ALAMEDA — So, five picks, five linebackers?
The Raiders have reached the fourth round of the NFL Draft, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, and still haven’t addressed their issues at middle linebacker. Not spending high picks on the position has been Reggie McKenzie’s M.O. so this shouldn’t necessarily be surprising, but they did pass up Alabama’s Reuben Foster in the first round and Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham in the second round.
By the end of Saturday, it seems impossible to think they won’t have grabbed at least one linebacker. Here are some options for the Raiders five picks, which come at No. 129, 168, 208, 242 and 244 (a pick from Seattle in exchange for Dewey McDonald).
1. LB Ben Gedeon, Michigan: The top inside linebacker left, based on ESPN’s board, Gedeon is also a guy that the network’s Mel Kiper Jr. offered up when asked precisely about this scenario — looking for a Day 3 player who could come right in and start at inside ‘backer. He’s 6-foot-2, 244 pounds and played really well against Ohio State, but isn’t the fastest and had some issues with missed tackles.
2. LB Blair Brown, Ohio: He doesn’t pack the measurables at just 5-11, 238 pounds but he’s an instinctive downhill linebacker who rarely misses a tackle. And now that the Raiders have added a player like Obi Melifonwu with size and range for covering tight ends, the Raiders can focus more on physical linebackers who can defend the run and don’t need to be three down players.
3. LB Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern: An extremely productive ‘backer, the knock on him at 6-1, 238 has been that he’s played overweight and not in peak physical shape. The Raiders could see him as a guy that strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes can mold (the Raiders love what Gomes does with the players) and he’s a well-rounded ‘backer who can play the run and the pass.
4. OT Zach Banner, USC: The biological son of former Raiders tackle Lincoln Kennedy also comes from Jack Del Rio’s alma mater, so there’s two points in his favor already. He’s considered the best tackle still available and the Raiders want to start planning ahead for their left tackle needs. He’s huge at 6-foot-8, 353 pounds (he’s been as high as 385) and keeping that weight in order will be the key to his NFL career.
5. RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: Could the Raiders still go after a running back, even with the addition of Marshawn Lynch? It’s possible, although it’s probably not going to be Perine, who is ESPN’s best running back remaining. But maybe another downhill runner like BYU’s Jamaal Williams or Wyoming’s Brian Hill to give them a power back to learn under Lynch for a season or two.