With the 2017 NFL Combine just a few weeks away, it seems like the appropriate time to for another seven-round mock draft for the Oakland Raiders.
The 2016 NFL season is officially in the books. Although the focus is currently on the upcoming free agency period, the next big event on the agenda is the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
It’s the annual gathering of the year’s top prospects, providing them an opportunity to prove their skills while NFL coaches, scouts and executives analyze their every move. Each year, we see several players’ stocks soar as a result of the Combine, while others fall from early-round talents to potential undrafted free agents.
That’s life in the NFL, though. Just ask guys like Laremy Tunsil, who have seen how quickly opinions can change and stocks can plummet.
Before we get to that point, though, it seems logical to take a look at how the Oakland Raiders could fare during the 2017 NFL Draft. We haven’t gotten to the point where 40-yard dash times are the only things that matter, so let’s see where stock is now while also looking at which positions are the biggest needs for the Silver and Black.
So here it is—the latest seven-round mock draft for the Raiders prior to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
In this hypothetical scenario, the Raiders have failed to re-sign Latavius Murray. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, but they’ll survive. Instead of panicking and signing a free agent such as Eddie Lacy, they wait until draft day to find their new starter. And voila, Oakland watches one of the 2017 draft class’ best backs fall into its lap at No. 24.
Dalvin Cook is considered by many to be a Top 10 talent. While I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he suffered a significant slide on Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. That’s just the way it goes in today’s NFL, especially with most running backs not lasting long past the age of 30.
Still, this seems like a situation where the Raiders simply can’t pass on the caliber of talent that’s available. Sure, they have other needs to address, especially on the defensive side of the ball. However, the value they’d be getting with Cook at this point in the draft is almost irresistible.
The former Florida State star would immediately step in as the starter, and chances are he’d be a revelation. He’s got tremendous speed, power, vision and explosiveness, allowing him to strike fear in opponents on a weekly basis. The Raiders must keep their deadly offense intact in 2017, and Cook can be the guy to make that happen.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—Malcolm Smith cannot be starting at middle linebacker for the Raiders in 2017. He’s a free agent this offseason, giving Oakland the perfect opportunity to let him walk.
Over the last two years, Smith has done a great job of racking up tackles and making the occasional big play. In terms of his overall body of work, though, he left a lot to be desired. Just ask Pro Football Focus, which graded Smith as the 67th of 87 qualified linebackers in 2016. Surprisingly, that was an improvement on his grades from the two previous seasons.
While I believe Jarrad Davis would be an excellent option in the first round, Cook was too good to pass on. So instead, I went with Raekwon McMillan in the second to help fill the void at middle linebacker.
What I really like about McMillan is his ability to dominate against the run. He’s a relentless tackler, using sound technique and physicality to intimidate opposing runners. Although he’s not much of a pass rusher, he can tally the occasional sack from time to time as well.
I will admit that he’s still a work in progress as a cover man. I believe the Raiders will be looking for an upgrade in coverage at linebacker (which Davis would be), but McMillan is a solid consolation prize who has the athleticism to eventually excel against the pass.
Some may disagree with me, but I believe the Raiders have two quality starting cornerbacks in Sean Smith and David Amerson. Unfortunately, as we saw throughout the 2016 campaign, their depth at the position was subpar at best.
It doesn’t help that No. 3 cornerback D.J. Hayden is headed for free agency. Even then, it’s not like he was anything special—especially for a former first-round pick. Assuming he signs elsewhere, Oakland will be left with T.J. Carrie as the only other reliable cornerback on the roster. While I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders targeted a free agent to add depth, a young prospect with serious upside also wouldn’t hurt. That’s where a talent like Fabian Moreau comes into play.
Up until the East-West Shrine Game, Moreau wasn’t talked about much. The former Bruin was flying under the radar, with most seeing him as a late-round prospect. Now, after proving to be the best cornerback at the game, some folks are even talking about him being a first-round pick.
While I wouldn’t go that far, it’s clear he’s got the tools to be a contributor early and often. He’s a reliable option in coverage, isn’t afraid to step up against the run, and shows terrific instincts when the ball is in the air. Given more time to develop, Moreau could eventually emerge as a clear-cut starter in the NFL.
Everyone knows that the Raiders have two outstanding starters at wide receiver. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are stars for the Oakland passing game, but they can’t do it all. More depth is needed at wide receiver heading into 2017.
Seth Roberts has flashed some upside as the No. 3 receiver, but remains rather inconsistent. No. 4 receiver Andre Holmes is set to hit free agency this offseason, and never really lived up to the hype as an uber-athletic talent. Do you get the point I’m trying to make here? The Raiders need a true playmaker to complement Cooper and Crabtree this upcoming season. By what I’ve seen, Ryan Switzer can be exactly that and more.
The North Carolina product is extremely underrated at this point in the process. Some folks are even talking about him coming off the board in the fifth or sixth round. To those people, I suggest going back and watching more film. Put simply, Switzer is going to be a star some day.
His hands are coated in glue, and he fights for everything thrown his way. Although he’s a bit undersized, we’ve seen guys like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman thrive because of their scrappiness and ability to out-work defenders. Switzer fits that exact mold, and would immediately pay dividends for the Oakland offense.
At this moment, the Raiders’ future at tight end is far from certain. Clive Walford hasn’t lived up to the hype, Lee Smith is coming off a season lost almost entirely to injury, and Mychal Rivera is a free agent.
I’m a firm believer that Oakland needs to add some help at the position this offseason. While there will be several options via free agency that could pique the team’s interest, I believe they’ll eventually settle to spend a draft pick with other fish to fry on the open market. If they landed someone such as Michael Roberts on Day 2, I think they’d be satisfied.
In all honestly, the Toledo product isn’t a great athlete. He exhibits average-at-best speed and isn’t going to make huge plays after the catch. With that being said, he’s a big body with reliable hands, proven productivity and the ability to serve well as an in-line blocker.
Especially with Smith still a question mark, the Raiders need to beef up their blocking at tight end. Roberts is more than capable of making a difference in that department. Tie in the fact that he loves finding the end zone (16 touchdowns in 2016), and you’ve got an intriguing mid-round option for Oakland.
With Austin Howard no sure thing to be back in 2017 and Menelik Watson headed for free agency, the Raiders need help at right tackle. Unfortunately, the upcoming free agent class doesn’t exactly possess a ton of talent at the position.
That’s why Oakland should target a prospect who can develop into a starter–and potentially make an early impact. What would be even better is if the Raiders could find someone who fits the bill without spending an early-round pick. Hence, the selection of Victor Salako here.
The Oklahoma State product has quietly been a strong, sturdy offensive tackle for the last few years. Forced to transfer after UAB shut down its football program, Salako stepped in as a starter for the Cowboys and never looked back. Not only did he help Jordan Howard rack up huge yards with the Blazers, but he allowed Oklahoma State to have a decent ground game.
Salako still needs some work as a pass protector, but clearly has the chops to cut it in the NFL. If he continues to improve at his current pace, we could see him emerge as a quality starter for the Raiders somewhere down the road.
I’m sure you’re probably wondering why it took this long for the Raiders to draft a defensive tackle, right? It’s arguably one of their biggest needs of the offseason, yet I waited until the seventh round to address it.
Well, for starters, I believe Oakland will address the position via free agency. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they landed a stud like Calais Campbell to help beef up the interior of the defensive line. Realistically, that should just about solve the problem. So yes, I waited until the seventh round to add some depth—and what intriguing depth it is.
For those of you who know about Chunky Clements, then you know he’s one worth watching. The Illinois product may not have racked up huge amounts of sacks during his collegiate career, but he’s more than capable of collapsing the pocket. He’s quick off the snap, shows a great swim move and can consistently put pressure on passers.
The Raiders don’t exactly need projects at defensive tackle–they already have one in Darius Latham and Jihad Ward, apparently. Adding a capable interior rusher in Clements would be a wise decision, though, if it only costs them a seventh-round pick.