Could Justin Ellis be the odd man out on the Raiders defensive line
Last season, one of the biggest problems on defense for the Oakland Raiders was found at the defensive tackle position. Justin Ellis and Dan Williams were average at best, Denico Autry was playing with an injured hand and you could tell. Mario Edwards, Jr. just wasnâ€™t playing. Jihad Ward showed why so many fans and commentators were shocked by how high the Raiders drafted him. And Stacy McGee, who was the best defensive tackle on the team in 2016, left in free agency.
And yet, here we are with two preseason games under the belt and itâ€™s looking like thereâ€™s a reason to be excited about the defensive tackle position. So much so that Justin Ellis, a fourth round draft pick who was on the Pro Football Writers of America All Rookie team in 2014 could be on his way out of Oakland.
Mario Edwards, Jr. is healthy and looks great. Rookie Eddie Vanderdoes looks better than any other rookie at the moment (given the first two picks Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu havenâ€™t played yet). Rookie seventh round pick Trayvon Hester is surprising many, myself included, and looks like an absolute beast who deserves to not only be on the 53 man roster but to get some playing time. And then thereâ€™s Denico Autry and Darius Latham, both guys who have been with the Raiders for a few years and look hungry to fight for a roster spot.
Thatâ€™s five guys whoâ€™s primary position is defensive tackle, or who can play both defensive tackle and defensive end, who have looked better than Justin Ellis at this point. And while you canâ€™t really say that Jihad Ward has looked better than Ellis at any point since he was drafted, I think itâ€™s much more likely Ellis gets cut than Ward for the simple reason that Ward was a second round draft pick in 2016 while Ellis was a fourth round pick in 2014. Raiders wonâ€™t want to give up on Ward that quickly but may be ready to move on from Ellis.
Especially if the Raiders can manage to get some value for Ellis. Thatâ€™s the other consideration in this equation. Ellis may be getting out played on the Raiders defensive line but heâ€™s proven himself to be an NFL caliber talent. While Iâ€™m not sure the Raiders will get their original pick back, even if they can get a 5th, 6th or 7th round pick for a guy they may no longer want, thatâ€™s a positive.
Thereâ€™s still two more preseason games and a lot can change, but for now, the Raiders interior defensive line rotation is looking a lot better and that could be exciting news for everyone but Ellis.