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Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft Review

Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft Review: Jon Gruden just finished his first draft under his second tenure as the Raiders head coach. How did he and the Raiders organization do?
Kolton Miller

With the 2018 NFL Draft in the books, it’s time to give an evaluation as to how all 32 teams did in addressing their positional needs. Here, the Oakland Raiders are the focus. Oakland made five trades over the course of the draft, the details of which can be seen below.

Traded first round pick (tenth overall) to Cardinals; received Cardinals first (15th), third (79th), and fifth (152nd).

Traded second (41st) to Titans; received Titans second (57th) and third (89th).

Traded third (75th), fifth (152nd), and sixth (212th) to Ravens; received third (65th).

Traded third (89th), and sixth (217th) to Rams; received third (87th).

Traded fifth (159th) and  sixth (185th) to Colts; received fifth (140th).

Jon Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie had their hands full. Wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer were traded for during the draft. The Raiders added nine players to their roster through the NFL draft.

First round, 15th overall: Kolton Miller, offensive tackle, UCLA

Second round, 57th overall: P.J. Hall, defensive tackle, Sam Houston State

Third round, 65th overall, Brandon Parker, offensive tackle, NCA&T

Third round, 87th overall: Arden Key, defensive end, LSU

Fourth round, 110th overall: Nick Nelson, cornerback, Wisconsin

Fifth round, 140th overall: Maurice Hurst, defensive tackle, Michigan

Fifth round, 173rd overall: Johnny Townsend, punter, Florida

Sixth round, 216th overall: Azeem Victor, linebacker, Washington

Seventh round, 228th overall: Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State

Raiders 2018 Draft Grade: 8.0/10

Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft Review

The Best Player: Arden Key

Arden Key solidified himself as a dynamic pass-rusher during his time at LSU. In three seasons, Key notched up 129 total tackles, including 24.5 tackles for loss, and 20.0 sacks. Key was considered a first round talent by a majority of scouts and insiders. Off the field concerns forced Key to drop far down team’s draft boards. Arden voluntarily put himself into rehab last year for marijuana abuse. Also, a shoulder surgery and knee injury limited Key for some time. Oakland has a first round talent in Arden Key, the young man just needs to stay on the field.

The Head Scratcher: Doubling Down on Tackles

The first round selection of UCLA tackle Kolton Miller appeared to be somewhat of a reach at first glance. However, protecting the franchise quarterback is a very important role every team understands they have to take seriously. Regardless of perception, there is no denying Miller’s incredible athleticism and raw tools needed to be a dominant left tackle in the league.

The real surprise comes in when the Raiders decided to trade up in the third round to take NCA&T tackle Brandon Parker. Miller and Parker are both widely considered as project players. Offensive line coach Tom Cable will have his hands full attempting to develop a starting left tackle in Miller, and a starting right tackle in Parker. This realization is also more concerning considering Cable has yet to successfully develop any young raw offensive tackle prospects. It’s understandable that Oakland would want to do their best to protect Derek Carr. The Raiders will need plenty of great coaching to get that potential out of these picks.

The Surprise: Azeem Victor

The Raiders have struggled to find young linebackers that make an impact. Azeem Victor showed plenty of promise during his career at Washington. A disappointing season in 2017 and off the field concerns are what dropped the linebacker to the sixth round. Oakland made a calculated risk with selecting Victor late in the draft. A DUI arrest and indefinite suspension by Washington derailed the last year of Victor’s collegiate career.

It is a bit surprising that the Raiders drafted a linebacker at all considering how they don’t seem to put much value in the position. However, it makes sense to take a flyer on a talented player late in the draft. Victor played his best football in the 2015 season where he played in all 12 games, notched 95 total tackles, including 9.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 1 interception. Victor’s productivity dipped during his last two seasons at Washington and has only seemed to show flashes of the type of player he could easily become if he becomes dedicated and cleans up his off the field issues. A supportive locker room and good coaching can unlock Victor’s potential and make him a solid NFL player.

The Steal: Maurice Hurst

Michigan defender Maurice Hurst drew concerns when a heart problem stopped him from competing in the NFL combine in March. The defensive tackle played his college career with a heart condition that could keep him from ever playing football again. This serious medical red flag kept all NFL teams far away from the highly touted prospect. Purely as a football player, Hurst is one of the best in this year’s entire draft. The tackle recorded 130 total tackles, 32.0 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks during his four year career at Michigan.

Hurst has the biggest boom or bust potential in this year’s draft due to his condition. Still, the Raiders were able to take a consensus first round pick and draft him in the fifth round. There is no questioning Hurst’s football ability. If Hurst can play, he will not only be a steal for the Raiders, he will be the biggest steal in the entire draft.

Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: P.J. Hall

Oakland selected Sam Houston State defensive lineman P.J. Hall with their second round pick. At 6’1 and 310 lbs., Hall is a bowling ball of a man, and plays the game with that same violent intensity. During his career at Sam Houston State Hall put up ridiculously productive numbers. Hall set a D-IAA record for tackles for loss (86.5) and blocked kicks with 14. The tackle also recorded 42 sacks. Hall’s lack of competition and small school status kept him out of the combine, but at his pro day he wowed scouts with his 4.7 40 yard dash and 38 inch vertical.

Hall’s elite production and athleticism will surely be a sight for sore eyes at training camp. The defensive tackle will have every opportunity to turn heads and prove why he was selected in the second round. Oakland will need a disruptive interior pass rusher to alleviate some pressure off of Khalil Mack. Hall should be turning heads at training camp for all of the right reasons.

The Rest

Oakland stayed put in the fourth round to select Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson. The corner has the right size to cover the slot in the NFL. Nelson is notorious for playing aggressively. In 2017, Nelson led the nation in passes defended (21). However, he never recorded an interception in his career, and often gets called for penalties. Nelson can compete right away in Oakland. The secondary is still shaky, and Nelson could excel in a rotational role or even special teams.

Punter Johnny Townsend was drafted late in the fifth round. The former Florida Gator has a powerful leg and good sense of directional punting. In 240 career punts Townsend punted for 11,090 yards with a 46.2 average. Punter was a need heading into the draft for Oakland, and it looks like they found their man.

With their last pick the Raiders selected big bodied wide receiver Marcell Ateman. At Oklahoma State, the 6’4 receiver recorded 146 receptions for 2,466 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ateman might be able to secure a roster spot if he can show an ability to make big plays in the red zone. Ateman’s lack of explosive speed but ability to get open regularly will be valuable at the next level.

The Bottom Line

Oakland addressed many of their needs in this year’s draft. Many of the picks are quite risky and could go either way. This was the epitome of a boom or bust draft for the Raiders. Many of the picks are raw and will need a great deal of coaching to reach their potential. It was clear that the Raiders had a game plan. The tranches on both sides of the ball appear to have gotten stronger. Oakland prioritized their franchise players Derek Carr and Khalil Mack by building a strong support system around them. Time will tell if this draft was good for Oakland. If these picks pan out the Raiders, they will get back to just winning, baby.


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