Oakland Raiders Release Dan Williams, Opens Spot for Rookie Talent

The Oakland Raiders released seventh-year defensive tackle Dan Williams. Does the transaction suggest an early-round draft replacement?

According to the team’s official website, the Oakland Raiders parted ways with defensive tackle Dan Williams on Tuesday. It’s a logical transaction considering Williams’ drop off in production as a run-stopper, and his $4.5 million cap hit, per Spotrac.

During the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, head coach Jack Del Rio voiced his confidence in defensive lineman Denico Autry, Jihad Ward and Mario Edwards Jr., but he didn’t mention Justin Ellis or Williams, per San Francisco Chronicle reporter Vic Tafur:

The coaching staff may divvy Williams’ snaps among Ward, Autry and Darius Latham to fill the void in four-man fronts. As Del Rio mentioned, the front office may select another interior lineman in the draft.

With depth at the position in this year’s class, general manager Reggie McKenzie doesn’t have to draft high to replace Williams. The 2017 group presents quality talents who can rush the passer straight up the middle where the Raiders defense lacks pressure. Which names should we look out for on Days 2 and 3?

Caleb Brantley

According to CBS Sports, Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley projects as a second- to third-round pick. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared him to Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. While it’s a far stretch to connect the two, Brantley has a quick first step off the line of scrimmage and handled one-on-one assignments with physicality and relentlessness.

The quick and powerful defensive tackle may also try his hand as a 5-technique defensive end opposite Edwards. Brantley lacks the production to suggest he’s a consistent pass-rushing interior lineman but possesses the skill set to develop in that area.

Chris Wormley

The Michigan defensive tackle has surged in CBS Sports’ draft projections as a solid second-round pick. Chris Wormley doesn’t stand out with eye-popping stats, but he’s been consistent at Michigan with his ability to take down ball-carriers and provide decent pocket pressure.

It’s worth noting, two other Michigan defensive linemen, Taco Charlton and Ryan Glasgow, could be selected within the first four rounds. The Wolverines packed quality talent along the defensive line over the past few seasons.

Vincent Taylor

Among the five names to watch at defensive tackle, Vincent Taylor should catch McKenzie’s eye the most. He amassed 7.5 sacks during his final season at Oklahoma State. Oakland doesn’t need another gap-stuffer, which is Ellis’ role.

Oakland’s defense needs a 3-technique tackle who’s able to penetrate the opposing offensive line with a blend of speed, power and nifty pass-rush techniques to evade long-armed linemen. Taylor may drop to the third round, which makes him a prime target for the Raiders. On Day 3, he addresses a need and carries great value.

Jaleel Johnson

Similar to Taylor, defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson logged 7.5 sacks during his final collegiate season. He steadily increased his production each season to reach a third- to fourth-round draft grade. Based on his film, he’s less athletic than Taylor and may initially struggle to disengage blocks with a 33 and 1/4-inch arm length.

Johnson will accumulate effort sacks, in which he continues to play through the whistle. Nonetheless, his willingness to track the ball-carrier or quarterback sitting in the pocket holds value. As an interior pass-rusher, he’s a suitable complement to Ellis in the middle.

Carlos Watkins

Clemson product Carlos Watkins started the offseason with an early draft projection, coming off a CFP Championship victory, but he quickly sank in the rankings. Scouts and personnel executives likely found the inconsistencies in his ability to penetrate the offensive line.

However, it’s hard to discount his 10.5-sack season as a fifth-year senior. At 6-3 with 34 and 5/8-inch arms, he’s also equipped to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. He notched four pass breakups to go along with his double-digit sack campaign.

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