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.

Round 1

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.

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.

Round 2

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:

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).

Round 3

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.

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.

Round 4

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:

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


13 thoughts on “2018 Draft: Pre-Combine 4-Round Mock Draft

  1. No mocks are showing it, but my guess is Reggie will want to draft a QB in the mid rounds this year or next. This year may come down to whether Gruden likes a particular QB in this draft who is still there in the mid rounds, or if he and RM are still high on Cook until his rookie contract runs out.

  2. Sonny Michal has the 2nd worst ball handing rate of all the RB’s in this class. He fumbles every 55 touches which will get him cut on any team. Ronald Jones II is not getting mentioned nearly enough. He’s a 1st round talent and has the 3rd best ball security rating of all RB’s. He catches, blocks and breaks tackles like Marshaun Lynch. He ended up 4th all time rushing at USC. Think about that. Another steal of the draft that never gets mentioned is Darrius Phillips, DB from Western Michigan. Guy is a flat out baller. Plus he has return value. He undersized so he would have to be a nickel corner, but he has potential to play outside. He plays much bigger than he is. Especially since he went up against Corey Davis (last years 5th overall pick who is 6′ 2″) for 2 years. Lastly, Raiders are not picking Roquan Smith with the 9th or 10th pick in the 1st round. You don’t pick LB’s with that high of a pick unless they are the hands down best player in the draft. With top 10 picks you draft QB’s, Edge Rushers, Left Tackles or elite DB’s. Now there are exceptions. Saquon Barkley just happens to be one of the best prospects I have EVER seen.

    1. Correction: I meant you do not draft INSIDE LB’s with a top 10 pick. Raiders history should clearly tell us Raiders are not going to draft Roquan Smith. It’s hopefully going to be an Edge rusher to compliment Mack or an elite DB. Josh Jackson or Denzel Ward. Preferably Jackson in my opinion.

      1. I think Smith is a kind of small to play inside. He’s only 225. Good luck shedding blockers at that weight.

        1. Roquan Smith is better suited at the Will LB at the next level. Watch tape and you’ll see he constantly gets man handled by Guards and has a tough time shedding blocks once he’s engaged. Tremaine Edmunds is a true MLB and that’s the player I hope we draft in the first round.

  3. I really like the fact you put alternates up here, I think that is imperative. Here’s my four round pre-combine wants;
    1) roquan Smith or trade down with the bills and pick up vita vea & mike Hughes
    2) Bryan – he may last to the second much like Carr did, but he’s really athletic and ceiling is thru the roof. If he’s not there edge rusher.
    3) penny – he’s the real deal and would be really good in gruden system.
    4) OL or Dante Pettis.

  4. What a draft it would be if we somehow landed:

    Roquon Smith
    Da’aron Payne
    Sony Michel


    That is assuming, of course, that CB is mostly shored up in free agency.

  5. Vita Vea with the 10th pick, there is no “up and down” with him, shows you haven’t watched his film. Danny Shelton was a pure run stuffer Vea lines up everywhere at 334lbs and is a game changer.

  6. Glad to see you’re acknowledging the obvious about McKenzie no longer being in charge. I’m amused by some so still believe his job is anything other than doing what Gruden instructs him to

  7. I say trade down and get more picks! There is a lot of value and talent in the 2nd-4th rounds. Trade down once or twice. You can get 3-4 picks trading out of the top 10 to maybe Buffalo and maybe trade down one more time to get more 2nd, 3rd and 4th round values. With the Raiders being where they are with the cap it would make sense to add youth (cheaper contracts) along side vets that they could learn from like Bowman, Irvin, Penn as well as losing dead weight contracts Smith, Nelson. Trading down for more picks to fill holes and depth. Imagin having 3-4 picks in the 2nd 3rd and maybe even in early rounds next year. Reggie and JDR missed the boat on last 2 drafts. With being back in the top 10 I say draft smarter and get more value talent.

  8. I don’t see it in Roquan Smith. I am not impressed, and he looks too small. He looks more like a safety. I would love to have Vita Vea. He looks like he could make some noise in the NFL. Taven Bryan is another I would like to see in the Silver and Black. He is a hustler.

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