Raiders Draft Preview: Pick or Pass – Defensive Ends
Gregory Rousseau
Sep 21, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau (15) celebrates by wearing the turnover chain after recovering a fumble in the first quarter of a football game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Las Vegas Raiders were outside the bottom 10 in the NFL, as far as sack production goes, it was 2015. Since then, they’ve actually finished dead last twice (last year they “improved” to be fourth-worst). In response, the Raiders have done their best to improve through the NFL Draft — using the fourth overall pick on Clelin Ferrell in 2019, a fourth-rounder on Maxx Crosby that same year, and a second and third-rounder on PJ Hall and Arden Key in 2018. Crosby is the only real contributor of that group when it comes to the pass rush (Ferrell has developed into a nice player, but getting to the quarterback isn’t his strong suit thus far).

Realizing that this wasn’t cutting it, the Raiders finally invested in their pass rush in free agency, signing Yannick Ngakoue to a two-year deal this offseason, as he immediately becomes arguably the best player on the defense.

With all this in mind, could the Raiders really spend their first-round pick on another defensive end? As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, there’s a good chance that offensive players make up 60-75% of the picks made in front of the Raiders in Round 1, meaning there could be unique value at No. 17. If a top-10 type talent at defensive end was available for the Raiders when they’re on the clock, I absolutely think, given the importance of this position in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system, they should consider using the pick here. With that in mind, there are four pass-rushers in the neighborhood of pick 17: Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh, Kwity Paye, Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau.

Below you’ll see big board rankings from Todd McShay and Mel Kiper of ESPN, as well as Dane Brugler of The Athletic. As a note, Kiper only ranks his top 25. Also, special thanks to PFF for collecting measurements from Pro Days everywhere. Of course, take all of these numbers with a massive grain of salt, given that they’re coming from the schools themselves.

Azeez Ojulari
20. Bears – Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia
Ncaa Football Chick Fil A Peach Bowl Georgia Vs Cincinnati

Azeez Ojulari, OLB/DE, Georgia

Big board ranks: No. 29 (McShay), No. 16 (Brugler), NR (Kiper)

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 249

Arm: 34 3/8

Broad jump: 127

40-yard: 4.60

Measurement analysis: Of all the guys on this list, Ojulari is the least impressive physically. Of course, he still is impressive physically, but when we’re talking about middle-of-the-first-round pass rushers, his raw athletic numbers are a bit underwhelming. Some places have him listed as more of an outside linebacker than a pass rusher.

Film analysis: It was fascinating to watch his tape versus Alabama early in the year because it gives you a sense of just how versatile Ojulari is. He lined up on the left and right, standing and in a stance, dropping into coverage as well as rushing the passer. The question here is what the fit looks like for the Raiders. Can he play a true defensive end against the run, or does his size make him a situational pass-rusher? The talent is definitely there as a pass-rusher, and he might be my favorite of the bunch when it comes to attacking the quarterback — but can you draft a second and third-down specialist this high?

Jayson Oweh
Aug 31, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) reacts following a sack during the first quarter against the Idaho Vandals at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State

Big board ranks: No. 47 (McShay), No. 26 (Brugler), NR (Kiper)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 257

Arm: 34 1/2

Vertical: 40

Broad: 134

Bench: 21 reps

40-yard: 4.39

Short shuttle: 4.15

3-cone: 6.84

Measurement analysis: Oweh is a freak when it comes to measurements. According to PFF, he ranks in the 95th percentile or higher when it comes to his short-shuttle (95th), 3-cone (96th), broad jump (100th) and 40 time (100th). The guy is 6’5″, 157 pounds and runs a 4.39, for heaven’s sake.

Film analysis: You can’t ignore it when you study Oweh: he had zero sacks in seven games last season (after recording seven total sacks in his first 13 games). What stood out to me, though, when watching his tape against Ohio State, was that I see way more power on film than I do speed. He was constantly knocking tackles and guards backward, which only adds to the intrigue of why he was unable to get to the quarterback last year. Oweh is the classic “projection” player, and Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden will be asking themselves whether Rod Marinelli could unlock all the twitchy traits in Oweh’s bag.

Kwity Paye
Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye sacks the Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley during the first half on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan Football

Kwity Paye, OLB/DE, Michigan

Big board ranks: No. 17 (McShay), No. 19 (Brugler), No. 16 (Kiper)

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 261

Arm: 33

Vertical: 35.5

Broad: 118

Bench: 36 reps

40-yard: 4.52

Measurement analysis: His bench press number puts him in the 99th percentile, but aside from that, he’s a solid-but-not-a-freak athlete (which is weird t say about a 261-pound guy who runs a 4.52). It is worth noting the arm length is almost the same as Phillips, who has three inches on Paye height-wise.

Film analysis: Paye only played in four games this past season, recording two sacks and four tackles for a loss — with nearly all of that production coming in the first game of the season against Minnesota. In fact, nearly all of that production came in the fourth quarter of a 49-24 Wolverine win. On the one hand, I love that Paye was at his best in the fourth quarter. On the other, it’s likely he was capitalizing on tired offensive linemen and predictable play-calling — two red flags for me.

Jaelan Phillips
Oct 10, 2020; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws to running back Travis Etienne (9) against Miami Hurricanes defensive line Jaelan Phillips (15) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

Big board ranks: No. 24 (McShay), No. 25 (Brugler), No. 22 (Kiper)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 260

Arm: 33 1/4

Hand: 9 3/4

Vertical: 36

Broad: 125

Bench: 21 reps

40-yard: 4.56

Short shuttle: 4.13

3-cone: 7.01

Measurement analysis: These were the pro-day numbers that blew my mind the most. Look at his size, and then look at that 40-time, that broad jump mark and that short-shuttle time. All three put him above the 90th percentile, and to do that at 6’5″ is pretty astonishing. His pro day helped him the most of anyone on this list.

Film analysis: In 10 games this season, Phillips had 14.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks, but maybe even more encouraging is that Phillips got a lot better as the season wore on. In his final four games, he recorded 11 tackles for loss and six sacks (and 26 total tackles). The reason that’s encouraging is because this is a guy who was the No. 1 recruit in the country back in 2017 when he committed to UCLA. After two fairly unproductive seasons there, he retired for medical reasons related to concussions. After deciding to come back, he transferred to Miami and sat out the 2019 season. He played four games in 2018 and then none in 2019, so it makes sense why he started slowly in 2020 before turning it on. Watching his tape against Clemson, I loved what I saw — his athleticism and length jump off the page, and I was also impressed by his effort in chasing down plays downfield.

Gregory Rousseau
Sep 21, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau (15) celebrates by wearing the turnover chain after recovering a fumble in the first quarter of a football game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

Big board ranks: No. 20 (McShay), No. 34 (Brugler), NR (Kiper)

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 266

Arm: 34 3/4

Hand: 11

Vertical: 30

Broad: 115

Bench: 21 reps

40-yard: 4.69

Short shuttle: 4.45

3-cone: 7.50

Measurement analysis: Everything about Rousseau is huge. 6’7″, nearly 35″ arms, and hand size in the 99th percentile. The speed work isn’t as freakish as the other guys on this list, but that isn’t necessarily his game.

Film analysis: Rousseau sat out the 2020 season after recording similar numbers to Phillips in 2019 — 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss in 13 games as a redshirt freshman. What’s hard to evaluate with Rousseau is that 2019 is the only tape we have on him — as he played one game as a true freshman and then sat out his redshirt sophomore season. Then again, had he put up the numbers he did in 2019 again this year, we’re probably talking about a top-10 pick given the measurables. In watching his tape, you can see the length and athleticism show up, as he was in on several impact plays in Miami’s game against Virginia. It’s worth noting as well that he recorded a sack in nine different games in 2019.


Just as a refresher, this is where I’ll assign each player a “pick” or “pass”. “Pick” means I’d be comfortable with the Raiders drafting this player at No. 17, while “pass” means I wouldn’t be. Of course, a number of guys will end up in each category, so it’s not like I’m narrowing this down to the one guy I would want to pick — it’s almost a piece-by-piece construction of my big board. Here’s how I’d rank the guys above…

  1. Jaelan Phillips — PICK
  2. Gregory Rousseau — PICK
  3. Jason Oweh — PASS
  4. Azeez Ojulari — PASS
  5. Kwity Paye — PASS

Moving backward through these, Paye — who is the most consistently high ranked among experts — scared me on tape given where his production showed up. I’d rather bet on potential or production I get from the other guys. As for Ojulari, I actually entered the process liking Ojulari him the most, but I don’t see the fit with the Raiders as he definitely feels more suited for a 3-4 defense. Oweh is entirely a bet on upside, which always scares me as I’d prefer to bet on traits and production when given the choice — and that’s where Phillips and Rousseau come in.

Phillips gets the edge simply because of the twitchiness he showed at his pro-day. The short shuttle and three-cone numbers are pretty insane for a guy his size, and pairing that with the production makes him my No. 1 option. Obviously, this isn’t a position of pressing need for the Raiders, but given the scarcity of pass-rushers around the league and how this particular draft falls, I’d be more than happy to go with a defensive lineman in the first while grabbing a safety or a tackle in the second.