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In ranking potential immediate impact of Raiders rookie class there is a clear favorite

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2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A major problem with last year’s rookie class was a near complete lack of an impact. Each year a team expects their draft class will come in and contribute to making the team better, and that just didn’t happen. The top two picks Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu were both injured most of the season and the rest of the class was a dud.

Can we expect more from this year’s class? It’s possible. Here’s how the class is looking so far with regard to how much impact they can expect to make this season.

Potential starter

Maurice Hurst

No team would touch Hurst through four rounds of the draft due to his heart condition. Whether another team would have taken a chance on him in the 5th round is hard to say. His talent level could have had him chosen in the top ten, perhaps even the top five, if not for the concerns about his heart.

Thus far he has been as advertised and will be a strong competitor for Mario Edwards Jr for the starting 3-tech spot. At very least he will rotate with Edwards which would mean significant playing time and some starts.

Immediate impact

Johnny Townsend

Special teamers aren’t “starters” per se. But Townsend is the team’s new punter. Chosen with the Raiders next selection in the fifth round after Hurst, Townsend is the only punter on the team. He replaces Marquette King whose nonsense and contract outweighed his position and so he was cut this offseason.

Eddy Pineiro (undrafted)

Townsend was Pineiro’s holder in college. The Florida kicker missed a field goal in the first game of last season and then didn’t miss again the rest of the season. Giorgio Tavecchio is also still on the team, but it’s Pineiro’s job to lose.

Spot duties

Arden Key

Key is a pass rusher. Along with free agent addition Tank Carradine, he will play a handful of snaps behind Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack. Like Hurst, it wasn’t his talent that caused him to drop in the draft. The Raiders selected him late in the third round, but without his character red flags, he was a fringe first round talent.

Nick Nelson

Injury caused Nelson to tumble a bit in the draft. He tore his meniscus in a workout with the Lions. He was pegged as a round two or three talent and the Raiders got him in the fourth. He is expected to be fully recovered from his injury by training camp at which point he will compete to get on the field in nickel or dime packages.

Next man up

Kolton Miller

From the looks of it, Miller will have to wait behind Donald Penn to be the team’s next left tackle. Penn has been the first team left tackle in walk-thrus in offseason practices and looks to be on track to return full by training camp. Nothing is set in stone here, but until we see otherwise, Miller will bide his time to take over as the starter.

PJ Hall

Thus far the second round pick has been a project. His best chance to see the field would be to prove he is worthy of rotating in on passing downs and special teams. Otherwise we may not see much from him this season.

Brandon Parker

Their high third round pick is also a project. He has been behind Breno Giacomini and Ian Silberman at right tackle in practices. I expect he will at least end up as the primary backup right tackle this season based on his third round draft position.

Fighting for roster spot

Azeem Victor

There is a lot of work ahead for Victor to climb the depth chart. If this sixth round linebacker does make the roster, he would likely see only special teams.

Marcell Ateman

If the team can find a trade partner for Seth Roberts, that would open up a spot at wide receiver. Ateman was the team’s final pick in the seventh round. He is a big red zone target and that could be nice to have, but every position is a numbers game so he would have to prove himself invaluable for the team to keep six receivers and bump someone else off. Practice squad may be in the cards.

All other undrafted rookies

The only undrafted rookie other than Eddy Pineiro who showed any flashes this offseason was safety Dallin Leavitt. Keep in mind, most positions are hard to judge in shorts and shells. But last offseason the only undrafted rookie who stood out was Breon Borders and he didn’t make the team. On the other hand undrafted linebacker Nicholas Morrow who had the greatest impact of all the rookies. You just never know, but for now they all have a long way to go.