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Checking in with Raiders 2017 rookie draft class at midseason

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Shield your eyes.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, hey. Just checking in to see how that there rookie class is doing. We’re 9 games into the 2017 season in which the Raiders had Super Bowl aspirations. Filling some holes in the draft was a must, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Here’s how they’ve performed so far.

Round 1: CB Gareon Conley

Games 2, starts 0, snaps 92, tackles 7, PD 1

He left June minicamps with an injured shin that kept him out all of training camp. In the meantime he was dealing with sexual assault allegations. Midway through camp, the allegations were dismissed with no charges. That same day Reggie McKenzie said Conley had shin splints. Not long after, Conley mocked the idea he had shin splints, even retweeting someone saying it was the media making up “fake news”. Presumably he didn’t realize the characterization came from the man who took a chance on him in the draft (face palm). So, yeah, getting off on the wrong foot in more ways than one.

Conley missed the season opener, appeared in games in weeks 2-3, and has been shut down ever since. Next week they will decide if he will return at all this season or be sent to injured reserve. Certainly could have used his services over the team’s 4-5 start. Or at very least the roster spot he’s occupied.

Round 2: S Obi Melifonwu

Games 1, starts 0, snaps 7, tackles 3

Coming off injured reserve last week was Melifonwu. Another guy for whom the team had big plans and really could’ve used over the first 9 games while they continue to have series issues covering the tight end. His progress will be interesting to watch over the final seven games. Again, this secondary could really use him.

Round 3: DT Eddie Vanderdoes

Games 9, starts 9, tackles 7, sacks 0

When you have fewer tackles than starts, there’s a problem. How bad has Vanderdoes been this season? In 141 run snaps this season, he has 5 run stops. FIVE. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranks 65 out of 72 defensive interior players with 100+ run snaps this season. He got some decent pressure in the season opener, but since then he’s generated just 4 pressures.

He is getting the starts that last year’s rookie second round pick Jihad Ward got. After Ward was completely ineffective last season, he has been inactive six games this season. And Vanderdoes has actually been even worse.

Round 4: OT David Sharpe

Games 1, starts 0, snaps 7 (Spec tms only)

He may be the team’s tackle of the future, but he’s not offering anything of benefit at the moment.

Round 5: LB Marquel Lee

Games 6, starts 5, tackles 18 (13 solo)

Lee was lost to an ankle injury in week five. In the meantime his spot in the starting lineup has been replaced by recently released former 49ers linebacker, NaVorro Bowman. It’s like deja vu from last season when rookie Cory James was starting at middle linebacker until the team finally decided to add a real middle linebacker, signing Perry Riley. I don’t expect Lee will see the field much the remainder of the season. Bowman has led the team in tackles all three games since he arrived.

Round 7a: S Shalom Luani

Games 9, starts 1, tackles 7 (6 solo)

Two weeks ago in Buffalo, Luani got the start with the injury to Karl Joseph. It was a rough start for Luani. He made some nice tackles, but had a lapse in coverage that resulted in a big catch by former Raiders’ WR Andre Holmes to set up the Bills’ game-sealing touchdown to start the fourth quarter. The rest of the season, he’s been relegated to special teams work.

Round 7b: OT Jylan Ware

Inactive every game this season.

Round 7c: RB Elijah Hood

Games 1, starts 0, snaps 8 (all on special teams)

He was called up from the practice squad for one game when Marshawn Lynch was suspended. Afterward, he was again waived and placed back on the practice squad.

Round 7d: DT Treyvon Hester

Games 9, starts 0, tackles 8 (5 solo), sacks 0

Remember how we said how bad Vanderdoes has been? Hester, in zero starts, has one more tackle, but otherwise has been just as bad.

At least Hester is a 7th round pick instead of a third rounder.

Overall

Draft picks 9, games 39, starts 15

The only regular starter at the moment is Eddie Vanderdoes. And he hasn’t exactly earned that job. He is getting starts which Denico Autry should be getting, even though he’s only had more snaps than Autry in three games this season. Again, this is just like what happened last season with Jihad Ward.

Melifonwu is back, offering the best hope the team will be able to get a positive contribution from anyone in this class this season. Otherwise, it’s been an utterly brutal draft class so far.

As for undrafted rookies, Nicholas Morrow is the find there. He’s outshined anyone in the draft class. The only other undrafted rookie on the roster — unless you count first year journeyman kicker Giorgio Tavecchio — is linebacker Xavier Woodson Luster.