The Raiders have taken dramatic steps to improve an already rising contender

NFL draft “season” has finally concluded with the Oakland Raiders making eight selections from the 2017 rookie class, one of the steps it’s taken in improving on their contender status. The entire league has finally started to realize what Raider Nation has known all along; the Raiders are back.

In the first of many power rankings for the NFL’s 2017 league year, the Raiders open up as the number three ranked team in the league as the NFL shared via their Twitter account.

Led by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the 2016 Castrol Gtx Clutch Performer of the year, the Raiders are poised to pick up where they left off in 2016. Seeing gaping holes in a number of key positions athletically speaking, general manager Reggie McKenzie set his draft board and stuck by it. By the end of the draft, McKenzie and the Raiders retooled, got younger and faster.

Defensively speaking, the Raiders needed a powerful shot in the arm, and that’s exactly what McKenzie gave them. Securing John Pagano, ex-Chargers defensive coordinator as a consultant which will only help Ken Norton Jr. get better. Pagano’s specialities are the secondary and designing blitzes. Garreon Conley and Obi Melifonwu may have solidified three-quarter’s of the Raiders secondary for at least the next four to five years. The Raiders ranked 26th in pass defense and that was due largely in part to great play down the stretch. Tight ends ran openly through the center of the field like antelopes prancing through the meadows without a care in the world.

Conley possesses “shutdown corner” ability and can play both the slot and outside. Physically, he’s the superior athlete of the group while having good playing size and strength. On the other hand, even though Melifonwu is said to be raw, he’s an excellent tackler as well as a physical match for any tight end or wide receiver in the league not named “Gronk.” Better coverage will lead to more time for the rush to get to the quarterback.

Eddie Vanderdoes was drafted in the third round to aid linebacker Bruce Irvin and is expected to replace Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee Dan Williams, who has been far from what the Raiders have needed on the field in the last two years. Quite frankly, at the defensive interior position, no one has been become a household name.  Vanderdoes has the potential to be a day-one starter and the physical ability to make a difference while playing on the offense’s side of the line of scrimmage. Treyvon Hester is a late round draft pick whom McKenzie is receiving high praise from. Another pocket collapsing defensive tackle to pair with Vanderdoes, he could provide the Raiders with the physicality they lacked in 2017.

Marquel Lee was picked in the fifth round, out of the University of Wake Forest and is physically speaking, everything the Raiders need him to be. Lee is a steal for the Raiders, a young four-year starter in college, he is six-foot-three, 240 pounds and capable of chasing down plays sideline to sideline. Lee can thump a little bit too and has solid instincts and reacts well to the football.

The offense has improved as well, Carr has another year under his belt, an MVP-type season and the mountain on his shoulder of not being able to partake in last year’s playoff game. With the additions of Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson, as well as a shift in the offensive philosophy and gearing towards attacking vertically, the Raiders are even deadlier thru the air.

Similarly, the Raiders wanted to improve their running game, enter “Beast Mode.” Latavius Murray was an excellent running back and Raider Nation should wish him the best, but Murray isn’t Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is motivated by the only thing more powerful than money, love. Love for the Bay Area and love of his favorite team growing up: The Oakland Raiders, as they’re family to Lynch in every sense of the word. Little known fact for Raider Nation, his uncle Lorenzo Lynch, played for the Raiders from 1996 to 1997.

With the upgrade in talent around them, the load shouldered by Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, should lighten. No longer will teams be able to consistently double-team one or the other. Cooper’s entering year three and needs to be a consistent threat throughout all 16 regular season games, and into the playoffs for the Raiders to maximize their performance. Cooper needs to be as effective as he was at Alabama. Crabtree should find even more room and be able to get lost in traffic and holes in zone because defenders will now be occupied with legitimate alternative threats.

The offensive line for the Raiders, which is massive, scary, and downright mean, added David Sharpe and Jylan Ware. The Raiders now have incredible depth on the offensive line which offensive-line coach Mike Tice is slowly bringing along.

The offense, which was ranked in the top-10 in scoring last season, got a lot better. If Lynch fresh off taking a year off to heal up from injury, can regain 85% of his “Beast Mode” form, the rest of the league’s in trouble. Should he be able to pull off a John Riggins-like career resurrection, Lynch could be the best back in the league. The defense, which lacked teeth in the middle of the field, someone who could cover the tight end, pocket push and athleticism at the corner position, addressed all of these needs in the draft. With fresh young talent on defense the Raiders have gotten scary good on paper so NFL you’ve been put on notice.

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Written by Philip Robinson III

Creator of silver and black truth. National Writer for cover32.com Contributor to RaiderRamble.com and cover32steelers. Blessed to be a man living his dream. I love factual debates, and discussion. Aspiring journalist.

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