After an impressive draft for the Raiders these five rookies will be big
The 2017 NFL draft’s officially in the books! Whether or not you believe Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie & Co. did a good job, one thing’s clear; defensive pieces were the top priority.
This comes as no surprise as Oakland’s defense was ranked 23rd overall in the league per NFL.com. Here’s my list of players on both sides of the ball that should make an immediate impact for the Raiders in the 2017 season.
#5. Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
Between an ACL injury in 2015 and being overweight in 2016, many analysts weren’t fond of Eddie Vanderdoes coming into the draft.
After shedding nearly 40 pounds, Vanderdoes is ready to swallow running backs in the inside and I believe he’ll do just that. He heard the noise during the offseason about his weight and comes to the Raiders with a “chip on his shoulder”. Vanderdoes will impact the Raiders’ run defense more than getting after the quarterback. Look for the 6’4″, 304 pound defensive tackle to rotate in early for the Raiders alongside Denico Aurty and Justin Ellis.
#4. Pharaoh Brown, TE, Oregon
Has Clive Walford been put on notice? Perhaps, but one thing’s for sure, Brown has a real chance to make it on the field especially if he can improve in pass protection which is a weakness for him.
At 6’6″ and 240 pounds, look for Brown to be in the lineup when the Raiders are in the redzone. Another big bodied tight end could help Oakland’s already high-octane offense be even more potent. Carr should be excited at this addition!
#3. Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
Lee is the big body in the middle of the field that the Raider’s have been looking for. Standing at 6’3″ and weighing 240 pounds, Lee’s frame and patience allows him to consume large portions of the field and makes it hard for running backs to avoid him.
In fact, per PFF.com Lee only missed 10 out of 107 tackles. Lee will help the Raiders defend the middle of the field against tight ends and runs between the tackles. You should see him rotating onto the filed in obvious run situations early in the season.
#2. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Many believed Conley could be the best value of the first round if his “off the field issues” proved to be false.
Fluid hips along with size ( 6’2″) and speed (4.44 40-yard time) Conley has the ability to become a true lockdown corner in the NFL. Look for him to carve out a roll immediately and lend a hand in the Raider’s porous secondary. He upgrades the Raider’s secondary immediately.
#1. Obi Melifonwu, FS, Connecticut
I just love saying this guy’s name! Obi Melifonwu is a safety with the rare combination of size and speed. Standing at 6’4″ Melifonwu posted a blazing 40 time (4.4 seconds) and a vertical of 44 inches, both numbers are best amongst safeties at the combine. Melifonwu brings much-needed size to the safety position as second year safety Karl Joseph only stands at 5″10″. Melifonwu possesses a closing speed that many quarterbacks underestimate which allows him to break up passes and snag interceptions.
Melifonwu’s size also allows him to be a force in the run game much like Marquel Lee. Melifonwu should rotate in week one with Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson and should one day take over for the aging Nelson (age 33).