Who did the Raiders draft? The Silver and Black made more than a few unpredictable moves. However, Oakland came away with a solid draft class. Here is a grading breakdown for each of the Raiders’ selections.
Round 1: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
"It’s an honor to be a part of the Raider organization."
– Gareon Conley on being drafted by our team
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) April 28, 2017
This would probably be an A pick if it were not for Conley’s recent off-field incident. He caught a rape allegation just before the NFL Draft. Granted, Conley denies the allegations. He also passed a polygraph test and the Raiders did extensive homework on him.
Ultimately, Conley’s character received high praise before the rape charge. On the field, Conley is a versatile corner with the size and speed to play inside or outside. He should challenge for immediate playing time. It was also a great value pick since most mock drafts had Conley in the top half of the first round.
Round 2: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
This selection made late owner Al Davis smile from the grave. Melifonwu offers the size, speed, and athletic profile that Al Davis would have loved. Melifonwu was also productive as a center field safety at Connecticut. He does need time to develop his zone coverage skills, but his ball skills are solid and he played some corner in college.
Ultimately, Melifonwu is in a position to develop behind Pro Bowl safety Reggie Nelson. Nelson should mentor Melifonwu into his eventual replacement. Some had the Raiders selecting Melifonwu in the first round. Oakland lucked out due to the strength at safety in this draft class. They get their guy with a great value selection in the first round.
Round 3: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
Vanderdoes in an interesting pick. His athleticism projects as a gap-shooting defensive tackle. However, his height and weight make him more of a nose tackle. Thus, Vanderdoes makes sense for the Raiders’ hybrid defensive scheme.
However, Vanderdoes tore his ACL in 2015. He was inconsistent and over weight in 2016. It is a risky pick when you consider that Oakland selected Vanderdoes over more productive defensive tackles like Clemson’s Carlos Watkins and Oklahoma State’s Vincent Taylor. Plus, the Raiders already have run stuffers in the interior. They needed a defensive tackle to rush the passer, and Vanderdoes has not proven he can do that consistently.
Round 4: David Sharpe, OT, Florida
Sharpe is a massive tackle who started the last two seasons for Florida. He projects as a nice developmental piece at either tackle position. There are questions about his athleticism and flexibility in the NFL.
Ultimately, this was not a strong draft class for offensive tackle. Therefore, the Raiders rolled the dice on a player with good potential. He could develop into a starter behind Donald Penn. It is also a good value pick when some mocks had Sharpe going as high as the second round.
Round 5: Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
.@RAIDERS GM McKenzie notes LB Marquel Lee as very instinctive, has a good feel for the game.
Simply put, "he's what you look for." pic.twitter.com/qVPyUgxMuX
— Kyle Martin (@KyleMartinMedia) April 29, 2017
Oakland finally addressed their need at linebacker in the fifth round. Unlike the other middle linebacker on the Raiders roster, Lee has ideal size and strength for the position. However, Lee has questionable instincts and technique for the position. This makes him a good compliment for Cory James and Ben Heeney, who are undersized but smart players.
Additionally, Lee was a major contributor for three seasons at Wake Forest. He has the versatility to play inside or outside linebacker. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Lee could immediately compete for starting time at middle linebacker
Round 7a: Shalom Luani, S, Washington State
Round 7b: Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State
Round 7c: Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
Round 7d: Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo
In the seventh of round of the draft, a team just wants to add players who can contribute on special teams and contribute as backups in practice. Thus, it does not make a lot of sense to grade each seventh round pick as they still have to fight to make the roster.
Either way, the Raiders did a good job at addressing the rest of their needs. They added more competition at defensive tackle, safety, and offensive tackle. Oakland also added a running back even though they already have five on the roster.
Overall Draft Grade: B
This Raiders draft featured a good balance of production and athleticism. The Raiders also got solid value at the top of the draft, before gambling on some prospects in the middle round. It should be fun to see how the Raiders 2017 NFL Draft class develops.
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]