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Raiders draft needs 2017

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It’s draft month! With the calendar switching to April, draft coverage kicks into high gear as we count down the days to the NFL’s offseason Super Bowl.

That also means, free agency is pretty much in the rear view, so let’s take a look at where the Raiders draft needs stand now. And with seven rounds, we lay out seven positions.

1. Linebacker

One of the moves the Raiders made in free agency was to sign Jelani Jenkins to a one-year deal. The Raiders are hoping he can fill the weakside linebacker spot previously held by Malcolm Smith with the likes of Ben Heeney and Cory James competing for playing time as well. But the question of what to do at middle linebacker still haunts them. There is likely to be a few good options on the board when they pick at 24 overall.

2. Defensive tackle

To not get a big interior defensive lineman sometime before day three of the draft would be a very risky proposition. This position needs serious help both from a run stopping and a pass rush perspective. Right now, there is no clear cut starting nose tackle and little in the way of depth. Stacy McGee left as a free agent and Dan Williams is a prime cut candidate once the team drafts a replacement. That would leave Justin Ellis as the only true nose on the team and he has never been much more than a rotational player over his career.

3. Cornerback

A deep cornerback draft is fantastic news for the Raiders. They need help at the cornerback spot and there is a lot of potential to get a great prospect early in the draft. Specifically, they need speed. They need someone who can man the inside to shadow speedy slot receivers. Right now they have Sean Smith and David Amerson, both of whom are big outside corners. TJ Carrie has been serviceable as a nickel corner and spot starter, but an upgrade is needed.

4. Offensive tackle

As they usually do, the Raiders made their free agent priority offensive line. The first signing they made was offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse. This isn’t a signing one would call a blockbuster, but the Raiders didn’t make any big splash additions this offseason like they had the previous two offseasons. Should they keep Austin Howard and his $6 million salary, Newhouse would presumably compete with him for the right tackle spot. Should the Raiders find a player they like in the draft, Howard could also be out. The other tackle in the mix is last year’s seventh round pick, Vadal Alexander. At left tackle, Donald Penn is entering what could be his final NFL season, so the team must start thinking about his replacement.

5. Safety

Reggie Nelson is in the final year of his contract and there is no depth at the position. Nelson and Karl Joseph are the starters with the shaky Keith McGill as the only backup. They let Nate Allen and Brynden Trawick leave in free agency and therefore must find suitable replacements at very least. What they decide to do at safety will be very interesting. I wouldn’t even be shocked if they looked at the position early in the draft.

6. Running back

Should the Raiders be able to get Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, that would change this, obviously. But until that happens, there is a need there after the team let Latavius Murray leave in free agency. What they need is a big back who can be a three-down back and work in short yardage. Keep in mind that the Raiders have just one full back on the roster in Jamize Olawale. So even with the Lynch situation uncertain, they could still select a back in the draft.

7. Wide receiver

Though the team added Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, don’t rule out the possibility that if the right guy were on the board when they pick, they’d draft a receiver too. They still need a good slot receiver option.