The Oakland Raiders are one of the NFL’s most storied, yet controversial franchises. Sporting a fanbase like no other, many were excited to see the Raiders return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. But an unexpected injury to quarterback Derek Carr caused the ship to sink before it could reach it’s destination. At 12-4, Oakland’s future looks bright, but it’ll be up to General Manager Reggie Mckenzie to upgrade in the draft.
While Oakland’s offense was electrifying (Ranked 6th), the defense was catastrophic (26th). In addition, Oakland’s roster sports 13 unrestricted free agents, and two stars ( Derek Carr, Khalil Mack) who need to be locked down. Thus, this draft will be key for Oakland to improve on their magical season cut short. Here is an early mock draft of selections that would surely boost Oakland across the board.
Round 1, 24th overall: DL Malik Mcdowell (MSU)
Bottom line, the Oakland Raiders need to get better on the interior defensively, and Malik McDowell can help. Oakland’s primary defensive tackles, Justin Ellis and Dan Williams both underwhelmed in 2016. Williams reported to training camp overweight last summer, and his sluggish play reflected it. Nevertheless, McDowell possesses the intangibles to contribute for Oakland from day one. At 6’6′ 280 pounds, McDowell is a specimen, a true athlete with a fiery first-step. But the knock on McDowell is inconsistency, with his numbers dropping considerably since his sophomore campaign. In 2014, McDowell notched 4.5 sacks, in 2016, just 1.5. At times, McDowell looked disinterested, and others ferocious. With the likes of All-Pro Khalil Mack, McDowell would have the right players to bring the best out of him.
Round 2, 56th overall: LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU)
Another major hole in the Raiders defense is linebacker, especially in terms of pass coverage. Covering tight ends seems to be Oakland’s kryptonite, especially former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith. Oakland allowed 1027 yards receiving by tight ends, fifth-worst in the league. While vet Perry Riley Jr. played well, Smith and rookie Cory James looked lost more times than none. McMillan is a pure athlete, with good instincts and vision. Another plus for McMillan is his ability to tackle, especially in open field.
Round 3, 88th overall: CB Rasul Douglas (WVU)
Oakland secondary was shoddy in 2016, inconsistent for the most-part of the season. While some blame falls on lack of pass-rush, Oakland got burned bad on deep balls a lot. Cornerback D.J. Hayden, the league’s most penalized player, is an unrestricted free agent. Corner David Amerson’s quarterback passer rating increased from 66.3 in 2015, to 102.2 according to ProFootballFocus. Nevertheless, Oakland can use depth and talent in the secondary, and Rasul Douglas is just that. At 6’2 200 pounds, Douglas is the prototypical size of corners GM Reggie Mckenzie likes to draft. Douglas’ speed and ability to read the quarterback make him a worthy option in the third round.
Round 4, 128th overall: OT Chad Wheeler (USC)
Oakland is forming a formidable offensive line, nabbing three Pro Bowl Selections this season. The biggest flaw of the line is right tackle, with starter Austin Howard underwhelming. In addition to shoddy play, Howard is often hurt, and his backup Menelik Watson doesn’t have the cleanest bill of health. First-Team All-American Chad Wheeler is just the guy to turn things around for Oakland. Wheeler anchored a USC line that allowed a Pac-12 low 11 sacks in 2016. Whether pass or run blocking, Wheeler possesses the tools and intangibles to succeed at the highest level.
Round 5, 170th overall: WR Amba Etta-Tawo – (Syracuse)
Hands, an anomaly in the Raiders receiving corp in 2016. Oakland had more than it’s share of drops in 2016, with receiver Michael Crabtree leading the league (9). With slot receivers Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes being unrestricted free agents, Oakland must bring in talent. That’s where Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo comes in, coming off a stellar senior year. Etta-Tawo nabbed 94 passes for 1482 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. With a combo of speed, route-running and good hands, Etta-Tawo would be a weapon for Derek Carr wherever he lines up. At 6’2, Etta-Tawo would allow Oakland to play with their receivers, possibly putting Crabtree or Amari Cooper in the slot.
Round 6, 209th overall: LB Kendell Beckwith (LSU)
As aforementioned, linebacker is a major issue for the Oakland Raiders. A good prospect this late is Beckwith, who is stout against the run and improving in coverage. A torn ACL will cause Beckwith to drop in the draft, but it won’t deter from his performance when healthy. Oakland allowed 1020 rushing yards (19th), and Beckwith’s downhill ferocity could help knock that number down considerably.
Round 7, 245th overall: RB James Conner (PITT)
Pitt running back James Conner is the definition of overcoming odds. Remarkably, Conner battled back from Hodgkins Lymphoma to rush for 1092 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016. At 6’2 230 pounds, Conner is a brute, a mean power back reminiscent of Derrick Henry. With Raiders free agent running back Latavius Murray’s future in limbo, Conner can add versatility to the league’s sixth-ranked run corp.
Obviously, this is a very early look at a mock well before the NFL Combine. But without official combine numbers, these players possess the traits to contribute immediately.