In 2014, the Oakland Raiders assembled one of the best draft classes in franchise history — headlined by what looks to be an elite defender in Khalil Mack and a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr. The question was, how would Reggie McKenzie follow it up?
With another opportunity to pick in the top 5 and a full bevy of picks (10 by the time all was said and done), it appears that McKenzie continued the trend of rebuilding the team through the draft.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
(Round 1, pick 4)
In looking at the sheer numbers, it's hard to classify Cooper's rookie season as anything other than a smashing success. He finished the year with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and 6 touchdowns, good for 1st, 1st and t1st among rookies. With that said, there is a shred of disappointment that lingers due to a nagging foot injury that plagued the end of his season.
In his first six games, Cooper went over the 100-yard mark three times and hauled in three touchdowns. Over the last 10 games, however, he would secure the same number of scores while going over 100-yards just twice. Part of the reason was his propensity for drops — where he finished second in the league, with 10.
Ultimately, Cooper's rookie season was a success. If nothing else, he flashed brilliance and tortured defensive backs — giving Raider fans a glimpse into the future of their first franchise receiver in years.
Mario Edwards Jr., DE, Florida State
(Round 2, pick 35)
A surprise pick for most, it seemed, the Raiders bet on the athleticism they saw on film rather than the production and it definitely paid off. Before going down with an injury in Week 14, Edwards was improving at a rate unlike any of the other Oakland rookies — highlighted by a week 9 performance against Minnesota in which he recorded 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Like Cooper, Edwards looks to be a long-term building block for the franchise and a freakishly athletic and powerful partner for Mack — all assuming his concerning neck injury doesn't amount to much.
Clive Walford, TE, Miami (FL)
(Round 3, pick 68)
Despite being a third-round pick, Walford entered the season as one of the most anticipated rookies in recent seasons thanks to all the reports that were coming out of training camp. Unfortunately, an injury early in the season slowed his development and forced him to back up or split time among tight ends for most of the season.
Starting about Week 13 was when Walford started becoming a bigger part in the Oakland offense, receiving 26 targets over the final five games and hauling in 15 of them. Amongst rookies, Walford finished third in receptions, tied for second in yards and tied for first in receiving touchdowns. With a full off-season in front of him, expect a coming out party from Walford next season.
Jon Feliciano, OG, Miami
(Round 4, pick 128)
Drafted at a position of desperate need along the offensive line heading into the season, some wondered whether Feliciano would be plugged in as a starter from day one. Thanks to the emergence of J'Marcus Webb, however, Feliciano was given time to develop before being thrown into the fire.
Due to injuries, Feliciano did get a chance to start the final three weeks of the regular season where he seemed to hold his own at right guard. With Webb a free agent, it will be interesting to see how much faith the Raiders have in Feliciano in deciding whether to bring him back — and whether he would return as a starter or Feliciano's backup.
(Interesting note about Feliciano: the Raiders traded down four spots with Tampa Bay, securing a seventh-round pick in the process — Anthony Morris. With that pick, however, the Buccaneers selected MLB Kwon Alexander, who finished the season with the third-most tackles among rookies — 97.)
Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas
(Round 5, pick 140)
Like Walford and Feliciano, Heeney also had to bide his time before he got the opportunity to make a major impact for the Raiders. Once Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. realized that Curtis Lofton had zero chance at covering tight ends, Heeney got the chance to step in and play. Having played just nine snaps in the first eight weeks, Heeney 298 over the second half of the season — including over 65% in the final three weeks.
On the season, Heeney finished with 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. As the season was coming to an end, middle linebacker looked to be a major need heading into this off-season. It will be interesting to see if Heeney's play down the stretch changed that at all.
Neiron Ball, LB, Florida
(Round 5, pick 161)
Like Heeney, Ball benefited from the Curtis Lofton disaster before his own season was cut short by injury. Ball played as many as 62% of the team's snaps in week 5 before an injury in week 6 ended his season. Ball's impact was primarily in pass coverage, and so it seems reasonable to assume that Ball will have a definite role next season — especially on passing downs.
He finished the season with nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Max Valles, DE, Virginia
(Round 6, pick 179)
Valles never saw the field for the Raiders, and while he was assigned to the practice squad, he was eventually claimed by the Buffalo Bills.
Anthony Morris, OT, Tennessee State
(Round 7, pick 218)
Morris was cut by the Raiders.
Andre Debose, WR/KR, Florida
(Round 7, pick 221)
Debose suffered a season-ending injury before the season even began, leaving him on the injured/reserve list. It will be interesting to see whether he gets a chance this off-season to fill the returner role they probably envisioned him in before the injury.
Dexter McDonald, DB, Kansas
(Round 7, pick 242)
At a position of need, there was a decent chance for McDonald to make the Oakland roster. Unfortunately, while he made the team, he never made much of an impact. McDonald played in five games for the Raiders, but didn't see the field beyond week 6, finishing with four tackles.
Tevin McDonald, S, Eastern Washington
McDonald began the season on the practice squad, but was called up to the active roster in September. Eventually, he saw action in four separate games for Oakland — with all of his action on defense coming in week 8. In total, he was promoted four times and waived three times, finishing the season on the active roster. He finished the season with one tackle.
Gabe Holmes, TE, Purdue
Like Tevin McDonald, Holmes began the season on the practice squad but eventually got promoted to the active roster in November.
Leon Orr, DT, Florida
The most successful of the UDFA, Orr played 76 snaps for the Raiders in weeks 13, 15 and 16 after being promoted to the active roster in December. He finished the season with two tackles.
SaQwan Edwards, CB, New Mexico
Spent all season on the team's practice squad. Was called up for the final game of the season, but was inactive for the game.
Mitchell Bell, OG, Louisiana Tech
Spent the season on the practice squad. Signed to a reserve/future contract following the season.