Grading the Draft: Oakland Raiders

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Chris Tripodi

Draft Analyst Writer

After years of high picks, the Raiders were poised to make noise in last year's playoffs before Derek Carr went down with a season-ending injury, dashing any hopes of a deep playoff run. With an explosive and well-balanced offense returning in 2017, Oakland focused on the defensive side of the ball in this year's draft.

1(24)

Gareon Conley

CB

Ohio State

2(24)

Obi Melifonwu

S

Connecticut

3(24)

Eddie Vanderdoes

DT

UCLA

4(23)

David Sharpe

OG

Florida

5(24)

Marquel Lee

OLB

Wake Forest

7(3)

Shalom Luani

S

Washington State

7(13)

Jylan Ware

OT

Alabama State

7(24)

Elijah Hood

RB

North Carolina

7(26)

Treyvon Hester

DT

Toledo

UDFA Signings: Anthony Cioffi, S, Rutgers; Jordan Simmons, OL, USC; Nicholas Morrow, DB, Greenville; Breon Borders, CB, Duke; Paul Boyette, DT, Texas; Chauncey Briggs, OL, SMU; Fadol Brown, DE, Ole Miss; Pharaoh Brown, TE, Oregon; Chris Humes, CB, Arkansas State; Rickey Jefferson, S, LSU; Anthony Kukwa, LS, Lake Eric; Ahmad Thomas, S, Oklahoma; Jordan Wade, DT, Oklahoma; Xavier Woodson-Luster, LB, Arkansas; Isaac Whitney, WR, USC; Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor; Keon Hatcher, WR, Arkansas

I'm not sure any media outlet was higher on Gareon Conley than Draft Analyst, and we were one of the few to keep him in the first round of our final mock draft after he was accused of rape, an allegation we've heard is unlikely to stick. College teammate Marshon Lattimore is a better athlete and got more hype, but Conley shows good athleticism and ball skills in man coverage and was the draft's most NFL-ready corner.

Obi Melifonwu is a size/speed freak who was highly inconsistent at UConn. He has Pro Bowl potential and showed the ability to take over games but also disappeared and played passive football at times. Late Round 2 was a perfect time to take a shot on his upside, even if his floor is that of a player who won't make it to his second contact.

After struggling with injury and weight issues throughout his college career, Eddie Vanderdoes finally looked healthy during Senior Bowl week and dominated the competition. Powerful, athletic and intense, Vanderdoes could outplay his draft slot if he stays healthy at the NFL level.

David Sharpe is a big right tackle prospect with good strength who needs to refine his technique, especially as a pass protector. A heavy-footed lineman who lacks agility, Sharpe has a long road ahead of him if he wants to develop into an NFL starter.

It's not often you find a linebacker with three-down potential in Round 5, but that's exactly what the Raiders did with Marquel Lee. An explosive gap shooter who pursues well laterally and gets good depth on pass drops, he has starting potential if he cleans up his inefficient tackling and improves at shedding blocks.

The Raiders had four seventh-round picks and started off by drafting Shalom Luani. A physical and aggressive safety who lacks standout size, speed and ball skills, Luani projects mainly as a special-teams asset. Jylan Ware is a high-upside tackle prospect with a combination of strength and athleticism that will be unleashed if he can improve his blocking balance and technique.

Elijah Hood is strictly a two-down back who is effective running downhill and breaking tackles but struggles as a receiver and pass blocker. December labrum surgery kept Treyvon Hester out of the Shrine Game and combine workouts, but the Raiders attended his April showcase and were impressed with his ability to occupy blocks along with his initial quickness, which gives Hester a shot as an NFL nose tackle.

Oakland ignored pass catchers during the draft but added three of interest in free agency. Ishmael Zamora was suspended for three games for beating his dog and was streaky on the field but has good size and athletic ability, while Keon Hatcher was a reliable possession receiver who could turn into a fifth wideout. Pharaoh Brown almost needed to have his leg amputated in 2015 but has good athletic ability and blocks well enough to make an impact at tight end.

Ahmad Thomas was effective against the run and the short pass at Oklahoma, plays well in the box and can be an impact special teamer.

Analysis: The first two days of Oakland's draft have an element of risk to them, but the upside is through the roof. Conley, Melifonwu and Vanderdoes all have the potential to outplay their draft positions, as does fifth-rounder Lee. Ware and Hester were intriguing final-round fliers as general manager Reggie McKenzie continued to show the draft acumen that has helped him rebuild the Raiders into contenders. Grade: A