In an effort to ascend beyond the land of less than four wins per season (they have a combined 11 regular season wins since the start of 2012), the Oakland Raiders made yet another shakeup this offseason, bringing in veteran coach Jack Del Rio to try to right the ship under GM Reggie McKenzie.
Update: Read our 2015 NFL Draft rankings by position.
Though they struggled in the standings last season, the Raiders still have some interesting building blocks, including two second-year pros in quarterback Derek Carr and pass rusher Khalil Mack. More talent is en route to the Raiders, as well, with the No. 4 overall pick -- and in our 2015 NFL mock draft, Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride is bypassing a universally respected prospect for a guy who may not be available when the real thing goes down.
4. Raiders: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Damien: In most mocks, I would have Amari Cooper with this pick due to the Raiders' glaring need at wide receiver. But the one guy in this draft who I would have the Raiders taking ahead of Cooper is Williams. He is the consensus best player in this draft, and with Reggie McKenzie’s insistence on choosing the best player available, he becomes the obvious pick.
Williams is as dominant as they come at defensive tackle, where the Raiders currently have 33-year-old Antonio Smith entering the final season of his two-year contract. They went after Ndamukong Suh in free agency and lost out to Miami. They also had interest in Jared Odrick, who went to Jacksonville – the team just ahead of them in the draft, which is why Williams is even available at this pick. Williams would make up for those losses, as he compares favorably to Suh. And on a rookie deal, he is a lot cheaper than Suh.
In addition to his on-field talents, he went to USC, which is Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio’s alma mater, and where defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. coached. Williams is also a huge Raiders fan, and has made no secret of that. This is the perfect marriage of need, talent and desire. After having Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall last year, could the Raiders actually get this lucky two years in a row?
Dan Kadar, SBNation.com: This is a slam dunk of a selection. Williams is the best player in the draft, and the exact player the Raiders need. You can argue a pass rusher at end here, but Williams is a better fit because they already have Khalil Mack. Williams is a powerhouse defensive lineman, and will automatically help improve the team’s run defense. He can play left end if needed, but he can wreak havoc in the middle.
Dan's Top 5 players remaining
- 4. Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
- 5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
- 6. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
- 7. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
- 8. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
- 1-4: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
- 2-35: (coming April 7)
With Williams off the board, things open up a bit in our mock draft in terms of surprises; if you're into that sort of thing, you'll probably want to check back in at noon ET for Washington's pick courtesy of Hogs Haven.
SB Nation presents: The Raiders go with offense in our latest mock draft