The Raiders addressed their concerns with depth at key positions in the 2018 NFL Draft. They got interior disruptors and found some high risk, high reward players like Arden Key. Do not forget the trade for Martavis Bryant that gave them a real x-factor and potential game changer at receiver.
What didn’t they get in 2018 NFL Draft?
Start at linebacker.
Did I miss a pick or get lost in all the Raiders trade flexibility? I asked myself that the first two days but we know the regime prefers linebackers in the later rounds.
Oakland did take Azeem Victor at 216. Victor has some questions about his injury history and his athletic tests do not hold up at the NFL level. He is a gamble but what late round, sixth round draft pick isn’t? They had various chances to address the linebacker position earlier.
In the first round, they selected Kolton Miller one pick of Tremaine Edmunds, one of the players most popular players mocked to The Raiders. They passed on the SAM linebacker with extraordinary athleticism at age 19.
Fred Warner or Malik Jefferson also made sense in terms of value in the third round. Oakland selected Brandon Parker instead.
The Raiders must like what they have at the LB position or plan to sign another veteran like Navarro Bowman.
Offseason acquisitions Emmanuel Lamar and Tahir Whitehead are solid veterans. They must also like what they have seen with Corey James and Marquel Lee. If they can stay healthy, the younger players can provide an athletic contrast to the run stopping veterans.
Arden Key’s size puts him in contention for a spot in the linebacker corps. This year’s third round pick is listed at less than 240 pounds. Key disappointed with a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. However, he has the length, first step at quickness to dominate as an edge player with his hand in the ground.
It was a little disappointing that the Raiders did not take an instant starter for the linebacker position since it needs and infusion of talent. LB is one of the Raiders least talented position group and they are desperate for a playmaker so hopefully that player is already on the roster.
Speaking of defense, Factor in a fifth defensive back into the list of draft needs not addressed. The Raiders waited until the later rounds to select Nick Nelson. The Wisconsin corner has size and speed issues but he showed good ball skills and projects as a nice coverage corner. It was a good value pick but many wanted the Raiders to address the need earlier.
In free agency, Oakland signed a bunch of veterans at corner and safety. They will hope Daryl Worley will be their newest reclamation. Remember, they signed David Amerson after Washington prematurely cut him. Different reasons for each player but they will hope Worley competes for starting time at corner. Donte Jackson went just a few picks before the Raiders took P.J. Hall. Jackson would have been an ideal athlete to compete at slot corner immediately.
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More than likely, the Raiders might also play a full-time, base nickel package. Veterans like Reggie Nelson, Michael Gilchrist, Leon Hall, and Shareece Wright were brought on for their experience. Dexter and Hamilton will have to compete for their spots despite getting lots of playing time.
Obi Melifonwu or Karl Joseph might play some coverage backer or come into the box for three safety looks. It would have been nice to find a versatile playmaker to compete with them in the earlier rounds. Justin Reid made sense in the third but Oakland took Parker. Harrison Phillips also made sense in the third but the Raiders took Key a few picks earlier.
Regardless, the Raiders are counting on the addition of Gareon Conley. He and Melifonwu were last year’s top picks but both were injured for a majority of the season. Oakland will hope for their developments ASAP.
Otherwise, they will hope Nelson can develop into a player. Either way, the Raiders could have found a ready starter at safety or corner earlier in the draft.
Moving to the offensive side, do not forget running back. Oakland traded away fullback Jamize Olawale and specialist Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason. That left an opening in the backfield for a home run hitter and/or a bruiser. The Raiders did not get either. They will point to the veterans Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch to carry the load. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are competing for one spot. Last year’s late pick Elijah Hood will also compete for a roster spot. In addition, whatever UDFA the Raiders sign.
In the second round, the Raiders could have selected Derrius Guice. He is a physical runner who can catch and he is comparable to Lynch in many ways. Guice went two picks after the Raiders selected Hall but he would have been the perfect fit in Oakland. The Raiders selected Brandon Parker a few picks above balanced runner Royce Freeman in the third round. Freeman would have been a good value for the Raiders too.
Ultimately, running back is the position the Raiders really neglected in the NFL Draft. They found some quality depth options and development options for other needs but they did not find any at running back.
That is probably because Gruden will use more HB, FB, and double tight end sets. He probably has a vision for what is already on the roster too.
In the end, it is easy to second-guess what the Raiders did in the NFL Draft. However, sometimes you cannot always find what you are looking for at one store. Meaning, the Raiders liked what they had at linebacker, defensive back, and running back. They will supplement the position with Day 3 finds and UDFAs. You cannot fill every need or find starters at every position in the draft, even if that is the goal.
Still, the Silver and Black did find solid depth at key positions throughout the draft. Oakland found some developmental pieces that they are rolling the dice on too.