With the 2018 NFL Draft firmly in the books, what conclusions still need drawing? The newly minted Raiders will begin camp this summer. Before they take their first snap, opinion on how the Silver and Black fared remains a hotly debated argument. FPC Raiders writers Chris Simmons and Kenneth Berry square up over the issue.
The Raiders struggle mightily.
With John Gruden’s first draft in the books, his fingerprints are all over this draft class with a couple of instances where general manager Reggie McKenzie’s opinion was actually valued. They drafted Washington linebacker Azeem Victor and big-bodied Oklahoma State receiver Marcel Ateman in the seventh round. Trading defensive tackle Jihad Ward removed a bad taste out of everyone’s mouth and was the best move of the Raiders draft that was essentially one big crapshoot. Getting receiver Ryan Switzer helped. The Raiders are spinning this as a draft class with huge potential. Yet, when you factor in all the elite defensive talent they passed over and compare it to the rest of the AFC West, the Raiders by far had the worst draft in the division.
To the Raiders credit, they traded that third round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers to get Martavis Bryant, a tremendous game breaking talent at receiver looking to show the world he can be an alpha receiver. He was the exact player that offense needed because Seth Roberts was horrible last year.
The Raiders passed on Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Florida State safety Derwin James to take UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller whose tape this year was horribly underwhelming. He is supremely athletic but his technique needs lots of work. The Raiders needed Edmunds to solidify a sub standard linebacking unit. Edmunds is 6’5 250 and has 4.54 speed at only 19 years-old with the versatility to play all three linebacker spots and edge rusher.
Drafting Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall in the second round his high risk, higher reward. They traded back in the second round, passing on edge rusher Harold Landry. Instead of drafting Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips or Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson or BYU backer Fred Warner, the Raiders trade up in the third round to take another developmental tackle in Brandon Parker. Their right tackle situation is a mess that they hope to fix. Will any of these linemen be able to block Bosa,Ingram, Miller, Chubb, Ford, or Houston?
The Raiders signed a bunch of players who might work out if they develop better technique, heal from injuries, and battle health issues. Maurice Hurst is an excellent talent who could pay dividends. Other than him, this draft class could come up snake eyes if Miller and Parker do not progress. Every other team went all in on getting better but the Raiders could roll snake eyes on trying to break even.
The Raiders excelled during the draft- Chris Simmons
While many pundits were a bit down on the Raiders 2018 draft class there is a good chance they become one of the teams’ better classes. Many will point to players, who seem like reaches, have character issues, and serious health concerns as reasons. Still others will argue that the team did not improve. Instead, Oakland just spun their wheels, going nowhere. However I believe that the class, and the trades involved with it, should hold their own. If just two of their picks hit, they could be a massive win.
First round pick Kolton Miller will likely receive the brunt of the criticism as the season unfolds. Whether he starts at left or right Tackle, or sits on the bench, this season centers on development.
Third round pick Arden Key is a character risk that the Raiders have recently shied away from. After a stellar sophomore season Key struggled through substance rehab and injuries as his draft stock continued to fall. Key though, was less of a risk than some may anticipate as his talent cements him as a rotational pass rusher and primary replacement for the useless Jihad Ward.
Fifth round pick Maurice Hurst, like many of the picks before him, has genuinely undeniable talent for his position. Many have him as the best interior lineman in the entire draft. However, he entered with a potentially fatal caveat. His heart maybe broken in ways that could prevent him, at some point, from playing football for any team let alone the Raiders.
Thus far, Reggie McKenzie has made it clear that Hurst will play and is expected to play well. If his heart holds up, Hurst could become the best defensive player in the draft class. For the better part of a decade, the Raiders played musical chairs with their defensive tackles. Mid round picks and early round busts rotated in and out of Oakland. Yet, Hurst could be the best player the Raiders could have drafted this side of Roquan Smith. Expect him to start and if he makes it through 16 games as at least an average player at the position then this class will already have been a hit.
Finally, the biggest trade of the weekend for the Raiders was obviously the trade that landed Martavis Bryant. His acquisition should not be separated from the draft class. As a whole, Bryant trade could be the result of a prospect not falling to 10. Some would say that he is, in effect, the Raider first round pick and while I do not agree, it is fair to equate his importance.
If Key can keep his act together, he will elevate the talent on offense to the level the team thought it had last season. He makes Seth Roberts expendable, removes pressure from Amari Cooper, and gives Carr the giant target he wanted. If only one of those picks hits AND Bryant continues to exhibit his talent in games then this class will generate praise.
Overall, there were certainly some risks and gambles taken by Jon Gruden and his new draft cabinet. Next year’s draft will probably be even more different. Rumors of eventual turnover in the scouting and personnel departments continue to swirl. However, to say that this class was one of the worst this season, or in any context, remains premature. The gambles made were largely meager bets that did not cost much of anything concerning draft capital or talent. Many will decry the pass on Trumaine Edmunds and various pass rushers. Ultimately both lines received significant size and talent boosts. One thing that is most certainly true however is that the pressure is on for all of them.