The Oakland Raiders head into the 2018 offseason with much speculation and interest surrounding them. Bringing back former head coach Jon Gruden on a jaw-dropping 10-year/$100 million contract has raised eyebrows and expectations. With a guaranteed top-10 pick in the draft, most predict where the team should go regarding needs. Nevertheless, the real test for Oakland resides in the later rounds, when the best player available isn’t a sure thing. Throughout this pre-draft period, impact players likely to be selected on Days 2 and 3 are the focus.
Josey Jewell (LB – Iowa)
The Oakland Raiders have many noticeable holes on the defensive end, but linebacker has been a constant thorn in development and talent. Since taking over as General Manager in 2012, Reggie McKenzie drafted nine linebackers, with seven no longer being on the team. 2016 pick Cory James flashed when healthy, while 2017 selection Marquel Lee experienced growing pains while dealing with injuries.
The bright spot of the Raiders linebacker core was the revitalization of former All-Pro NaVorro Bowman, who joined the team midseason, and undrafted linebacker Nicholas Morrow. It is uncertain whether Bowman will resign, leaving Oakland with the same motley crew of young underdeveloped talent as last offseason. Oakland could very well extend Bowman or offer another vet or two a crack at solidifying the inside, or they could look to the draft.
The perfect candidate for Oakland on Day 2 would be First-Team All-American backer Josey Jewell.
Since his sophomore season with the Hawkeyes, Jewell has recorded at least 120 tackles every season. Whether in open-field or coming downhill in the trenches, Jewell is great at wrapping up, using sound technique and delivering bone-crushing hits. Jewell is athletic enough to make a big play, and uses solid technique and instincts to find the ball.
While the NFL Combine is still a month and change away, Jewell plays with exceptional football strength. Has a knack for getting through the trenches to make plays against the run and can shed a block at the second level from lineman.
Jewell has shown decent speed in coverage throughout his time at Iowa. On the other hand, the combine will be the true test for his draft fate. Whether its tight ends or running backs, Jewell has shown the ability to go stride-for-stride with some of the fastest.
Jewell displayed exceptional agility, flowing from hash to hash, down in the trenches or following shifty backs in coverage. The test of Jewell’s draft fate is in how well he does in the agility drills of the NFL Combine.
Jewell’s ability to recognize the play, shed, and react with precision is the reason why he is an All-American. Sound technique and quick thinking allows Jewell to shed and get around the ball on a constant basis.
Josey Jewell has excelled as a 3-4 inside linebacker with great run support and decent pass coverage. The Raiders have not formally announced the new defensive coordinator yet, but it looks to be former Cincinnati Bengals coach Paul Guenther. Over the last three seasons in Cincinnati, Guenther has run a 4-3 defense. Awareness:
Jewell’s strong suit may be his high IQ and awareness, possessing an uncanny ability to sniff the ball out. You do not just get 100-plus tackles in three-straight seasons by not knowing what is going on around you.
Scouts and coaches alike praise Jewell, from his leadership qualities to his work ethic. Moreover, that is exactly what the Raiders need. In addition, Oakland severely lacks players that will speak up in the locker room and on the field. As a result, pairing Jewell with a selfless vet like Bowman may work wonders in the years to come.
Defending skilled backs like SaQuon Barkley and tight ends like Troy Fumagalli is not easy task in the Big 10. However, Jewell held his own over his career. The test will be convincing NFL GMs that he can keep up at the next level.