Raiders need to look for pass-rushers at combine

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have three first-round picks in April's NFL draft, four among the first 35 selections and six in the first 106 as they continue their rebuild under Jon Gruden. So yeah, they must hit on those early picks.

But, as first-year general manager Mike Mayock reiterated at the scouting combine, his two seventh-round picks (the Raiders have 10 picks total, at the moment) are just as important, as are the undrafted free agents they will sign at the conclusion of the draft. As such, Mayock’s work begins in earnest this week at the combine.

Yes, getting a pass-rusher is paramount for a team that had a league-low 13 sacks last season, and the Raiders would love for the likes of Nick Bosa or Josh Allen to fall into their lap at No. 4 (Oakland’s other first-round picks are at No. 24 and No. 27). Here are three players other than Bosa and Allen the Raiders should keep an eye on in Indianapolis.

Michigan DE Rashan Gary

Let’s say both Bosa and Allen are gone by the time the Raiders are on the clock; Gary might be the next-best edge rusher on the board. But would the Raiders like him enough at No. 4 to tab him and reunite him with a former college teammate in defensive tackle Maurice Hurst? The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Gary might have more potential than sterling credentials at this point, with just 3.5 sacks to go with 44 tackles, seven for loss in 12 games last season. He skipped Michigan’s Peach Bowl loss to Florida to prep for the draft, so the Raiders would need to see a lot out of Gary -- especially his speed-power ratio -- at the combine to contemplate using such a high pick on him.

Houston DT Ed Oliver

Wait, didn’t Mayock say the Raiders felt “good inside” with their DTs in Hurst, P.J. Hall, Justin Ellis and Eddie Vanderdoes? Mayock also said a GM’s job is to improve a roster when needed. Oliver would do exactly that for a young defensive interior. Oliver pushed the pocket and came away with three sacks and 54 tackles, 14.5 for loss in just eight games. He did have a televised sideline blowup with coach Major Applewhite over wearing a jacket meant for active players, and Oliver did deal with a knee injury that the Raiders will want to evaluate in Indianapolis, along with all of his medical files, obviously. Plus, Mayock said, Oliver’s true size (he is listed at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds) will be a topic.

Alabama DT Quinnen Williams

If Mayock and Gruden stay true to their board and pick the “best player available” when it comes to their selection, Williams could be the guy. Yes, he pushes the pocket, but he also finishes. The sophomore had seven sacks, with a safety, among his 70 tackles, including 18.5 for a loss. The Raiders will want to see how athletic Williams is at the combine. They will not get to see how strong he is, so to speak. Williams will miss the 225-pound bench press “event” as a precaution due to a finger injury he suffered this season, according to NFL Network.