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Raiders 2018 Draft Pick or Pass: CB Denzel Ward

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Would the Raiders be smart to draft one of the top cornerbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft with the 10th overall pick?

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders secondary will be unrecognizable from last season as the team added Marcus Gilchrist, Rashaan Melvin, and Shareece Wright in free agency. Rookies Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu are also expected to return from injuries.

While Conley and Melvin have the potential to be a dynamic cornerback duo, the Raiders could certainly use another impact player in the secondary. One prospect that might fit the mold of what Oakland is looking for is Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. Should the Silver and Black select the First-Team All-American with the 10th overall pick, or would they be better off looking in a different direction?

Tyler Green (@TylerGreenSB)

Denzel Ward has the makings to be a productive starter in the NFL as he compares similarly to Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett. There is no question the former Buckeye would help out the Raiders secondary.

That being said, I think Ward has been overrated by the media, often being seen as a top-five or top-ten talent. I disagree with the common perception and rank him around 15-25. When you consider the top talent that will be available when the Raiders select at 10 overall, bypassing those elite prospects for Ward would yield poor value.

Now if the Raiders decide to trade down which could be a great option, Ward should definitely be in play. But there is no way Oakland should take the Ohio State cornerback over stars such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Roquan Smith, and Vita Vea.

Verdict: PASS

RDreamer (@RaiderDamus)

There’s little question that the Raiders secondary needs help. It’s been a weak spot for many years. Denzel Ward would be a tantalizing prospect to pair with his former college teammate, Gareon Conley. Ward is slightly smaller, but is a better athlete than Conley.

However, the Raiders’ signing of Rashaan Melvin makes cornerback a position that can wait in the draft. The Raiders have bigger needs, namely linebacker and defensive tackle, which have not been fully addressed in free agency. Unless Saquon Barkley falls, I’d be hard-pressed to see Oakland go in another direction after neglecting those positions for so long. Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay teams had Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, so he knows the value of having a dominant front seven.

Verdict: PASS

BD Williams (@BDWilliams18)

Denzel Ward is a fun corner to watch who has a unique highlight reel filled with as many big hits as pass break ups. He can play bigger than his size (5’11 ~185lbs) due to his explosiveness and willingness to get physical—so there is no question about his heart or desire. Ward has the agility and speed to become an elite man corner in the NFL.

That being said, Ward’s game isn’t without holes and he has a tendency to get grabby when WRs get out of their breaks. He plays with his back to the football and struggles to get his head around, which won’t work against most the Quarterbacks in NFL who will simply take back shoulder all day. There is a valid concern his play style will be heavily penalized while wearing Silver and Black. Ward also struggled on tape vs bigger WRs and seems to lose his effectiveness in press coverage inside the red-zone. In a CB class where none are as good as the CBs coming off the board early in 2017 (Lattimore and Humphrey), the value for Ward at 10 just isn’t there.

Verdict: PASS

Ryan Lipton (@Rytime98)

Ward is another exciting defensive prospect who as all the makings of becoming a starting NFL cornerback. He posses elite man-to-man coverage skills, only allowed a completion rate of 35.1 percent on passes thrown his way, and breathtaking speed shown by his 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine.

Oakland could definitely use another sticky coverage guy, who should also have some chemistry with Gareon Conley, to place in the slot and revamp this poor pass defense from a year ago. If this pick is made, along with the recent additions in the secondary, it would provide this defense with plenty of potential for 2018 in the secondary.

I wouldn’t mind Oakland taking Ward for those reasons above, but it should ultimately be a pass. There are too many other elite players that would help improve the pass rush or linebacker situation at No. 10.

Verdict: PASS

Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)

At the risk of this getting too redundant, I’ll make this brief. Right off the top, if the Raiders made this pick, I could see the logic behind it. Cornerback is still a need for this team and if they think Ward is the best, take him.

Where I waver is I don’t think he’s for sure better than several other top corners in this draft. This class is so deep at cornerback, you can likely still get a fantastic talent at the top of the second round and focus on a more surefire talent with the top pick. And also, an Ohio State cornerback for the second straight year at their top pick? Really?

Verdict: PASS


Should the Raiders draft Denzel Ward?

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