ALAMEDA (CBS/AP) — The Oakland Raiders targeted defense on the final day of the NFL draft Saturday, taking five defensive players starting with Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Justin Ellis and Utah cornerback Keith McGill in the fourth round.
The Raiders took Ellis 107th overall and McGill with the 116th pick acquired a day earlier when Oakland traded down 14 spots in the third round with Miami.
Oakland later took Ohio cornerback and punt returner T.J. Carrie, Illinois State defensive end Shelby Harris and Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling in the seventh round.
The Raiders have placed a priority this offseason on upgrading a defense that allowed the second-most points per game (28.3) in franchise history last season.
Oakland signed free agents Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and C.J. Wilson to bolster the defensive line and added cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown.
The team made its biggest move on defense by taking pass-rushing linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick in the first round on Thursday night and then added some depth on the final day of the draft.
Ellis has the flexibility to play either nose tackle in a 3-4 defense or inside tackle in the 4-3 defense that Oakland uses. He made 48 tackles last season, including 5 1/2 behind the line of scrimmage.
Ellis, who said he models his game after former Raider Warren Sapp and Vince Wilfork, gives Oakland a potential run-stopper inside to add depth behind Antonio Smith, Pat Sims and Stacy McGee on the rebuilt defensive line.
“I’m honored to be able to work with those guys,” he said. “Justin Tuck is a guy who is a good defensive tackle, good defensive lineman, period. LaMarr Woodley and all those guys, they are great professional athletes. I’m happy to be a part of the Oakland Raiders.”
The biggest concern for Ellis is his weight, which reached 390 pounds at one point in college. Ellis said he weighed about 346 pounds right now and would ideally be at 330 for the season.
“It’s been a grind because I’m a built guy just naturally,” he said. “I’m a naturally built guy. I gain weight easily but I also lose easily, too, so my weight fluctuates. At the same time, it’s been a grind, but it’s something that I can do. I haven’t lost control of it. But I have gained weight but I also lose it.”
McGill, listed at 6-3, 211 pounds, played both safety and cornerback in college and had 12 pass breakups his senior season and returned an interception for a touchdown. He allowed 29 completions on 59 passes his direction last season, according to game-charting by STATS.
“I was frustrated after seeing some other cornerbacks go ahead of me, but I can’t control that,” he said. “What I can control is what I do on the field. There are plenty of corners who have had people go ahead of them and were still successful. When I got the call, I was happy to be in a good situation that would allow me to be a starter.”
McGill missed the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury and also had off-field problems with an arrest for DUI and possession of stolen property. But he said he sat down with his coaches and decided to make changes in his life that helped lead him to the NFL.
“I realized that everything could be taken away in a flash, and that the window was closing,” he said. “There comes a point in time in your life where you make a decision to become a man or remain a boy. That’s what I did before the 2013 season. It got me in the situation I am in now.”
Carrie led the Mid-American Conference with a 12.7-yard average on punt returns last season and tied for the team lead with four interceptions. He did not work out at the combine because of a knee injury but ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and had a 41-inch vertical leap at his pro day.
Harris had 14 sacks in three seasons at Illinois State but was kicked off the team in March 2013 for conduct detrimental to the team. Harris, who had also been suspended previously in his career, did not play at all last season.
Dowling also comes in with some baggage, having been kicked off the team at Florida in 2010 before transferring to Western Kentucky. He had nine interceptions in two seasons with the Hilltoppers.
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