It’s easy to give the Raiders a middle of the road grade for the 2018 NFL Draft. Their draft has a high amount of risk but they managed to find some good value propositions in the middle round.
The biggest takeaway from the Raiders 2018 NFL Draft is that you cannot grade it in a vacuum. You got to look at the bigger picture considering this is Jon Gruden’s first time heading the NFL Draft in a decade. He and Reggie McKenzie made some selections that were gambles and they reached for players but you can’t get caught up in each pick. Look at the draft class as a whole and you’ll be far less disappointed
Oakland specifically addressed the trenches. Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker were the tackles selected in the first three rounds. Not surprising, considering Vandal Alexander is starting the season suspended, Donald Penn is over 30 and been hurt the past two seasons and the RT position has been a joke the past two seasons. Oakland needed some tackle help and hopefully, they found it. The Raiders also took defensive tackle PJ Hall and edge Arden Key to infuse some disruption along the defensive line.
Miller was inconsistent in college. Key has Off-field issues. Hall and Parker are underrated prospects who will need some time adjusting to the change in speed and strength at the NFL level. However, that’s the case with most of these picks.
Sixth round pick and linebacker Azeem Victor is another high-risk player. Victor had an off1field DUI and there are also questions about his speed and size in the NFL. Then, there’s Nick Nelson who is recovering from an off-field injury. Both LB and DB were some of the Raiders biggest needs but they waited until the last part of the draft.
Oakland’s biggest draft needs are addressed to an extent. That depends on how ready these players are to contribute on Day One.
Above all else, the Raiders needed to find playmakers on both sides of the ball in this draft. On offense, that meant finding big-play threats. On defense, that meant sacks and picks.
They found a player like Maurice Hurst who can develop into an inside playmaker on the defensive line. He can get sacks. Hall and Key can too. Thus, I can give the team a pass for not selecting Harold Landry when they had a chance in the second round.
However, picks are another story. Nick Nelson is a nice prospect but he had zero picks in college. The Raiders need a defensive back who can take the ball away because we all remember how miserable it was not having a pick through more than half the season. For context, Oakland passed on CB/Safety Josh Jackson as well as safeties Josh Jackson and Justin Reid who would’ve given the Raiders some playmakers in the defensive backfield.
Moreover, they waited until the last round to select an offensive skill player. They took Hall three picks before Derrius Guice. Guice is considered a copy of Marshawn Lynch and he would have been the perfect heir to Beast Mode. The LSU product is a balanced runner and pass catcher with first-round ability who may haunt the Raiders.
Don’t forget the Raiders traded a third-round pick to get Martavis Bryant. That’s literally the pickup that saved this draft class from a playmaking standpoint.
You could argue the Raiders took Miller and Parker way too high. They were probably the most overdrafted of this class, but the tackle position was bad. It makes sense that Oakland took these picks. P.J. Hall was a little high of a selection too especially since he’s from a small school. However, there were rumors of him getting selected that high even with other good d-linemen on the board. With his film and body type, the Raiders get a pass for making the selection.
Added, the Raiders found Arden Key, Marcell Ateman and Maurice Hurst way lower than most expected. Those three picks balanced out the value proposition of this draft class. Victor and Nelson were selected at the spots they were expected so that makes the Raiders even in terms of finding value.
We were all looking at this draft to see how Gruden would build his team. It is clear he wants to start with a physical team on both lines.
Further, it is clear that Gruden’s regime doesn’t care where a player plays or what they did as long as they can play. That is evident by the off-field red flags from Key and Victor, the injury concerns of Nelson and Hurst and the small school pedigrees of Hall and Parker. Even Miller had questions about his consistency and Ateman had questions about his speed.
Ultimately, Gruden wants to take players he thinks can compete regardless of the context they come with. He also isn’t afraid of getting away from conventional thinking. Guden isn’t afraid to let draft picks compete with each other or replace a prominent player from the previous regime. We knew that already but now it is confirmed.
The Bigger Picture
Hopefully, Gruden is right and all these players compete. He doesn’t have a lot of time to wait for players to develop, deal with off-field concerns or let players get healthy. Gruden needs this rookie class to step-in and compete as well as provide depth now and into the future.
Either way, the Raiders found at least two starters in the NFL Draft. Hurst and Hall will both compete for starter roles on the interior defensive line. Parker and Miller will compete for starting roles on the offensive line. More than likely, only one rookie will start on either line.
Not to mention, Key and Ateman can compete for starting time immediately. That means the Raiders got two starters and four key depth players. They got Victor and Nelson who might compete down the line and Bryant is an added bonus.
Big picture, the Raiders had a solid draft class by balancing out some of their earliest reaches with the best player on the board towards the end of the draft.
The point is, if you look at the Raiders from a holistic approach you will find yourself much more pleased.
The Raiders get a C+ for this year’s draft but it can easily turn into a B+ if these guys start immediately.