After the NFL draft, writers and fans LOVE post draft grades. For me, I don’t like them much. I feel that it takes 3 years to really know what a draft is about. I think if a player is drafted in the first 3 rounds, they need to contribute significantly in their second year or you are bordering on bust. This is the salary cap era and you can’t afford to have guys sit for 3-4 years before they are good.
Most grades for the Raiders from the media have been luke warm. From Mel Kiper Jr. and others giving them a C, to various others giving them up to a B-. Overall I like some of the things the Raiders did but was disappointed that certain things were not addressed.
I think the main problem is when you have the worst pass rush in the NFL and you are not good at stopping the run, why draft two DB’s in your first 2 picks? That didn’t make sense. Some say well Fosters health is an issue? Why. He’s coming off of rotator cuff surgery and will be cleared for all football duties before training camp. He never missed a game and rarely missed a practice in 2 years at Bama. The Raiders picked a guy that had late season knee surgery in Karl Joseph so that’s not the issue. McKenzie said they thought Conley was the better player. I watch a TON of college ball and I’m not seeing that at all. The SEC championship game MVP didn’t miss a game the last 2 years and was all over the field for much of the time.
Let’s look below at the mostly good, but sometimes bad things in the Oakland Raiders 2017 draft.
1st Round Gareon Conley CB Ohio St.
Positives: Excellent cover guy who can stick with his man especially going downfield. Fast; rarely gets beaten badly and is always around the receiver. He is a solid cover DB in either man, zone press coverage, or even against slot receivers. Not a spectacular player but very solid in all areas.
Negatives: Other than Marshon Lattimore, it was hard to watch the DB’s of Ohio St. tackle and play the run and Conley was one of those that struggled tackling. Conley is not physical and even though he’ll line up on guys at the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t like to jam them. He did give up some big plays against more physical WR and struggled in crossing patterns or slants.
Overview: A good pick but when Reggie Mckenzie said he went for the best player available and Reuben Foster is still there then I disagree. Foster was a perfect fit in the Raiders defense and is on schedule to be ready before training camp after his rotator cuff surgery. I take Foster all day but the Raiders obviously think the keys to a defense are DB’s and not the front 7. Go figure.
2nd Round: Obi Melifonwu S Connecticut
Positives: Some say he’s the best athlete in the NFL draft since Vernon Gholston who the NY media called Adonis. Obi is 6’ 4”, 220 lb. and is extremely fast. He’s excellent against the run leading the team in tackles in some games and breaking records for tackles by non LB’s . His draft stock sky rocketed during the NFL combines. Very long arms that he uses well when tackling. He has a long neck and looks a little like a bigger Merton Hanks from 49er’s fame.
Negatives: As raw as it gets in pass coverage. Tentative, and lacks instinct. He has a lot to learn if he’s going to be good in the NFL in coverage. It will take a year or two to see what the Raiders really have in him. UCONN was outscored 130-16 in their last 4 games last year and they weren’t exactly playing Alabama so you wonder about his elevated stats, because their defensive front 7 was not good.
Outlook: A raw talent who’s athleticism is hard to pass up. I always worry about NFL combine warriors though. Karl Joseph is good against the run but just ok against the pass so right now they have a bigger Karl Joseph in him. I think this is going to be a great pick or a pure bust; no in between. Time will tell. With Raiders Safeties struggling to stay healthy we may find out quickly.
3rd Round: Eddie Vanderdoes DT UCLA
Positives: He is a powerful, athletic DT. He had a bad year last year coming off of ACL surgery. He gained a lot of weight and didn’t seem very motivated. The good news is that he’s lost 30-40 pounds and seems much more into football. He was a top ten 5 star recruit out of high school.
A tough guy to block against the run who can handle double teams and keep his ground. If he keeps his weight down, he has the possibility of being a solid DT in the NFL. When he’s motivated, he’s fun to watch because of how physical he plays.
Negatives: Most experts had this pick being too high, which was similar to Jihad Ward last year (I hated the Ward pick last year). Some had him going in the 4th and even 5th round. Even with his top billing out of high school, Vanderdoes is not a good pass rusher. He has only 4 sacks in 3 years and is more suited to be a rotational DT run stopper. McKenzie said he wanted the DL to get more athletic and they’ve done that with Vanderdoes but he’s not going to help their pass rush.
Overview: This is far from solving the Raiders DT issue but the pick isn’t a bad one. Again, DB’s rule the day in Oakland and the Raiders reach for a guy that isn’t a pass rusher. I think he can help the DL but a third rounder with question marks isn’t going to get you to the next level when you are last in the NFL in sacks.
4th Round: David Sharpe OT Florida
Positives: HUGE. He’s 6’ 6” tall and 350 lbs. and that might be before meals. He’s a monstrous tackle. If he can get his hands on defenders, he usually blocks them. Surprisingly good pull blocker on occasional running plays and has strong hands. A hard worker that showed up every week.
Weaknesses: He plays like a statue in pass protection. Anyone that watched a lot of SEC ball knows he’s not quick and he struggled with the speed end rushers of the SEC. Florida was only 10th in allowed sacks in the SEC and at times defending the pass rush was a big problem. Already some are saying he’s a guard trapped in a tackles body. Think of a little bit stiffer and slower Robert Gallery who also had to be switched to guard after struggling at tackle.
Overview: Raiders like them big at OL and this wasn’t the worst pick but after watching him struggle at times in the SEC with speed edge rushers, it’s hard to think he’s quick enough to play tackle in the NFL. They will try him there but guard may suit him better, and I like him there.
5th Round: Marquel Lee LB Wake Forrest
Positives: Had great numbers at Wake Forrest. He’s lean and athletic and has the speed to make plays on the outside. Not bad in pass coverage but not great. He is a pretty good tackler in the open field using his speed and length to take down runners. A smart player with good leadership abilities, who was well liked by his coaches. Consistent player who will always give his best effort and is good to have on your team.
Negatives. More of a speed/finesse player than a physical player. Not a physical tackler. He has great numbers but on a bad team with a bad defense that went 13-24 the last two years. He’s lean and only weighs 235 so his skill set and body type are more for an OLB and not an MLB. Again, not really an attacking play maker but he gets the job done.
Overview: I think he has potential to be a starting OLB, maybe even this year. The Raiders LB’s have holes in their game and he has a chance for playing time. Some Raider writers have him starting at MLB already and that is ridiculous in my mind. They are writing with their heart and not their head. He wen’t in the 5th round for a reason. He’s a nice 5th round pick but if he’s your starting MLB, you’ve got issues.
7th Round: Shalom Luani S Washington St.
Shalom played on a team that used him mostly in zone defenses. He’s a high effort guy but is a bad tackler and at times WSU actually hid him in their zone defense to allow him to roam over guarding players one on one. The Cougars aren’t exactly into defense to be honest. Mike Leach teams are about one thing; offense.
7th Round: Jylan Ware OT Alabama St.
A long term project. He is 6’ 8”, 290 pounds. He has to add bulk. Scouts say he needs more speed and a lot of coaching to improve his technique. Hard pressed to make the team.
7th Round: Elijah Hood RB North Carolina
Hood was a star coming out of high school. He’s had good years at NC but last year he had somewhat pedestrian numbers. Most thought he would go back to college for one more year to improve his stock.
A straight ahead runner with not much speed. He might be good for short yardage but he’s an excellent pass blocker and not a bad pass catcher so that may help him get time too. A banger who isnt’ going to outrun anyone.
7th Round Treyvon Hester DT Toledo
He will have a hard time making the team but they could keep him on the practice squad. He has potential. He had a nice senior year and works hard. Has a lot to learn and is a long term project. May have the potential to be a run stopping DT in a rotational system.
Do I think the Raiders had an awesome draft? No. But I also think it wasn’t bad either. Conley is a good cover guy and should be a good player at CB. The Raiders DB’s have struggled with injuries so he will see playing time I’m sure. With Sean Smith and David Amerson’s contacts coming up next year without a cap hit, the Raiders are counting on Conley to learn quickly because he will probably be starting next year. And if Obi can learn how to play safety in the NFL, they may have a great player on their hands.
Since 2001 the Raiders have amazingly drafted a DB in the first round 7 times! Only 1 of them panned out but that includes Joseph who we don’t know about yet. That’s a ton of busts. Time and time again the best defenses in the NFL can do 2 things; stop the run and rush the passer. The Raiders struggled doing either last year. Vanderdoes might help out against the run but the pass rush will pretty much be the same.
As I said in week one of last year; this defense is not a championship defense and I say the same now, but roster moves could still be ahead. MLB’s and DT’s are becoming a rarity in the pro game so passing up on Foster was the wrong thing to do in my mind especially when next years draft so far also seems to be void of them both. That could change obviously but the Raiders said loud and clear that their DB’s right now aren’t good enough and they want an upgrade. Meet you back here in 2-3 years to see how they did.