The 10th overall pick will garner plenty of attention, but for the Oakland Raiders the 41st selection is going to be just as critical to their plans of righting the ship.
General manager Reggie McKenzie is accustomed to taking high-upside prospects in the second round (Menelik Watson, Derek Carr, Mario Edwards Jr., Jihad Ward, and Obi Melifonwu) in the last five drafts. Carr has panned out, and in a way so has Mario Edwards. Melifonwu remains a work in progress, while Watson (now in Denver) and Ward are becoming McKenzie’s biggest whiffs.
Does the focus on upside and development change with head coach Jon Gruden exerting more personnel power?
That answer will come on April 27 when rounds 2 and 3 of the draft commence. With that in mind, here are some prospects the Raiders could be staring at:
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Before the combine, this would be considered impossible, and then a heart ailment was discovered. The terrorizing interior pass rusher has since been cleared, but the concerns could cause him to go from Round 1 to 2. Moreover, if he is there at 41, Oakland must pounce. Equipped with a lethal first step and an array of pass rush moves, Hurst brings some interior bite, one that’s been missing in Oakland since Darrell Russell
Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Physically gifted with the vision to boot, Michel is a running back that fits the Gruden mold. A classic north-south runner, Michel has the boost combined with power to be a three-down back for the Raiders. His pass-blocking ability is sound, which would help Carr in the pocket.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
A high ceiling bump-and-run corner, Oliver possesses coveted size, speed, and length. He is a prospect that needs tutelage. Nevertheless, he has lockdown ability to fit Paul Guenther’s defensive schemes perfectly in Oakland.
Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Another high upside prospect who has the requisite aggressiveness to mix it up in man coverage and attack the ball in flight. While he might be shorter than other prospects and his coverage ability needs refinement, Hughes also provides solid return skills.
Arden Key, Edge, Louisiana State
Work ethic and commitment issues raise red flags, but Key’s size and physical gifts are difficult to ignore. The long-limbed prospect had a penchant for wrecking the opposing QBs pocket and that would be golden, especially for a Raiders squad famished for pass rush.
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Elite size and strength make the son of a former offensive lineman hard to ignore. Also knocked for dedication and desire, thanks to a poor combine, Brown could find himself waiting until Round 3 for a call. However, he has the size and tools to be a mainstay at tackle for Oakland.
Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
This would be the classic McKenzie upside pick. Requiring some refinement, Shepherd does bring a wrecker mentality inside. A disruptive force against the run and pass, the small-school product has tremendous potential to become a force on the interior.