The Oakland Raiders playoff hopes are a distant memory with the team staring at a possible 6-10 finish. As such, it is now time to look ahead to what the off-season might yield to the Silver and Black in the 2018 NFL draft.
Oakland still has loads of improvement needed in all phases of the game, so this draft will be vital to round out the 2018 squad that takes the field come next August. It is where hope always springs eternal and where the Silver & Black must hit home runs in a very pivotal weekend for the organization. And don’t forget, a bevy of things will happen between now and then, so please take this with a grain of salt.
Round 1 – Roquan Smith LB Georgia
Pros: Smith seems like a “can’t miss” prospect as a rising selection who nearly everybody wants to draft. Smith was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, SEC Championship game MVP, and 2017 Dick Butkus award winner for the nation’s best linebacker. The Georgia product can diagnose plays swiftly and roams from sideline to sideline with a mean streak mentality. Smith is an elite choice who only knows how to improve his status it seems like every chance he gets.
Cons: With Smith’s 6-foot-1 size and clocking in around 4.6 in the forty-yard-dash, he may have some tough times with faster running backs and tight ends. Other than that Smith just doesn’t have many glaring flaws in his game.
Raiders Fit: Oakland yearns for a play-maker like this at linebacker who can lead this defense to new heights. Smith would be an automatic upgrade and starter from Day One guaranteed.
Round 2 – Derek Nnadi DT Florida State
Pros: Nnadi will probably test out as the strongest player at the NFL combine in February. Per Warchant.com, he benches 525 pounds, while squatting a mere 750. Because of his rare strength, Nnadi can push the pocket and force double teams to command his respect. This former Seminole is a stout run defender who allows others on the line to make things happen in a destructive way.
Cons: Nnadi hovers around six feet tall and is often easily slowed down due to his huge size of 300 plus pounds. Also, one would have to wonder if Nnadi takes plays off because of exhaustion.
Raiders Fit: Nnandi would create many sack opportunities for edge-rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin as well as clogging up the opponents run game. These first two picks could shore up Oakland’s middle for a long time to come.
Round 3 – Holton Hill CB Texas
Pros: Hill is a prototype at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and runs the forty-yard-dash in the 4.5 range. This former Longhorn was battle tested in the pass-happy Big 12 conference, which bodes well as he approaches draft day. Hill went up against Oklahoma State’s potent offensive attack and helped force them to a season-low in passing yards and points. He is physical and quick to recognize the run while knowing when to punish the man with the rock. Hill has a nose for the football, helping him to score multiple touchdowns throughout his career at Texas.
Cons: Unfortunately, Hill has failed drug tests and was suspended midway through the 2017 season. The disciplinary problems for Hill can make or break his prospective draft status. Hill has the upside of a first round pick but his off the field actions will cost him a fall and money in the draft.
Raiders Fit: General manager Reggie McKenzie has shown he loves tall cornerbacks who can cover bigger receivers. If this youngster can keep his head on straight, then I believe he could hold a bright career with the Silver & Black.
Round 4 – Cedrick Wilson WR Boise State
Pros: The 6-foot-3 wide receiver set a single-season record for yards in 2017 with 1,512. Wilson is coming off a Las Vegas Bowl performance with 10-catches, 221receiving yards, and one touchdown grab to boot. Wilson is speedy and has the ability to return punts as well, which is a need for Oakland moving forward. The former Boise State Bronco may very well come off the board earlier than this because of his eye-popping senior campaign, but if he falls, the Raiders would be wise to select him.
Cons: He has to learn to run block better. Pro Football Focus rated him at 51.7 for his protection in the run game as a junior, a mark that must improve in the pro game.
Raiders Fit: Oakland needs a giant pass catcher who can get 4th down conversions, as well as jump balls all over the field. Wilson would be a steal if the Raiders got him this late and provide a jolt to an underwhelming receiving core.
As I mentioned above, a litany of changes will come between now and April, so this is just a relative guess at this point on the calendar. We will all know more after the all the underclassmen declare for the draft, the combine results, and when free agency fully develops. So until then hold tight and “Ramble On” Raider Nation.