Now that the major free agent signings have been finalized, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. Today, the Oakland Raiders are the focus. The Raiders have the 24th pick in the draft and general manager Reggie McKenzie will look to elevate the Raiders to Super Bowl contenders. Here’s what needs to be addressed during the Oakland Raiders 2017 NFL Draft.
Oakland Raiders 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
The Oakland defense struggles mightily with two things, stopping the run and covering tight ends. Which position specializes in these two areas? The inside linebacker position. The best defenses of all time had star inside linebackers. Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis, and Mike Singletary all helped lead Super Bowl winning defenses. The Oakland Raiders need help at inside linebacker, and they need it desperately.
If the season started today, Oakland’s starting inside linebacker would be Ben Heeney. Heeney is a decent special teams player, but a miserable linebacker. Last year, he was so bad that he failed to rank with Pro Football Focus, owning a miserable grade of 49.3.
The Oakland Raiders might still re-sign Perry Riley, but they should seriously consider drafting one at 24. There are several good linebackers in this class, so the Raiders should still have a decent pick of the litter when their first pick comes up.
Reuben Foster, Haason Reddick, Zach Cunningham, Jarrad Davis, and a few others are solid prospects, and the Raiders need to draft one. A great inside linebacker could completely change Oakland’s defense heading into 2017.
Reggie Nelson was a Pro Bowler in 2016, but his play on the field didn’t necessarily reflect that. He had five interceptions, but more often than not, he gave up big plays. He wasn’t consistent against the run, and he let too many receivers get behind him. Even if the Raiders think he’s a quality safety, he’ll be turning 34 next season, and the Silver and Black need a replacement.
Fortunately, this is the deepest draft for defensive backs in recent memory. Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams will be gone when the Raiders pick, and with any luck, they’ll pass on Jabrill Peppers, but that doesn’t eliminate everyone.
Combine hero Obi Melifonwu from Connecticut is a trendy pick for the Oakland Raiders, and if he’s there when the Raiders are up in the second round, they absolutely can’t pass on him.
The Oakland Raiders also need corner help. Regardless of how you feel about Sean Smith and David Amerson, the Raiders need a nickel corner. Pass interference machine D.J. Hayden left the team in free agency, and the Silver and Black are now thin at the position. However, just like with safeties, there are several corners they can take.
There are seven corners in this draft with first round grades, and 18 that are projected to go in the first three rounds. With Davis and Melifonwu going in the first two rounds, the Raiders could get a solid corner like Jourdan Lewis in the third round.