2017 Draft: With the 24th Overall Selection…

You can feel that, right? We’re real close.

At this point, thoughts and opinions are nearly finalized. In the weeks and months that follow, we’re either going to be frantically attempting to delete old tweets, or rushing to retweet the takes that stuck and made some amount of sense. It’s an equally stressful and exciting time.

My first pass at this list was during Combine week:

Before we run through my updated, final list, let’s review and cross-off some of the previously discussed candidates.

First and foremost, the running backs.

I like a handful of them, as early as the first round. The majority of the fan base dislikes the idea of a runner, or offense in general, at 24. There’s the whole “Marshawn situation” that we’re contending with as well. I wrote a lot of words about what adding Beast Mode does to this Raiders’ team over here:

Christian McCaffrey is my favorite pick for the Raiders at 24, but reality has sadly set in: he’s going top 10 or 15. Next.

I also wrote about Joe Mixon. Reggie McKenzie had some very interesting commentary regarding the Oklahoma running back during his pre-draft presser. Basically, I wouldn’t cross him off the list. The problem is, if you pass on him at 24, don’t count on him hanging around at 56.

Dalvin Cook is off the list, per Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko (off-field and general character concerns).

I’m higher on Alvin Kamara than many. He’s going to go early. Outside of McCaffrey and Mixon, notable exceptions, I don’t think the Raiders target at back on Day 1.

Solomon Thomas was on the list but that was always just wishful thinking. A top three player in this class that solidified his status in Indianapolis.

Jalen “Teez” Tabor‘s stock is free-falling after a pair of horrendous workouts at both the Combine and Florida’s pro day.

Cross off Sidney Jones, who is recovering from the Achilles injury.

Jaleel Johnson‘s been a favorite for a while now. The first round talk was certainly real at one point, but with an iffy-at-best Combine, expect someone to grab some value late-Day 2 or early-Day 3. I’m still on board, but looking elsewhere on Day 1.

Now that we have all the housekeeping out of the way, without further ado, here’s who made the cut:

Home runs.

1) FS Budda Baker, Washington — The best safety in a class full of talented players. Instantly upgrades an aging Reggie Nelson. Tenacious enough to play in the box, closer to the line of scrimmage, if you prefer dropping Karl Joseph back. Also athletic enough to play deep, and technically-sound to line-up at corner. Sure, you’d like him to be an inch or two taller, but rarely did size affect his game. Budda is a player:

2) DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State — Top five talent with “character questions” that look to be affecting his draft stock. Solves Oakland’s conundrum up front; could be a steal. Play him all along the defensive line. Read this:

Solid picks.

3) EDGE Jordan Willis, Kansas State — The best EDGE player in this class not named Myles or Solomon, and the gap’s closer than you may think. Athletically, he’s at the top of this class, cross-position. Some will draw Vic Beasley comparisons. Finished second in the country with 80 total pressures, per PFF. The Raiders cannot count on Aldon Smith going forward. Always draft good players, and this one fills a need.

4) CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State — Some say he’s better than that other Ohio State corner and as such, Conley’s stock is really hot. He’s probably gone inside the top 15 or 20. Nearly as athletic as any of the top-testers in this year’s cornerback class, with a ceiling that’s higher than most. More from PFF: allowed just 14 receptions for 159 yards on throws into his coverage in 2016. Can’t go wrong with a CB early, and Conley’s my favorite option with Lattimore off the board and Jones banged up.

5) LB Haason Reddick, Temple — Versatility is going to be a plus. Mixed it up coming off the edge, played off-ball backer, and even spent a little time in the middle. Lance sees him as Ryan Shazier, and PFF compares him to Jamie Collins. I’ve seen Bruce Irvin’s name thrown around in addition to the others. Now, Reddick’s appearance on this list doesn’t exactly coincide with my linebacker rankings. I still much prefer Haason in the second round, but can concede that he’s gone well before. He’s still raw, and there’s inherent risk there, but you have to consider the upside as well. I’ve come around in that regard. Walk-on at Temple who now spends his time jumping out of gyms. At the end of the day, Mr. Davis would be proud:

6) WR Curtis Samuel — My WR2, only behind some kid from Western Michigan. He’s Percy-plus. Split him out, in the slot, or get weird out of the backfield. One of the better route-runners in this class (notably more efficient than some full-time wide receivers). Samuel’s a weapon that’ll add a tough dimension for defensive coordinators to account for. He’ll make you forget about missing out on McCaffrey, if you were crushing like me, as he brings a similar skill set to the table.

7) WR John Ross, Washington — Just behind Samuel at the WR3 spot. Despite his record-setting day at the Combine, it’s hard to ignore the injury history (he might go top ten, or completely fall out of the first round, given said history) and Ross’s slight frame. Still, a ridiculously explosive pass catcher like Ross is hard to pass on. He’s DeSean all over again, and he’s even got the Long Beach thing going for him. We know about the speed, but there’s a lot more to Ross’s game than just running fast. Watch this, and these..

8) TE Evan Engram, Mississippi — In one of the best tight end classes we may have ever seen, Evan Engram is the perfect blend of athleticism and ceiling, college production, and serviceable blocking. He’s the TE1. Much like Samuel or Ross, Engram would add a significant threat to this Raiders’ offense. He’d be a problem working out of the (big) slot. The Jordan Reed comparisons are justified. Superb in his route-running and excellent at attacking the ball. Some say he’s a wide receiver, but he works too well inline to just brush that off. Doesn’t matter what you call him, as long as he’s on my team. More thoughts here:

That’ll work.

9) CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado — Complete corner, and (my) CB3 overall only behind the two players out in Columbus. Not a Kevin King-level athlete (Awuzie notably lacks some speed), but he’s sticky in coverage and above average instincts allow him to effortlessly break on the ball. Those instincts and overall football IQ will make up for any concerns regarding speed. His size allows him to match up on either the inside or outside; fluid enough to run with the smaller pass-catchers and big enough to lock up with a team’s number one. Uses that size to come off the blitz, where he’s able to affect the passer.

10) CB Kevin King, Washington — The freakiest-freak at the Combine. Oakland kid, too. King’s more of a round two target for me personally, but much like Haason Reddick, it’s hard to ignore the athleticism and upside. Per PFF, King didn’t allow a single touchdown in 2016. That’s good. They also went on to compare Kevin to a “poor man’s” Richard Sherman, which also still sounds good. I made it a point to throw King on this list, despite his second round grade, as I think there’s a good chance that he’s the pick at 24 (or at the very least, McKenzie thinks long and hard about the East Bay defensive back).

11) TE David Njoku, Miami — Sky-high ceiling; physical freak with room to grow. Given his level of athlete, yards after the catch come in bundles. He’s just bigger, faster, and stronger than most of the guys across from him. He knows it, and exploits it well. Better route runner than given credit for, mixing in a little nuance here and there. Not as “clean” as Engram but again, if you’re looking for upside, look no further. Talked about why a player like David makes you forget about “team needs”:

12) OT Cam Robinson, Alabama — OT1, and Oakland’s answer at right tackle (finally). Could switch over to the left side when Penn walks away. No one wants to talk about drafting an offensive tackle, especially when Oakland’s line is already as good as it is. But the right side has been a problem, and games are won in the trenches. Smart pick.

13) SS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan — He’s a strong safety. Play him in the box and watch him win. Not having a “home” scares a lot of people. Lack of production (turnovers), too. I get the arguments. Bring me the athlete 9 times out of 10, and twice and Sunday’s, and we’ll figure out a way to make it work.

Watch this:

14) EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee — He’s got the Tennessee thing going for him, which the Raiders’ general manager may like. Can never have too many pass rushers. See the Aldon commentary once more. Barnett’s college production was crazy-good, although he’s not the athlete that Jordan Willis, Myles Garrett, and others are. High-floor, low-ceiling player. Feels like a “safe” pick at 24, which may also come off as “underwhelming” to some.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive