NFL Hot Press: Raiders Plan Draft Focused on Defense

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Combine Logo Raiders Plan Draft Focused on Defense

Updated March 2, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

The once-great Oakland Raiders franchise returned to relevance last year as the talented young Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 campaign. The Raiders’ season was derailed by the injury to starting quarterback Derek Carr, but Oakland’s defense also wasn’t in Super Bowl form as the 26th-ranked unit in the league. Sources with the Raiders told that upgrading the defense will be the priority for their 2017 draft class with early-round picks targeted to upgrade the middle of their defense. 

Sources with the Raiders say the team badly needs an interior pass-rusher. Oakland was frustrated that double teams to Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were effective at negating their ability to get to the quarterback. Thus, an interior pass-rusher is one of the their top draft priorities for the early rounds. 

Aside from a pass-rushing defensive tackle, Raiders sources say the linebacker position needs more talent. Oakland will look hard at finding an improvement for middle linebacker in their first few selections. 

The team feels all of the early-round picks can be devoted to the defensive side of the ball. They might get some offensive depth and competition later on, including some developmental talent for the offensive line. The Raiders want to re-sign free agent right tackle Menelik Watson to a 1-year contract, and sources say Watson is interested in returning on a short deal. That would help decrease the need to address Carr’s blocking.

While the Raiders might do some minor signings or late picks for their offense, the focus of their offseason will be on upgrading their defense including their early-round picks.