2018 Draft: Pre-Combine 4-Round Mock Draft
We all know the deal:
Mock drafts, at any point really, are generally useless.
Mock drafts, especially prior to the Combine where we’re heavily invested in these player’s test results, are an even bigger waste of time.
Yet, we go through this exercise each and every offseason (a handful of times) and people gobble it up.
To me, mocks are a perfectly fine “tool” to use if you’re just looking to familiarize yourself with the player base. These are names that you’re going to hear talked about more and more as we lead up to April so through these mocks, you tend to get a good sense of the value surrounding the players and position groups as a whole.
Now, why only four rounds? Well, honestly, nothing after the fourth round matters (h/t Justis Mosqueda). As teams head into Day 3, you’re really just circling the kids with the most obvious upside (these are your SPARQ warriors, namely), and rolling the dice.
Few more notes on “my” mock drafts in an attempt to save the mentions:
- This mock was completed via Fanspeak (as is tradition).
- Fanspeak, especially during this time of year, is hardly realistic (or at least not what I’d consider “realistic” as far as player values are concerned). That will change a bit as we move closer to the draft, but in general, it’s not something I’d suggest relying on.
- That said, I attempted to keep this haul as realistic as possible (for example, I didn’t select Minkah Fitzpatrick at 10 overall because I don’t think he’s sitting there when the Raiders are on the clock).
- Keeping in mind that I don’t really value Fanspeak’s rankings and player pool, I still went ahead and provided a “snapshot” of the selections that immediately followed mine. I highlighted a few names that were also in consideration for me at the time; names I expect to make some sense in April, as well. Again, this is all about getting familiar with the class (and options) as a whole.
Okay, enough of all that. Let’s get after it.
Roquan Smith has to be the most consistently mocked player to one team. Rarely do I stumble upon a mock draft that doesn’t have him linked to the Raiders at either the 9 or 10 spot.
Honestly, it feels too good to be true.
Will he even be available when Oakland’s on the clock?
Smith is a top five player in the 2018 class. In my opinion, he’s better than the linebacker from Alabama last year. Many were upset about Reggie McKenzie opting to pass on said Alabama linebacker last spring, so I can only imagine how delightful the timeline will be when/if it happens again this year.
We simply don’t know how new head coach Jon Gruden is going to approach things. We don’t know how much Reggie McKenzie, who’s still the general manager (at least in title) will be involved. We do have a good idea about how Reggie values the linebacker position (he doesn’t), but again, who knows how much input he’ll have going forward?
I plan on dropping a more detailed looked at everyone’s darling linebacker (he’ll get the #FilmWithFive treatment), but briefly, Smith’s the same size as Foster (or darn close). He’s fluid in coverage, more athletic, and is just as instinctual and savvy as the current 49er. Foster, to his credit, probably is a bit stronger and plays a bit “tougher”, but I think it’s splitting hairs at the end of the day.
While I don’t view linebacker as the “top need” as many do, it’s hard to justify passing on a talent like Roquan Smith as we alluded to earlier.
This is LB Roquan Smith teleporting. Insane closing speed pic.twitter.com/ng3RgPZHKJ
— KP (@KP_Show) February 5, 2018
Derwin James is a better prospect than Obi Melifonwu. I can’t imagine Raiders’ closing the door on their 2017 second-rounder just yet, but there is a new coach in town (*dramatic music plays*).
Mo Hurst is viewed as “undersized”, but his consistent disruption at the line paints a different picture.
Harold Landry is the forgotten name, coming off the ankle injury. Think Derek Barnett. Still a top ten player.
Vita Vea is a bit up and down; his power, when he’s up, is arguably best-in-class. Think Danny Shelton.
Denzel Ward is another Ohio State cornerback that will go Day 1. Oakland still has a need.
Tremaine Edmunds is only 19, and his ceiling is as high as anyone’s, regardless of position. He fills a need. Would be a solid “plan B” if Smith’s off the board.
I think EDGE remains the Raiders biggest need, even with the horrific cornerback-play in mind.
Hercules Mata’afa isn’t getting nearly the buzz he deserves, as I think he’s a top 32 talent (with a ceiling that can take him much higher) as things currently sit. I expect a lot of that to change once we get his scores in. He’s drawn Solomon Thomas comparisons to this point, and there are similar questions surrounding his play transitioning to Sunday’s as there were with the former Cardinal.
Thomas was viewed as miscast and/or undersized for his position. Mata’afa spent a lot of time in the middle of the line, where he found success. Many look at this size, and his obvious athletic gifts, and want to move him to a role on the edge full-time. That makes sense to me. Just get him on the field and let him do what he does best:
Hercules Mata'afa isn't very big by DL standards at 6-2, 245 but every team in the NFL is looking for burst, close and finish like this. pic.twitter.com/GdfrZ9ImYt
— Rob Rang (@RobRang) October 14, 2017
Marcus Davenport is getting plenty of buzz, and is projected to go top 32. That’s too rich for my blood.
Da’Ron Payne is strong against the run, and could help shore up the middle.
Taven Bryan, much like Marcus Davenport, has some stock that’s red hot right now, and only getting hotter it seems. Will he even be on the board when Oakland’s on the clock in the second?
Malik Jefferson was the consensus top linebacker heading into the season, but there are still the same questions surrounding his game. I like the value on Day 2 (and beyond).
Adding another cornerback within in the first two or three rounds should be at the very top of the Raiders’ “to do list”.
We don’t have to rehash how bad their unit was last season, and with David Amerson officially cut, and Sean Smith not too far behind (I imagine), the need is obvious.
M.J. Stewart provides some interesting value in the third round. What stands out to me about Stewart’s game is his mentality. He’s aggressive, he plays physical, and he can hit. This is all boring analysis, but the Raiders have been so underwhelming at the position for so long, sometimes it’s nice to simply have a prospect that’s good at all the little things.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein likes his versatility, as well, comparing him to Bills’ standout Micah Hyde.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) December 22, 2017
Sony Michel‘s ranking amongst the class is all over the place at the moment. I think he’ll obviously go earlier than round three, but I would love the value at this spot.
It’s never sexy, but addressing OT makes sense this offseason. LT is aging and RT remains a problem. Chukwuma Okorafor is good (and an overdraft candidate).
Rashaad Penny is a borderline top five back in a loaded class. Many peg him to be “this year’s Kareem Hunt”.
Quenton Meeks is a smart player (alma mater aside) at a position of need.
Mark Andrews might be the TE1 when all is said and done. He’s a less-athletic Evan Engram, I think (if that makes sense). Bring Derek Carr all the weapons.
Mike Hughes is physical as hell. He’ll be a riser throughout the process. Third round would be a steal. rai
Andrew Brown made some money at the Senior Bowl.
D.J. Moore is my WR1 as of this writing, pre-Combine. Hard to find a hole in his game.
Jon Gruden finds his “Charlie Garner” in the fourth round as the Raiders add my RB4. I don’t want to go too in-depth here, as I plan on putting John Kelly under the microscope as soon as possible. While I don’t think he’s the type of prospect that Alvin Kamara or even Kareem Hunt was, I do think that Kelly’s being glossed over quite a bit; largely pushed aside due to his size and build, bringing his three-down viability into question.
For my money, outside of maybe Derrius Guice, there isn’t a running back that plays more phyical. He told y’all not to sleep back in April. I’d suggest waking up now:
The best RB in the SEC is…
"I think I'm the best. I'm going to go out there and prove it." – @Vol_Football's John Kelly
SEC Now. 10pm ET pic.twitter.com/DiT33lQSiL
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 21, 2017
Jaleel Scott brings a big frame, but his play’s a little inconsistent to consider him before this spot. The upside is there, however.
Raiders desperately need help on the edge. Duke Ejiofor is now recovering from shoulder surgery, and there are questions surrounding his athleticism.
Ian Thomas might be my favorite tight end in the class. A little raw, but should test well.
D.J. Reed is a bit undersized, which we’ll continue to hear about. Think Jourdan Lewis.
Bo Scarbrough is a load, but has age and a notable injury history working against him.
Auden Tate is a top five receiver for 2018
Keke Coutee is your classic deep threat with some wheels. Wide receiver is a need for Oakland.
Nyheim Hines spent some time at wideout before getting work in out of the backfield. Sneaky-bet for the fastest 40 at Indianapolis?
So, how’d we do?
Who did we miss? Who didn’t we talk about enough?
Who is projected to go too early, or too late?
What position must the Raiders grab in the first four rounds?
Let’s talk about all that, and more…
Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive