2017 Draft: Ranking Team Needs

With Mock Draft, Volume 1 having already hit the streets, and plenty of player previews on the way, it’s only right to drop the “team needs” piece next in order to give everything a little more context.

These positions are in order for me, starting with the most glaring need at the top. Let’s get right into it.

Cornerback (CB)

I’ve been a broken record all season long, and I’m certainly not stopping now: the Raiders need help in the secondary and they need it now (or a few seasons ago, if we’re being honest).

The Raiders’ passing defense has finished as follows:

2016 — 24th

2015 — 26th

2014 — 16th

2013 — 28th

2012 — 20th.


Sean Smith was paid, and didn’t live up to that money. He’s not a “bad” player, but I’m not convinced he’s the answer to any of these questions we have at the corner spot, either. There’s also some concerns about his work ethic and effort on Sunday’s. I’ll just leave this right here.

David Amerson was the other suspect this season, playing across from Smith. Having seemingly revived his career after being left for dead in Washington, McKenzie pushed all his chips in and paid Amerson some decent coin. Can’t necessarily fault Reggie for banking on young talent, I guess.

Now if David was playing the Titans every single Sunday, we’d be ok. Unfortunately, and as grand as his PFF numbers may have looked at points throughout the season, the play simply wasn’t there. In reality, Amerson’s more like a CB3/4, but getting asked to be a CB1/2 with the paycheck to match.

The current cornerback woes aside, Mr. McKenzie has stumbled into a mighty fine looking group of cornerbacks in this year’s draft. At 24, if that’s the direction Reggie decides to head (assuming he’s not having some Vietnam-type flashbacks after grabbing a certain Houston defensive back in the first round), he’ll have his choice I imagine.

Briefly: there are a couple of notable names who could hit the free agent market, as well (I’m looking at you two, AJ and Trumaine). That said, something tells me Reggie got all his spending out of the way last offseason, and stays away from high-priced free agents in 2017 as such. Addtionally, I’m not sure how realistic moving on from both Smith and Amerson in the same offseason really is (we call that “wishful thinking”, I believe).

I’d count on the draft, more so than free agency, especially this offseason.

CB selection at 24 overall: Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State). I obviously wanted to type Jalen Tabor’s (Florida) name here, but figured we can switch it up. I also think that this front office and coaching staff will fall in love with a player built like Lattimore.

Interior Defensive Line (IDL)

With Mario missing a majority of the season, the pressure from the inside was absent (and that’s being polite). Dan Williams may/may not be overweight and out of shape, while McGee flashed here and there but wasn’t necessarily an impact player.

For the most part, Khalil Mack was a one man army, notching 11 of the team’s 25 sacks.

Now, if we run out the math real quick, that means the rest of the squad managed to grab a total of 14 sacks.

25 sacks on the season is good for last in the league. Like, 32 out of 32. That’s got to change this offseason. Mack, despite being the all-galaxy player that he is, can only do so much. You have to expect more from the inside when you have two players like Khalil and Bruce pinning their ears back on the edges.

Again, obviously Edwards Jr. wasn’t available, but even when 2017 kicks off, you’re banking on him picking up where he left off. In 2015. Two seasons ago. Might need to readjust expectations. Oh, and speaking of non-factors, that’s how this team (and more importantly, this fan base) needs to treat Aldon Smith. The help is there, but it needs to come via the draft.

IDL selection at 24 overall: Jaleel Johnson (Iowa). You’ll read plenty of mocks that will have Oakland grabbing Malik McDowell (Michigan State), I’m sure. I’d be content. I can’t see Solomon Thomas (Stanford) falling this far either, unfortunately — Johnson’s the one you want to target.


Free Safety (FS)

Speaking of dude’s who got paid, Reggie Nelson was on the roster this season.

To his credit, he came away with a handful of interceptions and punched a Pro Bowl ticket as a result. While that’s cool and all, especially to the box score efficiandos, his play left a lot to be desired. Whereas Smith and Amerson are young and younger, expectations were appropriate for Nelson this season… for some of us, anyway. If you were in that category, this need won’t necessarily come as surprise.

Many figured we’d have a Charles Woodson-like bridge in Nelson. Some may argue that he (Nelson) was playing “out of position”, and Norton placed him too deep where he’s clearly a liability at this stage in his career. Whatever the case may be, it’s time to correct all that, and finally get younger back there.

FS selection at 24 overall: Budda Baker (Washington). I’ll be talking about Budda for the entirety of the offseason, so my apologies in advance. Another name I would like to add, just for variety’s sake, is Malik Hooker (Ohio State). While his range and athleticism are elite and the ball skills are excellent (all traits that could elevate him right around the top ten), his tackling leaves much to be desired at times. If he happens to tumble a bit as a result, he’d be a nice compliment to Karl Joseph.

Kyle‘s comparison for Hooker is also solid (and rather interesting, and somewhat ironic):

Linebacker (LB; coverage)

Whenever I’ve given my opinion on the Raiders’ “draft needs” this offseason and/or played out a mock draft scenario, I quickly found out that fans do not enjoy when you fail to select a linebacker in the first round. There is some logical reasoning behind this, however:

Supply and demand, my pals.

It’s never (ever) wise to draft – and reach – purely based on need. You want to maximize each pick, obviously, and the best way to go about that is to simply draft the best player available. Many general managers talk about the best player available, but I truly believe only a handful actually set their board and execute in this fashion. Reggie McKenzie is one of those general managers. The Mario Edwards Jr. and Jihad Ward selections – and more notably, Connor Cook – are great examples of this.

This brings us back to selecting a linebacker in the first round. Outside of the monster from Alabama (Roob Foster), there’s not a Mike I’d jump on at 24 overall. As a whole, this linebacker class is rather underwhelming to me. Foster stands out, but there’s a notable drop-off after him.

Luckily, there is another backer who will certainly be receiving some first round looks. He’s capable of playing in the middle, but I much prefer him on the outside, in Malcolm Smith’s spot. For my money, Perry Riley Jr. can hang around for another year with the green dot if need be.

LB selection at 24 overall: Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt). Replacing Malcolm Smith might be a bigger win than moving on from DJ Hayden. Just let that sink in for a little bit. I currently have a fringe first round grade on Cunningham, who may compare to Jamie Collins. While I’d understand the selection, I may prefer looking elsewhere in the first. I think value can be had with guys like Jarrad Davis (Florida) and Kendell Beckwith (Louisiana State) in the mid-late rounds.

Running Back (RB)

Just like my much-publicized disdain for the cornerback situation, my feelings toward Latavius Murray have remained constant.

I should probably put an asterisk next to this position, as addressing it all depends on what happens with the aforementioned running back, who is set to become a free agent. I will also add that if Murray does indeed walk, you could probably tick this position up the board (couple of variables at the moment, unfortunately).

This incoming 2017 class has had a few names decide to stay at school, but the talent pool is still noteworthy. I like a handful of these running backs, but I’m tempering expectations and being careful with how I spend my time watching and grading in an attempt to avoid going down the “running back rabbit hole”, just to have McKenzie pay-up for Murray’s services for another few seasons.

It’s a coin flip right now, regarding Murray’s future. Derek Carr is tight with the Raiders’ “feature” back (a friendship that transcends the field), and he’s made that known nearly every time a camera’s been on him and he’s asked about the run game. McKenzie could simply opt to keep homegrown talent, as well. That’s not so farfetched.

Or. There’s almost always an or…

Reggie might feel like some of us. Despite the obvious athletic gifts, more often than not, Murray’s performance with the ball in his hand is rather underwhelming. He looked like a better player in 2016, but the same frustrating play still lingered: iffy vision at times, unwillingness to take on contact, and just questionable feet in the open field. Not to mention, the Raiders have a pair of young, energetic backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington (the former has already begun siphoning carries, and for good reason).

Let’s be smart, save the money, and grab one of several options that’ll be available in an unusually deep (and talented) class.

RB selection at 24 overall: Samaje Perine (Oklahoma). Let me explain, as I just alluded to how potentially great and talented and awesome this running back class is. While that praise is real, I’m not sure it’s in this team’s best interest to make a move for one in the first round. Cases can definitely be made for Perine, D’Onta Foreman (Texas), and others, but at the end of the day, use this group’s depth to your advantage and target a name in the early-mid rounds. Here’s another name to get familiar with, if you haven’t already:

Offensive Tackle (OT; RT specifically)

On offense, and putting Murray’s up-and-down play aside, the glaring hole was the turnstile that was the right tackle. Menelik Watson is now a free agent who’s first contract was marred with injuries and inconsistent play as a result. Austin Howard’s been abused at times to no fault of his own. The West is obviously no joke when it comes to pass rush:

Turns out he (Howard) played injured for a majority of the season – so hat’s off to him for trooping it out.

Worse case? We hang on to Howard and hope for a healthier season.

OT selection at 24 overall: Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin). He’s going to go high, and won’t be available when Oakland drafts because Zach said so (and I agree with Zach):


Wide Receiver (WR; slot, or someone with hands)

Seth Roberts cannot see nine targets in a game in 2017. I simply will not stand for it, you guys.

While Roberts was clutch a few times, and came away with a handful of touchdowns, relying on him going forward is an issue. Couple that with Michael Crabtree’s drop problem (he led the league) and Cooper’s mysterious non-engagement (which is weird), it would be nice to get the MVP candidate some more help (also weird to type).

While this is clearly a need for the Raiders, I think this is right at home at the bottom of this list. I’d love to see some talent added, a reliable pair of hands as I alluded to above, but not at the expense of these other, more pressing needs.

WR selection at 24 overall: Curtis Samuel (Ohio State). We’re looking at the new and improved Percy Harvin (minus the migraines, I think) in Brooklyn’s own Curtis Samuel. Some are still debating where they’d play him — is he a running back or a wide receiver? For me? I want him catching passes and more specifically, eviscerating defenses from the slot where his work in and out of routes is honestly better than some full-time wide receivers. He’s an absolute magician when it comes to the intermediate stuff and he’s in play as early as 24 overall. Samuel’s easily a first round talent, so we as fans just need to hope he slides down some boards a bit.

BONUS! TE selection at 24 overall: David Njoku (Miami). I’ve already talked up Evan Engram (Mississippi) in Mock Draft, Volume 1, but the tight end love doesn’t stop there. Mychal Rivera is a pending free agent (he’s walking, I think) and Clive Walford is a question mark (as far as how dynamic he can be) heading into year three. O.J. Howard (Alabama) is another popular name you’ll see in the first, and I’m ok going that direction, as well. I think Howard is a more complete, all-around TE whereas Njoku has the upside and freaky athleticism that will drive his stock through the roof as we approach draft day.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive


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