Oakland Raiders: 5 Dream First-Round Targets in 2017 NFL Draft

Leonard Fournette 2017 NFL Draft

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In a world where dreams come true, the Oakland Raiders would be drooling at the opportunity to land these players during the 2017 NFL Draft.

As NFL fans, we love to speculate on what the future may or may not hold. We also love to imagine what certain players could look like on our favorite teams. That’s what we’re trying to do today–dreaming about scenarios in which the Oakland Raiders get ridiculous steals during the 2017 NFL Draft.

Now it’s important to keep in mind that these are “dream” targets for the Raiders. That means there’s a very high probability the team won’t even come close to snagging them on draft day. Honestly, that doesn’t matter, though. This part of the offseason is all about speculation, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Obviously I’m not going to include someone like Myles Garrett. Him falling to No. 24 wouldn’t even be a dream—it’s an absolute impossibility unless the Raiders gave up a king’s ransom to trade up. Even then, that wouldn’t be the brightest idea considering they already have two excellent edge rushers.

Enough with the idle chit-chat. Let’s take a look at five “dream” targets for the Raiders during the 2017 NFL Draft, identifying how they fit into the team’s offseason plans and how they could hypothetically become available for general manager Reggie McKenzie on April 27.

O.J. Howard 2017 NFL Draft

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5. O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama

Yes, I know the Raiders signed Jared Cook this offseason. Yes, I am also aware that they have Clive Walford and Lee Smith on the roster. However, it’s worth noting that Cook can be shown the door in 2018, Walford is looking like a disappointment and Smith is an injury-prone blocker.

So why pass on Howard if he’s on the board? He’s easily one of the best tight end prospects to come along in some time, and has the potential to be an elite all-around asset. Imagine what it would look like having a playmaker like him alongside the talents of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

The Raiders passing game is already elite. Once Derek Carr gets back to full health, him and his band of excellent pass catchers should have little trouble tearing the NFL apart in 2017. Adding Howard’s mix of size, speed and after-the-catch abilities to that equation could make Oakland’s air assault one of the best in league history.

Chances are Howard comes off the board well before the Raiders pick at No. 24. However, it’s not often tight ends are valued that highly, which could open the door for him to fall when April 27 arrives. Regardless, in McKenzie’s dreams, the Alabama product could be available.

Malik Hooker 2017 NFL Draft

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4. Malik Hooker, FS – Ohio State

I wouldn’t consider free safety a huge need for the Raiders. They’ve already got Reggie Nelson in the mix for at least one more year, giving them a strong, veteran presence at the position. With minimal depth at safety, though, adding another wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Grabbing one in the first round, though, seems unlikely. That is, unless a player like Malik Hooker is on the board at No. 24. While that would be little more than a pipe dream, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility considering this class is overflowing with safety talent. It doesn’t help Hooker either when you also note that he’s coming off labrum and hernia surgery.

We’ve seen his stock drop a bit since he missed Ohio State’s Pro Day, suddenly going from a top-five lock to potentially falling out of the top 10. While I don’t necessarily see that happening, teams could choose to pass on the former Buckeye if concerns linger about him recently going under the knife.

The Raiders would have to pounce, though, if he were still available in the later stages of Day 1. Hooker is an outstanding cover man on the backend who could serve as the No. 3 safety as a rookie. Then, with Nelson’s contract up in 2018, the rising star can step in across from Karl Joseph and give the Silver and Black one of the best young safety duos in the NFL.

Reuben Foster 2017 NFL Draft

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3. Reuben Foster, ILB – Alabama

Would you look at that—another Crimson Tide star on the Raiders’ radar. It’s not surprising considering the school’s abundance of NFL-caliber talent this year. It’s just too bad most of it will be gone by the time the Silver and Black are set to make their first pick.

That is, unless dreams come true and one of them happens to slide to No. 24. If that were to be the case, the Raiders could come away with yet another steal. While I wouldn’t put getting Reuben Foster in the first round up there with steals like Khalil Mack at No. 5, it would absolutely be a big-time get for this franchise.

The Raiders happen to have a huge need at inside linebacker. Unless Zach Brown is signed, they’ll head into the offseason program with Jelani Jenkins and Cory James as the starters in the middle. That’s not a very good situation for any team to be in, especially one that must see improvements on the defensive side of the ball.

If Foster were somehow available, he’d immediately upgrade this Oakland defense and give them a resounding presence in the middle. He’s a dominant run defender, capable cover man and proven leader–all attributes the Raiders sorely lacked from the position in 2016.

Leonard Fournette 2017 NFL Draft

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2. Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU

With the departure of Latavius Murray, the Raiders are left without a true workhorse running back. Sure, they could try to rely on the mix of DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard to get the job done, but that won’t cut it. And I doubt Marshawn Lynch is interested in playing in Las Vegas.

What if one of the best running back prospects fell into their laps, though? It seems crazy, but there’s a slim possibility Leonard Fournette falls on draft day. The general feeling I’m getting is that he isn’t the home run talent Ezekiel Elliott was a year ago, which could force him to fall on draft day.

Fournette tumbling all the way to No. 24 is a dream, but that’s why we’re here in the first place. If it happened (in some fantasy world), the Raiders would likely run up to the podium. They need a monster in the backfield who can strike fear in defenses and keep them honest. The Washington-Richard duo isn’t going to do that.

Chances are the LSU product is gone by No. 12 at the latest. I find it hard to believe the Cleveland Browns let him get past them, but stranger things have happened during the NFL Draft.

Jonathan Allen 2017 NFL Draft

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1. Jonathan Allen, DT – Alabama

The third Alabama product. Nick Saban must be doing something right in Tuscaloosa.

At the beginning of the pre-draft process, Jonathan Allen was seen by many as a near lock for the top five. However, as we move further into early April, we’re starting to see him show up further down mock drafts than we have in months.

In this situation, though, that could end up working out in one team’s favor. Seeing as these are dream scenarios for the Raiders, it seems as though they could fill a huge need if Allen were to hypothetically slide on draft day.

The defensive tackle position is a huge sore thumb for the Raiders right now. Dan Williams and Justin Ellis are currently holding down the top two jobs, but the team would love to find an interior pass rusher who can help take pressure off Mack and Bruce Irvin on the edge. None of the names currently on the roster appear to be the answer, but Allen could be.

The former Crimson Tide star proved to be a disruptive force at Alabama last year. While there are some concerns about how his talents will translate at the next level, I believe he’d be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Raiders. More than anything, he can suck in blockers, leaving Mack and Irvin alone on the edge to victimize offensive tackles.

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