Raiders take DE Mario Edwards Jr. in 2nd round
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Three years after entering college as one of the top players in the country, Mario Edwards Jr. came into the NFL with a little less fanfare.
The Oakland Raiders selected the former Florida State defensive lineman with their second-round pick in the NFL draft on Friday with hopes the former five-star recruit can get back to that form by keeping his weight down as a professional.
''I feel like if I would have controlled my weight my three years that I could have lived up to what my rankings were,'' Edwards said. ''However I can't put myself behind the eight ball. I took full responsibility for that. I understand how it works.''
Edwards' weight in college got up to 310 pounds but he is down to about 277 right now. The Raiders want his weight between 280 and 285 pounds as they plan to use him as a weakside defensive end, as well as inside at defensive tackle.
''The ability is there. It's the consistency factor that we've talked about. He understands it,'' said Raiders linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, Edwards' position coach at Florida State the past two years.
''If I'm Mario Edwards right now, I'm coming with a chip on my shoulder because I wanted to go in the first round. When you draft people like that who have a chip on their shoulder, it's pretty fun.''
The Raiders then drafted Miami tight end Clive Walford in the third round, giving quarterback Derek Carr another pass-catching option after the team took Alabama receiver Amari Cooper in the first round.
Even at the high weight, Edwards was an elite athlete that Sunseri compared to Julius Peppers. He could do a standing backflip and could quickly change directions to navigate bag drills, ending with an athletic hurdle.
But the son of former NFL cornerback Mario Edwards didn't live up to his high-school billing, recording just eight sacks in three seasons in college.
''You kind of relax and take the foot off the pedal a little bit,'' he said. ''But now, knowing that was the wrong thing to do, because once you get comfortable, as my dad said, you either get worse or you get better. There's no in between. Me taking my foot off the gas pedal definitely caused me to gain weight and become worse.''
Oakland had a big need for a pass rusher to team with last year's top pick, linebacker Khalil Mack. The Raiders were tied for the second-fewest sacks in the league last year with 22.
But general manager Reggie McKenzie went with Edwards over Nebraska's Randy Gregory, widely considered a top 10 talent who slipped in the draft because of off-field concerns.
Those issues outweighed any questions about Edwards' effort level.
''It's not going to be a concern, not a concern,'' McKenzie said. ''You can critique any play and beat a kid up over a little bit of everything. In the end we think Mario is going to be a really good player for us.''
After years of lackluster drafts, the Raiders finally started building their foundation for ending a 12-year run without a playoff berth or winning record.
Mack, quarterback Derek Carr, guard Gabe Jackson, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and cornerback TJ Carrie all were significant contributors as rookies. New coach Jack Del Rio is counting on Cooper and Edwards to add to that group.
Walford is a versatile player who is adept at blocking and receiving. He had 121 catches for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns in 49 games at Miami.
''I can high-point the ball,'' he said. ''I'm a great pass-catcher. I'm a great run-blocker. I'm just a dual-threat tight end.''
Walford said he models his game after New England star Rob Gronkowski, prompting a smile from McKenzie.
''What about Raymond Chester?'' McKenzie responded, referring to the former Raiders star.
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