with two linebackers. Pass coverage has been an issue at the position, as has been the ability to consistently play off blocks and stop the run.

3. Cornerback: Rangy starters
David Amerson
Sean Smith
man the outside and are hoping for better seasons after being inconsistent in 2016. What the Raiders need, however, is a quick-footed corner, smaller, who can guard slot receivers and help with crossing routes and short patterns.

4. Defensive tackle: The Raiders plan better health from
Mario Edwards
Jr. and improvement in the second year from
Jihad Ward
, ineffective as a rookie starter.
Denico Autry
also returns and can move inside, as do
Justin Ellis
Dan Williams
. But interior pressure was non-existent a year ago and the Raiders will seek some new blood.

5. Slot receiver: Solid on the outside with
Michael Crabtree
Amari Cooper
Cordarrelle Patterson
arrived in free agency, probably for bubble screens and the line as well as returns. Incumbent
Seth Roberts
slumped in the second half last season and had too many drops.

Best fit

Zach Cunningham
, LB,
Vanderbilt Commodores
The Raiders have been looking for a fast, athletic, playmaking linebacker in the
Bobby Wagner
mold, and Cunningham could be a plug-and-play starter to join
Bruce Irvin
as a second active player on the second line of defense. Cunningham probably translates to an outside linebacker in a 4-3 and inside in a 3-4, but the Raiders do a little of both and often have only two linebackers on the field anyway.

Cunningham would be a versatile linebacker for the Raiders.

The pick will be …

Rob Rang:
Malik McDowell
, DT,
Michigan State Spartans
The Raiders’ rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to their explosive offense, but if the club is to take the next step — and remain a consistent postseason threat — help must be on the way for a defense that surrendered an average of 375 yards per game, 26th in the NFL. In his post-season wrap-up, head coach Jack Del Rio stressed the need to create more of disruption on the interior, which is exactly what the 6-foot-5, 285-pound McDowell does best.

Dane Brugler:
Jarrad Davis
, LB,
Florida Gators
The Raiders are missing an athletic and powerful thumper in the middle of the defense, something that Davis would answer.

Pat Kirwan: Adoree’ Jackson, CB/returner, USC.

(Kirwan, Jim Miller picks based on last Friday’s mock on SiriusXM Radio. Listen to their next mock Friday, April 21, on SiriusXM NFL Radio channel 88).

Frank Cooney, IMO: All due respect to Oakland’s return to the playoffs last year, but Raider Nation needs to recall how terrible the team was on defense. Yes, the real black hole in Oakland was on defense, which was especially pathetic against the run. Rang’s suggestion is a good one in Michigan DT Malik McDowell. But on a defense that often changes its front, the versatility of linebacker Zach Cunningham¬†will be handy.

Your chance to go on the record

OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out the top 1,000 players rated by, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.

Source link