1. Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo
2. Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
3. Gabe Jackson, G Mississippi State
4. Justin Ellis, DT Louisiana Tech
4. Keith McGill, CB Utah
7. T.J. Carrie, CB Ohio
7. Shelby Harris, DE Illinois State
7. Jonathan Dowling, S Western Kentucky
The Oakland Raiders had a fantastic draft for the most part. They went in with an obscene amount of needs and could basically just bring in as much talent as they did. The only thing that puts a damper on what Oakland did in the draft is how badly they dropped the ball in free agency. There could be nothing but enthusiasm coming from this draft and in some ways, there still is, but there is a huge ‘what if?’ element that has to drive onlookers and fans especially insane.
The first thing that went right for the Raiders was how passionate the Buffalo Bills were to get Sammy Watkins. It is unclear if the Raiders would have taken Watkins were he available, but if they would have wanted to go that route, the Bills did them twice the favor. The reason Buffalo paid as much as they did is they were bidding against the Atlanta Falcons that were hot after Khalil Mack. As a result, the Bills moved up and got their man, allowing Mack to fall to the Raiders and they got their man.
Mack can do just about everything and he can do it from a strong side linebacker or a rush linebacker spot depending on how the Raiders want to use him in a given situation. The Raiders pair him with Sio Moore, who had a good rookie year and suddenly, they have a pair of dynamic, athletic linebackers that can make plays. There is always a risk with taking a linebacker this high that is not strictly a pass rusher, but Mack’s talent and attitude are both great for what the Raiders need and who they want to be.
The Raiders followed that up by getting Derek Carr to be their quarterback in the second round. Carr was one of the two quarterbacks that I had a first round grade on and this is huge for the Raiders. They have Matt Schaub, so they can sit Carr and get him to be a finished product. Carr has an incredible amount of talent both in terms of physical ability and the intangibles he brings to the team. In a lot of ways, they got a ton of passion for the game on both sides of the ball with their first two picks.
Carr has the talent to be an elite quarterback in the NFL and it will all come down to getting his footwork right. His arm is up there with just about anyone in the NFL now. The fans are going to absolutely love his passion, his energy and his drive. He is easy off the field.
If getting two first round talents was not enough, the Raiders got my top guard in the entire draft in Gabe Jackson. Jackson is the ultimate gap scheme guard and an absolute bull dozer and earth mover. He has a ton of experience playing as a four year starter at Mississippi State and does a great job in pass protection. The only issue that Jackson really has to work on is his leverage and adjusting to the fact he is not simply bigger and stronger than everyone on the field; just most of them. Jackson should be able to start early and he could have a rookie year like Larry Warford did last year, who also went in round 3.
This is where the ‘what if?’ comes into play. Getting Gabe Jackson is huge. Along with Stefen Wisniewski, they have a good amount of talent in the middle of the offensive line, but imagine how strong they would look if they did not completely botch the negotiations with Jared Veldheer. Instead of a young, long term power house in Veldheer, the Raiders were forced to go with Donald Penn. That is really unfortunate.
The Raiders continued to have a good draft going into round four when they took Justin Ellis out of Louisiana Tech. His size and sloppy looking build would suggest Ellis is slow, but he is really nimble off the ball. While I think his best position is as a 1-technique nose guard, there are definitely people out there that think he can play as a 3-technique, which just goes to show how athletic some feel he is. The Raiders get more beef in the middle of the defense that can hopefully allow their linebackers to fly around and make plays.
Again, this is where that ugly ‘what if?’ comes into play. Lamarr Houston is now with the Chicago Bears. The Raiders would look much different if he was retained and with the Raiders for the long haul. There is far less indication that the Raiders mishandled the negotiations here like they did with Veldheer, but if those two players are Raiders, the feel of this team is much different.
I am not a big fan of Keith McGill for a few reasons, but I understand the selection. He has an enormous wingspan and overall size to play corner or safety. He was a JUCO star at safety before moving to corner at Utah. My issue with McGill is his age combined with a significant shoulder injury from college and overall some extremely mediocre tape. It is not unreasonable that they made this pick, but my expectations are rather low.
The seventh round picks the Raiders picked have an intriguing amount of upside with the exception of Jonathan Dowling. That pick was a little perplexing, but on the whole, if he falls short, it was the third of three seventh round picks.
The Raiders are in the argument for having the best draft in the league. They used their first four picks on players that should be starters early in their careers with three of them having (in my estimation) first round talent. For as ugly as life as a Raiders fan has been in recent years, this could be the draft that keys a turn around. Nevertheless, there is that nagging feeling of what could have been if they had Veldheer and Houston still there and the Raiders were adding these players to them.