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Raiders 2018 Draft awards, grades, ranking from biggest steal to biggest reach

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Colorado v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Monday we posted a round-up of grades from across the NFL world. Those grades don’t mean much by themselves, but when placed in context of their grades of all teams, it provides an accurate idea of their opinion of it. And in most cases, the Raiders were either the lowest graded, or nearly the lowest.

Being that we only cover the Raiders around here, a stand alone grade may not mean a whole lot because if I give them a C, for all you know I may not give any team a grade lower than that. All we can do is cover the picks as compared to the team’s other picks. So that’s what I’ll do.

Biggest steal

Maurice Hurst, Round 5 (140)

Grade: A+

Fan grade: A+

Before the combine in which he was dismissed for an irregular result on his heart, Hurst was considered a top 10 pick in the draft. The best 3-tech DT talent in the draft and arguably the best overall interior lineman with Vita Vea as his primary competition for that honor.

After the red flag on his heart, Hurst came off most NFL teams’ boards and fell way down others. Meanwhile Vea was selected at 12 overall by the Buccaneers.

Basically the Raiders played this one perfectly. They waited until the 5th round and then pounced, trading up from pick 159 to pick 140 to ensure they got him.

Some would ask, ‘well, if they were so sure he was going to be fine, why not take him sooner?’ Essentially, it’s because they’re not sure...about him long term. They are sure of him right now. And for that reason, the fifth round is exactly when any team that felt similarly would take a chance on him. The fifth round is when players’ salaries become low enough that they fall outside of the top 51 and therefore don’t count against the salary cap.

They figured once the round started, other teams would be open to taking Hurst as well, and they were probably right. They moved up 19 picks and got the guy who, without the heart questions, would have been an ideal pick at their original 10th overall selection.

Great pick here

Arden Key, round 3 (87)

Grade: A-

Fan grade: A

While there’s no way he’s an “automatic” top pick based on talent alone, he is arguably one of the best pass rushind defensive ends in the draft. His off the field issues had him drop to the bottom of the third round. But even with those issues, most projections I saw had him going early on day two. When you can get him this late, you take him and offer some pass rush to spell Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack.

Right pick at right time

Nick Nelson, round 4 (110)

Grade: A-

Fan grade: A

With all the cornerbacks the team signed in the offseason, the position had gained a lot of competition and made it less of a priority than positions like offensive tackle and defensive tackle. Both of those positions were addressed in the first two rounds. Come day three, the Raiders looked to the cornerback position, getting Nick Nelson out of Wisconsin. Nelson had an impressive 21 pass breakups last season for the Badgers. He has never had an interceptions, which could be the main reason why he fell this far in the draft. Otherwise, he is a very talented and physical cornerback who doesn’t get burnt. He adds return abilities as well.

Johnny Townsend, round 5 (173)

Grade: B-

Fan grade: B

I have seen some say that taking a punter in round five was too high. Or that they should have just kept Marquette King instead. Let’s be clear though. The Raiders got Townsend at pick 173. The final pick in the 5th was 174. And the Raiders had already taken Maurice Hurst earlier in the round. The Raiders had also traded all but one of their 6th rounders, keeping just pick 216 which is near the end. To say the Raiders wasted a 5th rounder on Townsend is a real stretch. If anything, they would have been better served to trade up in the fifth (again) to get Michael Dickson who went to the Seahawks at pick 149. But by then, they didn’t have much ammunition to make that jump.

Marcell Ateman, round 7 (228)

Grade: B+

Fan grade: N/A

Ateman had a horrendous combine. His 40 time was slow (4.62) and he was eaten up in the gauntlet drill. But if you just look at his tape, as well as his size (6-4, 216) he could have gone much higher. For a guy who was sent deep as much as he was, he dropped just 3 passes on 63 catchable passes last season. This is a classic case of the Raiders looking at the board and picking a player they thought should have been gone already as well as who fills a need and making the pick.

Most intriguing

PJ Hall, round 2 (57)

Grade: C+

Fan grade: B (32%), F (29%)

There was no question coming into this draft the Raiders liked PJ Hall. He checked all the boxes for them. He has phenomenal production at Sam Houston State (42.0 sacks, 86.5 TFL, 9 FFs, 33 PD’s) is an incredible athlete for his size (6-0, 310), and perfectly filled a need on the team. The only question was where they would take him. His lower level competition had most projecting him in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders traded down from 41 to 57 to get their guy. Still higher than projections, but if another team had gotten him before they did in the third, projections be damned.

Slight reach for major need

Kolton Miller. round 1 (15)

Grade: C+

Fan grade: B (28%), C (25%). F (25%)

On one hand you could say that Miller was supposed to go at this spot because other teams were looking to draft him as well. On the other hand, that had a lot to do with the an overall weak draft class at the tackle position. It sucks for the Raiders that Mike McGlinchey was taken just ahead of them by the 49ers. They could have taken the best value on the board, they could have taken Kolton Miller at 10. But instead they traded to 15 and got him.

They probably should have gotten more for their trade down five spots than a third and fifth round picks. The Cardinals were trading up to get a franchise quarterback, so they should pay handsomely for that. Then at 15 Derwin James was still available. They didn’t take him allowing for the division rival Chargers to get him two picks later.

Where you can’t fault the Raiders is filling a major need. After Miller, there was a drop off at the position. Some would argue that drop off started after McGlinchey. So, at least they traded down and picked up a couple more draft picks before reaching for need.

Whatever

Azeem Victor, round 6 (216)

Grade: C-

Fan grade: N/A

Another one of those ‘too little, too late’ inside linebacker picks by the Raiders. They just don’t draft linebackers on the first two days. The only one that appears to be working out is Cory James and what we knew about him coming out of college was that he had played every linebacker spot, making him versatile and an ideal special teams guy as a 6th round pick. Victor would be a questionable pick any higher than this based on his onfield play alone. Tack on his injuries along with his DUI arrest and failed drug test that had him suspended twice and it’s like...whatever.

Biggest reach

Brandon Parker, round 3 (65)

Grade: D+

Fan grade: F (28%), C (27%)

This one came out of nowhere. Not only is it doubling up on one position with other positions that need filling, they did it with a highly questionable player who faced lower level competition, and they traded up to the very top of the third round sending a 5th and 6th round pick to the Ravens. I have nothing good to say about this selection. If you’re thinking he is just a great player from a small school, check Pro Football Focus numbers.

Jon Gruden said Parker caught his eye at the Senior Bowl. According to PFF, Parker gave up 2 sacks and 6 pressures in that game. And every other time Parker faced even slightly higher levels of competition, he played poorly.

For those who argue the Raiders needed more than one offensive tackle, there were other more accomplished and proven tackles still on the board that would satisfy that. Like Orlando Brown, Joe Noteboom, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Tyrell Crosby. None of whom would they have needed to trade up to get either.

And, no, re-arranging the draft order to put Parker in the late rounds doesn’t change things. Taking him later with all the above options already gone is very different than taking him in the top of the third while throwing away two draft picks in the process.