2017 Draft: Class Review, Grades, and Final Thoughts
I said I don’t do grades, but here we are.
Earlier this month, I briefly shared my thoughts on this class. I’m circling back around, with a clearer head, looking to finally put a bow on this thing as we move closer to camp.
Round 1, No. 24: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
At worse, he’s the CB3 in a solid class; the injury to Sidney Jones safely pushed Gareon Conley to the CB2 spot in the end, however. On the field, he’s an ascending player who was an absolute lockdown in 2016. The hope for the Raiders is that his arrow continues to point upward, as the versatile corner can man either spot and succeed all over the field. Ideally, you want him pressing at the line of scrimmage. Personally, I’d like to see him push David Amerson, and play opposite of Sean Smith sooner rather than later. Other than that, it’s obviously difficult to truly evaluate this selection outside of those few thoughts until the verdict on the rape allegation is in.
Round 2, No. 56: Obi Melifonwu, FS/SS, Connecticut
I wrote about Obi here. Didn’t like the idea of selecting him at 24 overall but the “value” at 56 makes this a (bigger) win. Clearly he’s a specimen, and again, it all goes back to the versatility. Melifonwu was one of the best tacklers I watched in this class, effective playing in the box and working downhill. His athleticism allows him to play deep as well, where he’s flashed the necessary range to make plays (although, things tend to get sloppier the deeper he dropped). There was also talk of some team(s) wanting to play him at cornerback full time. For Oakland, they’ll need him to play with the physicality (consistently) that matches the frame.
Round 3, No. 88: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, California, Los Angeles
I’ve gone back and forth on Eddie plenty of times now. In a way, this feels like Mario. On the other hand, kinda like Jihad. What I do know is that Vanderdoes was a top recruit out of high school and didn’t necessarily live up to expectations due to injury and other “character”-type concerns (#sources mentioned how he was coddled at school). Perhaps the third round selection is a wake up call for the defensive lineman, placing the proverbial chip on his shoulder. We know Oakland desperately needs help on the interior, so I understand this pick from a pure “need” standpoint. I’ll feel a lot better when I see him play (and stay) healthy, while keeping the weight in check.
Round 4, No. 129: David Sharpe, OT, Florida
The chatter of “legal blindness” aside, this pick was a reach. I talked about how this “feels” like a Tice pick, and while that may (or may not) be the case, it doesn’t mean we have to be on board with it. Sharpe’s certainly large at 6’6″, 357, and the plan for his immediate future is to sit and learn behind Donald Penn, with hopes of him (Sharpe) eventually taking over on the left side. Sounds like a tall order, to me. The more I read and dig around, it would appear as though the consensus had the offensive lineman pegged as a late (late) Day 3 kid. We’ll see. As a Blair Brown fan (who ended up going at the top of the following round), this is an underwhelming selection.
Round 5, No. 168: Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
The timeline rejoiced as the Oakland Raiders finally selected a linebacker. I will say, there was a surprising run on the position, with names that I didn’t expect to go as “early” as they did (Beckwith, Reeves-Maybin, and the aforementioned Brown). Lee was perhaps “the best of the rest”, and a player that the Raiders’ had circled. Lee checks the intangible boxes (he’s a vocal, hardworking leader, etc.), and looks smart and instinctive enough in the middle playing the run. The problem is, overall, he falls short athletically. As a result, purely a 2-down player until proven otherwise. My pal Ted likes him more than Zach Cunningham. I can’t quite get onboard with that myself, but there are some interesting points made. Reggie and Jack (and Ken, I’m sure) noted that they “know what a good linebacker looks like”. It’s Ben Heeney’s job to lose as we enter camp – let that sink in.
Round 7, No. 221: Shalom Luani, FS, Washington State
One of my favorite selections in this class, and the start of a fun run in the seventh round as McKenzie slid down to acquire an additional selection. Luani’s a ball hawk, and a really fluid athlete who’s also able to provide the lumber. The glaring hole in his game is the tackling (or lack thereof). He’ll need some seasoning there, if we’re being honest (and polite). For whatever it’s worth, and in a secondary devoid of depth, it’s hard to nitpick here. Former soccer player, as I’m sure you’ve read dozens of times by now.
Round 7, No. 231: Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State
I like the move for Ware in the 7th much (much) more than the selection of Sharpe in the 4th. All about the value. Day 3 Cam Robinson? An incredible athlete for a kid his size, I’m probably a bit higher on Ware than most (call it an athletic-bias, I guess), and I like his chances of pushing players like Marshall Newhouse on the right side sooner than most think.
Round 7, No, 242: Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
The 2015 version of Elijah Hood is fun, while the 2016 tape shows a different player, battling through injury (undisclosed, or speculated, leg injury at time). There was also a leg and/or hamstring injury that sidelined him at the Combine, as well. Not ideal. Once a noteworthy recruit (a former Notre Dame commit and Nike SPARQ finalist), he may have done better to stay in school as he originally intended to do. In Oakland, he’ll be the RB4 on the depth chart, perhaps mixing in for some short yardage work exclusively. For whatever it’s worth, we’re told he’s having a good start to the offseason program. Unless Hood returns to his 2015 self (and then some), I’m looking at running backs in 2018. Early.
Round 7, No. 244: Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo
More defensive line depth. Small(er) school player with some decent production last season. Coming off of shoulder surgery in December, which isn’t necessarily a good start to things (but he is participating). Athletic enough, solid quickness, and looks powerful. Haven’t gotten my paws on much more additional #film, but I do enjoy bolstering a position of weakness. Per Lance: “Effective arm over frees him from a block on his edge. Has very active hands as a rusher. Swipes and chops consistently at blocker’s punch to try and keep himself clean. Able to maneuver around pass blocks if he gets an early advantage.”
Overall, I give this class a C+, which could easily jump up to a B- or B when/if Gareon Conley’s name is cleared.
I was critical of the secondary early on last season. My discontent lasted throughout 2016, and both safety and cornerback were at the top of my priority list heading into the draft. It was nice to see the Raiders’ address both spots early on.
Despite the lackluster linebacker class, it was frustrating to watch this team sit back and wait until the fifth round to pull one off the board. I’ll call that an oversight, and one that’ll come back and bite this defense once more.
Personally, I would’ve like to see another pass rusher added. Even with All-World linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack (who did his part), this defense failed to generate consistent pressure. Aldon Smith remains a complete question mark. Still not sure how Jordan Willis lasted until the third round. Could ask a similar question about Carl Lawson who eventually came off the board in the fourth.
Aaron Jones is the running back I would’ve targeted on Day 3.
As a result, these are three position groups (LB, EDGE, and RB) that’ll be high on the list of “areas to address” as we enter the 2018 offseason (barring any unforeseen, pleasant surprises). More on that at a later date though.
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