6-2/330 Boston College
Pros: He has outstanding size and strength. Shows good ability to anchor at the point of attack. Has good quickness and moves well for his size. Has a nice swim and rip move and is very difficult to block one on one. Is a decent bull rusher. Has good closing speed on the QB and ballcarrier and will deliver a pop. Has a better motor than most his size and will give chase to ballcarriers. Used to dropping off in coverage in BC's defense, working as a spy on the QB, so he's comfortable moving in space.
Cons: Not consistently explosive off the snap. Needs to play with more effort. At times plays too much like a ﬁnesse player than power player. Not as powerful a bull rusher as he should be. Tends to try and run around blockers like he's a 280-pounder rather than a 330-pounder. Conditioning could be an issue as he's not consistent from snap to snap. Not as effective when he lines up over the nose as he is over the guard's shoulder. Needs to get off blocks better and do a better job vs. double teams.
Overview: Raji has immense potential because of his uncanny combo of size and athleticism. Had to sit out all of 2007 due to academic reasons because of a clerical error. Had he played, probably could have helped Matt Ryan and BC go to a national title game. Bounced back with big senior year having 8 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. Missed some time in the springs of the 2007 and 2008 due to shoulder injuries.
NFL Forecast: The worry you have with Raji is that he wants to be a ﬁnesse player rather than the power player. This is what gets him into trouble when he's playing the nose. He doesn't engage the blockers and try to push the pocket. This is why him playing the nose in the 3-4 scheme will involve a learning curve. He's more of a penetrator than a guy that sits and holds the point. He can be developed to play the nose in the 3-4, but it's not going to come as easily as you'd normally think. For a 3-4 team, he's much better playing DE, much like Haloti Ngata. Now Ngata can play both nose and end, but Raji is more geared to end at this point in his career. But he ﬁts just as well in the 4-3 playing the 3-technique. He could play either nose or under tackle in the 4-3, but he's a bit more of a project playing the nose. But his learning curve would be lower in the 4-3 than it is in the 3-4. Raji has the versatility to play in any scheme. He has potential to be a dominant defender in either scheme. But it would not surprised me if down the road he's considered a bust, particularly if a 3-4 team drafts him to play nose tackle. He's a closer player to Dewayne Robertson than he is Vince Wilfork at this point. I expect him to be a solid pro, but whether he lives up to his draft status will depend on what scheme he goes into, and whether teams can get a check on his conditioning. He won't be a dominant pass rusher, but a guy that should be able to get 3-5 sacks routinely throughout his career. I think his ideal playing weight is somewhere around 320-325 range, but teams need to monitor and make sure he doesn't get much bigger than he is now.
ATL Forecast: Raji would be a good addition in Atlanta. He could start right away, although he's probably not quite ready to do so. He'd be best coming off the bench and playing 20-30 snaps just to keep him fresh. He'd be played at nose tackle and would be a solid player to platoon with Trey Lewis. By his second year he should be ready to start. He'd be a solid disruptor at that position as well as his ability to stuff the run. He's the ideal three-down nose tackle.
Value: Raji is definitely a ﬁrst round pick, but I think his ability is more on par with a mid-to-late ﬁrst rounder than a Top 10 pick. He's a bit too raw as a run stopper for me to want to take him that high.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
POINT OF ATTACK: 3.5
PASS RUSH: 4.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.