Ranking the Oakland Raiders Top Five Pass Rushers

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Sep 6, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Max Valles (88) causes a fumble by Richmond Spiders quarterback Michael Strauss (3) in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers won 45-13. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

5. Max Valles

Although the Oakland Raiders missed on the opportunity to add a top-tier pass rusher in the early rounds draft, General Manager Reggie McKenzie looks to have found a potential steal in the sixth round that can successfully attack the quarterback.

According to the University of Virginia Official Athletic Site,  outside linebacker Max Valles finished the 2014 season No. 2 in the ACC in sacks with nine and No. 7 in tackles for loss with 12.5.

Although Valles had a substantial amount of success in his first two year at Virginia, the 20-year-old prospect chose to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL draft.

“I talked to my coach and my family about it,” Valles said about his decision to leave school early according to Raiders.com. “Everybody felt that I was ready. Second in the ACC in sacks, All-ACC, I felt like it was time.”

Valles still remains as a relatively raw prospect when it comes to his overall technique and knowledge of the game, but at 6’5”, 251 pounds his physical stature and sheer athletic ability create for an extremely high ceiling at the next level.

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter Bill Williamson has a similar view on Valles’ potential.

“Valles is a project,” Williamson added in his take on the selection of Valles. “But pass-rushing projects are fine, especially taken at No. 179. He is raw, but he is highly athletic.”

Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio has high hopes for Valles to develop into an elite pass rusher, as he mentioned his potential to become the team’s edge-rusher opposite of star outside linebacker Khalil Mack on SiriusXM NFL Radio according to Raiders.com.

“We took a guy late, Max Valles, that had nine sacks last year in college,” Del Rio said. “We’ll give these guys an opportunity to compete and to give us that element coming off the other edge. I know having two guys really makes it good, and ideally you’d like to have two guys that are premium guys rushing the quarterback, and we feel like we have one in Khalil Mack and we’re going to have to develop that second guy.”

I personally am not surprised by this, but it is important to note that Del Rio mentioned Valles as the guy he wants to develop rather than second round pick Mario Edwards Jr. The former Florida State defensive end is currently projected as  the Raiders’ starting defensive end, but the competition for the starting role is still open as the offseason continues.

Edwards Jr. had just eight sacks in his three-year career at Florida State, one less than Valles had in just his sophomore season at Virginia.

It will be exciting to see how the competition between Valles, Edwards, and all of the other potential defensive end candidates pans out as training camp is set to begin, but even if he is unable to secure a starting role early in his rookie year, Valles has all of the talent to develop into an elite pass rusher for the Silver and Black for years to come.

Next: #4: Benson Mayowa