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Grading Raiders 2018 rookie draft class

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2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

With the 2019 draft season in full swing, what better time than now to look back and reflect upon the 2018 class. The Raiders made a total of nine picks. Of the nine picks, all but one was on the active roster at some point (Azeem Victor).

As a whole, the eight picks on the active roster played an average on 49.4 percent of the total snaps, and by the end of the season Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, Arden Key, PJ Hall, Maurice Hurst, and Marcell Ateman were all seeing time in the starting lineup. That’s a fairly large number considering many of the selections were not drafted with the intentions of being starters.

This week in an interview at the senior bowl, general manager Mike Mayock said he expects a big jump from his second year players.

Round 1 - OT Kolton Miller

Grade: C-

There are two tales to Miller’s rookie season. He was drafted knowing that he was not a finished product, growing pains were to be expected. Also, Miller should be commended for playing through several injuries, including a sprained MCL.

On the other hand, Miller was selected 15th overall ahead of Derwin James, Leighton Vander Esch, and Tremaine Edmunds all players who had superior rookie years. According to pro football focus, Miller earned an overall grade of 48.2, one of the lowest among offensive tackles.

In 632 pass blocking snaps, Miller allowed 65 pressures and 16 sacks. There were some glimpse’s of potential but overall Miller was a disappointment in his first year.

Round 2 - DT P.J. Hall

Grade: D+

Throughout Reggie McKenzie’s tenure as general manager, he missed badly with second round draft picks (with the exception of Derek Carr). The very early returns on P.J. Hall would suggest that Hall has a long ways to go before he can be considered a successful draft pick.

The 6-1, 308-pound defensive tackle was drafted to upgrade a weak interior pass rush but turned out to provide more in run defense. Hall missed some time early in the season with an injury. Missing time for a rookie can slow their development.

Hall finished his rookie season with 23 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two pass deflections. He did show some improvements as the season went on so there is a lot to be excited about for next season.

Round 3 - OT Brandon Parker

Grade: D-

The Raiders decided to go back-to-back with small school prospects, the selection of Parker was widely viewed as a reach, especially considering the Raiders traded up to get him. The plan for Parker was to have him compete with Donald Penn for the right tackle job.

Penn began the season as the starter but a groin injury landed him on injured reserve after week four. Parker who was not ready to be a starting tackle was thrown into action regardless.

As you might expect, Parker struggled. He graded out with a 46.9 according to Pro Football Focus, which was 79 out of 80 eligible tackles. In 490 pass blocking snaps Parker allowed 43 pressures and 10 sacks.

Miller and Parker could both benefit from an offseason in the weight room.

Round 3 - DE Arden Key

Grade: B-

Drafted to be a third pass rusher with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, that plan quickly changed, first with the trading of Mack to Chicago and then the team cutting Irvin at midseason. Key would play in all 16 games with 10 starts.

The long pass rusher finished the year with 30 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 1.0 sack. The Raiders were hoping for more than one sack from Key and will certainly need more going forward.

The issue wasn’t getting pressure on the quarterback, the problem for Key was finishing the play. Like Miller and Parker, Key needs to to live in the weight room this offseason.

Round 4 - CB Nick Nelson

Grade: C+

Nick Nelson was inactive for most of the first half of the season. Nelson suffered an injury to his meniscus during a pre draft workout, the Raiders opted to slowly bring Nelson back.

Only active from week seven on, Nelson logged 311 defensive snaps (30.2%) and 140 on special teams. Week 12 versus the Chiefs Nelson played in a season high 65 snaps. It’s hard to truly evaluate Nelson’s season because of the lack of opportunity early in the season.

Nelson did show enough ability in his limited time to warranty consideration as a starter in the slot going forward.

Round 5 - DT Maurice Hurst

Grade: B+

The prize of the Raiders 2018 draft class. Hurst, who had a round one grade by some, saw his stock take a big hit when he was flagged for a heart condition at the combine.

Luckily for the Raiders they were able to snag Hurst in round five, great value for a prospect who was being mocked as a potential first rounder prior to the combine.

The 6-2, 291-pound defensive tackle looked every bit the part of a legit NFL defensive lineman. Hurst’s final stat line looked like this 31 tackles, four sacks (team lead), three pass deflections, and one forced fumble.

Hurst did miss four of the final games with an injury, but despite that it was a great rookie season. The Raiders will need to add an edge rusher or two to go along with Hurst.

Round 5 - P Johnny Townsend

Grade: F

It was a dreadful season for Johnny Townsend. Townsend was dead last in the league in average punt distance, 43.2 yards. Touted as a directional punter coming out of Florida, Townsend recorded only 17 punts downed inside the 20, which ranked him 30th.

Gruden stuck with his rookie throughout his struggles, often lending words of support during interviews. The Raiders signed free agent punter Drew Kaser earlier this month. Otherwise they could stick with Townsend in 2019.

Round 6 - LB Azeem Victor

Grade: F

Waived in regular season roster cuts. Has been on practice squads in Tampa and Seattle.

Round 7 - WR Marcell Ateman

Grade: B

Marcell Ateman was another late season call up after spending the majority of the season on the practice squad.

The call up to the active roster came in week 10 and he immediately made his presence felt catching four of five targets for 50 yards. On the games final drive Ateman came up with a huge 32-yard catch that helped set up Daniel Carlson’s game winning field goal.

The rookie from Oklahoma State finished the season with 15 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown. The wide receiver group was one of the weakest on the roster in 2018, Ateman started six of the final seven games.

Ateman showed he has the ability to impact games at the NFL level, he can’t be counted on as a wide receiver one or two but could be in the mix for a spot on the 53 in 2019.

Overall Grade: C-

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