We’ve examined a number of the traditional projections for Oakland with the No. 24 pick — but Reggie McKenzie is notorious for grabbing guys no one else expected. In his first full draft it was DJ Hayden, and just last year it was Karl Joseph — both highly rated players, but not guys projected to be gone as early as they were.
It’s no secret Oakland has needs all over the place on defense and with a draft class deep in defensive talent, it’s possible someone has caught Reggie McKenzie’s eye. But what about our writers?
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel)
It’s funny because I feel like a couple of the guys I like that might be considered a stretch for the first round are folks we’ve already covered (Zach Cunningham, Garrett Bolles). For me, this first rounder must be dictated by need. Identify your three biggest needs and make damn sure you fill one of them in the first.
That said, I’m going to go with Dalvin Tomlinson from Alabama — probably too big of a reach for the first, but it wouldn’t be the worst pick in the world. The reason I like this guy is entirely based on his background: had grades to go to Harvard after high school, played soccer (just imagine that for a guy who’s now 6’3”, 310 pounds) and wrestled (three time state champion), and then he went to Bama and learned how to play defense.
By all accounts, the motor is great and he’s willing to do the little things that make a team defense successful. Add in the need for some dudes to clog the middle of the line (and occupy blocks for Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin) and I think Tomlinson could be appealing for Big Reg.
Dan LeBaron (@DTLeBaron)
The guy I like is Obi Melifonwu from Connecticut.
The Raiders' biggest areas of need are linebacker and defensive line, but Melifonwu has the potential to be really special. Reggie Nelson puts up flashy interception totals, but will be 34 next season and is a few steps behind in coverage far too often.
Melifonwu was the star of the NFL combine, finishing as the top safety in the 40 yard dash, vert jump and broad jump despite his enormous 6-4, 225 pound frame. In his final year at UConn he led the Huskies with 4 interceptions to go along with 118 total tackles. He is a ferocious hitter, but has also flashed soft hands that could make him a ball hawk at the next level.
His game is reminiscent of a young Kam Chancellor, which is basically the best compliment you can give to a safety prospect. Drafting Melifonwu and pairing him opposite the ascending Karl Joseph would give the Raiders one of the more intriguing young safety tandems in the NFL.
There are two big-time safety prospects firmly in the Top 10 of this draft- Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams. But there is one who is under the radar and might be just as good. I'm also talking about Obi Melifonwu of the University of Connecticut.
Melifonwu makes a ton of sense for the Raiders. Reggie Nelson is productive, but old and probably only has one good season left in him. The Raiders need a slot corner, but taking a CB3 in the first round seems like poor value when the Raiders have two really strong corners on the outside. There isn't much first-round DT value and I prefer Raekwon "Tha Chef" McMillan to any of the late first-round linebackers. So why not draft Obi, who can play corner as well as safety, and give the Raiders the best young safety tandem in the NFL with Karl Joseph?
Obi is a colossal safety at 6'4" and 229 lbs. He excels covering tight ends and can play a ball-hawking single-high center field while also being stout against the run. He is as impressive a physical prospect as you will find in this draft. The Raiders should look long and hard at Obi. The last time Oakland took a safety from UConn, it was a kid named Tyvon Branch who turned out to be pretty good.
Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)
Well, since we’ve already covered cornerbacks overall as well as offensive linemen and several linebackers, there aren’t a lot of positions that could go here. I like Obi Melifonwu as well, but at the risk of this article being considerably redundant, I’ll give you another sleeper pick not mentioned — Alabama offensive tackle, Cam Robinson.
The offensive line has one weakness and it is at right tackle and after this season, you can add left tackle to that as well. They added Marshall Newhouse in the offseason, but expecting him to be the answer at right tackle is a gamble. And keeping Austin Howard around would mean another season of potentially paying $6 million for a backup. Robinson would offer great competition with Newhouse and Vadal Alexander the next two seasons making for a much more favorable tackle situation.
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