The Raiders addressed some pass rushing needs Friday, taking Mario Edwards Jr. in the second round.
Edwards Jr., a hybrid defensive lineman who played for Florida State, stands 6-foot-3 and offers versatility that is hard to find.
His sack numbers are underwhelming — only eight in three seasons — but may serve as a run-stuffer along with free agent addition Dan Williams.
Oakland plans on using Edwards Jr. at left defensive end, battling power tackles who often provide lead blocks in the run game.
The pick is being touted as one that includes a very high ceiling, but also a low floor, with analyst Mike Mayock pointing out on the NFL Ntwork broadcast that his production is tied to his weight.
Edwards Jr. knows full well the critiques about weight and desire floated around. He even agrees, to a point; Edwards was a top recruit out of high school and some of it got to his head.
“My dad always said you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, there’s no in between.”
His dad, Mario Edwards, played defensive back for the Cowboys and also went to Florida State.
While in college, Edwards Jr. dealt with weight issues, though coaches didn’t care how much he weighed, just that he could do the job he was tasked with.
He got drafted at 277, a weight Raiders coaches are comfortable with, and believe he can provide an exceptional boost to their defense with.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said:
“Mario is a good football player. He’s big, strong, physical, good feel for the game. His deal is to play the run. He can pressure the quarterback. He’s not a speed rusher, but he is a good pass rusher.”
McKenzie wants Edwards Jr. to meet with the strength and conditioning staff to determine what his playing weight should be, but in general, expects that he’ll be able to maintain a professional mindset.
And they don’t expect weight to be an issue.
The Raiders selected tackle Menelik Watson in the second round of 2013, and is a similar player as the potential upside goes, beyond the fact that the two played together in college.
But Watson is yet to live up his perceived potential, and the Raiders run the risk of the same fate, if you believe most of the analysts.
Oakland’s new defensive line coach, Sal Sunseri, spent the last two seasons coaching Edwards Jr. at Florida State, and said the only other player he’s ever coached with the level of athleticism Edwards Jr. has is Julius Peppers. Sunseri said:
“He’s the type, at 315 pounds, can stand in the middle of a room and do a standing backflip.”
A video of Edwards Jr. completing that exact feat made its rounds on the Internet around the time of the combine, and Sunseri says that’s just the type of guy Edwards Jr. is.
That athleticism doesn’t end on the defensive front, as he played some fullback when Florida St. was in jumbo packages last season.
Sunseri was heavily involved in the scouting process with Edwards Jr., particularly in the realm of character. It helped that his office happens to be right around the way from McKenzie’s.
Potentially the most damning statistical case Edwards Jr. presents is his ability to get to the ballcarrier behind the line of scrimmage.
Edwards Jr. notched 23 tackles for a loss in 26 career starts, which is good if not great, especially with the competition he faced.
Sunseri pointed to the national championship game against Auburn in 2014, when Edwards Jr. lined up across from Greg Robinson, who the Rams drafted second overall last year.
The Raiders needed a young run stuffer after allowing teams to blow holes through their defensive line last year, and Edwards appears to be a big addition in that regard.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.