With the draft finally here and gone, it is time to take a step back and assess how each of the AFCW teams have done. We will start with the Las Vegas Raiders by way of Oakland.
Coaching Staff – The Raiders completely revamped their coaching staff, bringing in Jon Gruden along with his chosen staff. OC – Greg Olsen, DC – Paul Geunther, and ST – Rich Bisacchia.
Free Agents Lost – David Amerson (Chiefs), Sean Smith (State Penitentiary), TJ Carrie (Browns), Navarro Bowman (FA), Denico Autry (Colts)
Players Traded Away – Cordarelle Patterson (Patriots), Jamize Olawale (Cowboys)
Free Agents Re-Signed – Justin Ellis, Lee Smith, Reggie Nelson
Free Agents Signed – Too many to list, 20 to be exact. I will just list the notables. Rashaan Melvin, Tahir Whitehead, Jordy Nelson, Marcus Gilchrist, Daryl Worley, Leon Hall, Shareece Wright, Kyle Wilber, Tank Carradine, Doug Martin.
Raiders were busy in free agency, adding a handful of key starter/contributors, and overhauling the bottom third of the roster adding a lot of veteran depth. They did a good job of creating some quality depth across the roster that really allowed them to shift their focus to their needs entering draft day. Let’s see how they managed.
Needs Entering Draft: DT (pass rush specifically), OT, CB, DE, ILB, WR, TE, P.
Round 1, pick 15 (from ARI) — Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Round 2, pick 57 (from TEN) — PJ Hall, DT, Sam Houston State
Round 3, pick 65 (from BAL) — Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
Round 3, Pick 87 (from LAR) — Arden Key, DE, LSU
Round 4, pick 110 — Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin
Round 5, pick 140 (from IND) — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Round 5, pick 173 (from DAL) — Johnny Townsend, P, Florida
Round 6, pick 216 (Comp) — Azeem Victor, ILB, Washington
Round 7, pick 228 — Marcel Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State
First thing that stands out is the amount of trades that the Raiders made during the draft. They targeted players they wanted, and navigated up and down in order to draft them where they figured the value was appropriate. Let’s see how well they did in filling their needs.
DT – The Raiders have a couple quality run stopping options at defensive tackle, but they badly need some pass rush from the interior defensive line positions. They were able to draft the most productive interior pass rushers at both the FBS and the FCS levels in Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall respectively. Plenty of questions marks surround these two, but there is a very high reward associated with the risk.
OT – They drafted, arguably, the best LT prospect in the draft. I believe they would have drafted Mike McGlinchey at #10 to fill the hole at RT had they stayed put, but with the 49ers selecting him right ahead of them, the Raiders opted to trade back, pick up a little draft capital (that they’d in turn flip in a trade to the Steelers for WR Martavis Bryant) and select Kolton Miller, whom projects as Donald Penn’s replacement at LT. They also selected Brandon Parker in the 3rd round to compete for the open RT position. I’d guess he’s an early practice squad candidate, which is a huge disappointment for a 3rd round pick.
CB – A quality find in Nick Nelson from Wisconsin adds to a suddenly competitive cornerback position for the Raiders. This should be a fun group to watch compete in training camp to see if Conley/Melvin can establish themselves as the starters, and to see who rounds out the last few spots on the roster.
DE – Raiders are still looking for the “Robin” across the LOS from Khalil Mack. Bruce Irvin has been a quality player, but the Raiders could afford to find a better player at DE, freeing up Irvin to play for of a SLB role. Insert Arden Key, DE from LSU. First round talent, but a plethora of character concerns forced Key to fall to the 3rd round where the Raiders scooped him with the 87th overall pick.
ILB – I, like the Reggie McKenzie apparently, feel pretty comfortable with who they already have at the LB position, but most of the pundits had this as a much higher need. The Raiders used a late round pick to add Azeem Victor from Washington. Another player with a lot of desirable traits, but comes with questions marks as he suffered a knee injury in 2016, and a DUI arrest in 2017.
WR – Raiders added Martavis Bryant by trading the 3rd round pick they received from the Cardinals in the trade in the 1st round. Great addition if Bryant can keep his nose out of trouble. Sensing a trend?
TE – The Raiders did not address this position, and will enter OTA’s with a paper thin depth chart with a quality player in Jared Cook, but limited players behind him in Lee Smith and Derek Carrier
P – Oakland drafted Marquette King’s replacement, Johnny Townsend in the 5th round.
Raiders will have a new look this fall, with an all new coaching staff, surrounded by a ton of new faces to the Raiders. On paper, they seem to have improved greatly on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but their success will likely be determined by the job Jon Gruden and his staff does schematically. Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie have made a lot of risky moves. There is potential that this all blows up in their faces, but there is also a good chance that they have the makings to be a really special team.