Everybody has an opinion on the Raiders’ draft. Let’s take a look around the NFL world to see what some of them are saying about how the Raiders performed in this year’s draft.
*The worst grade given to any team, tied with the Seahawks.
Day 1 grade: C
Day 2 grade: C-
Day 3 grade: A
Overall grade: C
The skinny: With many top-notch defenders on the board, the Raiders took an athletic but inconsistent tackle in Miller. His tape did not put him in the mid-first round. The team did get a third- and fifth-round pick in the trade to with Arizona to move five picks down (from 10 to 15), so that’s a plus. Hall was one of my favorite non-FBS players in this draft, but his ascension to the second round was astounding. I believe his quickness and tenacious nature will translate to the NFL. Parker is raw and a bit of a reach in the early third, especially for a team that already picked an offensive tackle in Round 1. The Raiders took a chance on Key, who struggled with issues and injuries during his college career. If he can straighten things out, maybe he’ll use his length to become a potent pass rusher. The Raiders traded for a couple veteran receivers -- Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer -- over the course of the draft. Ateman is another pass catcher who could make the team with his strong hands and physicality. Nelson adds much-needed competition to the team’s cornerback group. Oakland doctors signed off on Hurst, a first-round talent who was diagnosed with a heart condition at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s going to be a star. Townsend was picked in an appropriate place in the draft, and will replace Marquette King.
The worst grade given to any team, tied with the Chiefs.
Jon Gruden’s first draft back as an NFL coach was strange. It began by trading down from No. 10 to 15 to take UCLA left tackle Kolton Miller. He’s a solid prospect, but he needs a lot of work. Hopefully it can happen in a hurry because Donald Penn just turned 35. Miller is just an unrefined athlete who needs to be coached up. The Raiders opened the third round by taking North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker. He’s an obviously talented player, but raw as well.
Can line coach Tom Cable do in Oakland what he struggled to do in Seattle the past few seasons?
Edge rusher Arden Key was another puzzling choice. He’s a situational pass rusher who needs to get much stronger in the NFL. He has some off-field issues, which caused him to fall to 87th overall. The Raiders also used a pick on Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson, who may not play this season due to injury.
The best choices Oakland made were on the defensive line. In the second round they picked up disruptive Sam Houston State tackle P.J. Hall. Then in the fifth round they stopped the free fall of Maurice Hurst. The Raiders are suddenly disruptive up the middle.
*Second worst grade given to any team. The only team who fared worse was the Bills (D)
Draft picks: OT Kolton Miller (UCLA), DT P.J. Hall (Sam Houston State), OT Brandon Parker (NC A&T), OLB Arden Key (LSU), CB Nick Nelson (Wisconsin), DT Maurice Hurst (Michigan), P Johnny Townsend (Florida), ILB Azeem Victor (Washington), WR Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State)
This first draft for Reggie McKenzie with Jon Gruden as coach seemed to have a little disconnect after the solid first-round selection of Miller. Hall and Parker were developmental reaches, while Key, even with his pass-rush upside, carries considerable baggage. Hurst was taken off most teams’ boards because of medical concerns and could end up being a throwaway pick. Ateman is intriguing but also a weird pick, as Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer were acquired during the draft. Too many Gruden grinders, not enough Gruden gems.
*Only the Seahawks (D+) and Rams (C-) got worse grades.
Jon Gruden wanted to get better on the offensive line, and he did, but what about the defensive issues? They still need corner and linebacker help, but didn’t take a corner until the fourth round when they took Nick Nelson from Wisconsin. He is coming off a knee injury he suffered at a workout in April. First-round pick Kolton Miller is a good player, and they did add picks to trade down in the first round before taking him. Third-round right tackle Brandon Parker is raw, but he has skills. They got a nice inside player on defense in P.J. Hall in the second round. He’s a smallish, push-the-pocket tackle. Third-round pass rusher Arden Key could be a major steal. He had some off-field issues that drove his value down, but he has the ability to be a major force off the edge. Fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst could be a steal if he’s medically OK.
*Easily the most generous of these grades.
Top needs: Cornerback, inside linebacker, offensive tackle
Two things are pretty clear to me in looking at this Raiders draft: They know that if they don’t protect Derek Carr they’re in trouble, and they’re willing to bet that new coach Jon Gruden and his staff can develop some high-ceiling talent that also comes with risk. The Raiders moved down in Round 1 and landed Kolton Miller (pick 15), who reminds me of former Patriot and newly-minted Giants left tackle Nate Solder. This is a great athlete with a huge frame who projects as a good NFL left tackle if you maximize the talent. There’s no guarantee. Third-round pick Brandon Parker (65) is the same in that he’s got the frame, but new O-line coach Tom Cable has his work cut out for him. Protect Carr and you’re competitive, and with Donald Penn now 35, it’s clear that’s the objective.
Arden Key (87) has legit top-10 talent but off-field concerns that had him available late in Round 3. If Gruden and staff can keep Key focused, this could be a home-run pick ... but the risk is clear. Maurice Hurst (140) was off the boards of some teams because of a medical condition that arose at the combine. Again, this is a first-round talent at defensive tackle. I like the Raiders’ willingness to place some bets. But I also just listed four players who all come with varying degrees of risk.
Elsewhere, Nick Nelson (110) has a shot to help a secondary that needs bodies, and Johnny Townsend (173), my top-ranked punter, should fill in capably for the departed Marquette King. At the end of the day, this draft might be defined by what Cable is able to do. And if Key is solid off the field, watch out. High risk, high reward.
Well there you have it. Mostly very poor overall grades.