The Raiders passed on Leonard Williams last year, because they needed targets for Derek Carr. With the offense now in place, the Raiders need Robert Nkemdiche.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Sheldon Rankins. He played across the entire Louisville defensive line. Rankins dominated the Senior Bowl and performed well at the NFL Combine.
However, he is no Robert Nkemdiche.
In fact, there are not a lot of Nkemdiches. He is a specimen that only comes around every few years. A chiseled, interior linemen that runs a 4.87 40-yard-dash. He also dominated the eventually champions, Alabama.
The biggest knock on Nkemdiche: off-field character concerns. He also has some concerns with motor and work-ethic.
I get it. General Manager Reggie McKenzie built this Raiders team with high-quality and productive players. Nkemdiche does not fit that mold thanks to a stupid incident that involved him falling out of a second-story building and then snitching on Laremy Tunsil at the combine.
Yet the Raiders built a culture that Nkemdiche will not become a distraction in. He can learn from a troubled player like Aldon Smith.
More importantly, Nkemdiche will dominate on the Raiders. He can play beside Khalil Mack as a 3 tech. or two-gapping 5 tech. The Raiders can then use Mario Edwards Jr. at his natural position at end. Or they can rotate the two.
Take a look at the defenes Jack Del Rio participated in as a coach.
Baltimore, Carolina, Jacksonville and Denver all had playmakers on the defensive line. Expect Del Rio to carry that philosophy into Oakland. The group is already good, but they will become great with Nkemdiche in the rotation with Justin Ellis, Denico Autry, Dan Williams, Mario Edwards Jr. and a few more.
Unless Myles Jack falls, the Raiders should not pass on Nkemdiche.
Some mock drafts have the Raiders going corner, linebacker, running back or tackle in the draft. The Raiders can find a starter at any of those positions with No. 14. However, they can only find a dominate player like Nkemdiche there because of his off-field concerns.
The Raiders can address those other needs at later points. They can still find value at RB, LB, CB, and S in the middle rounds. That may be true for DT as well, but none will make the impact Nkemdiche can.