The Oakland Raiders finished second in the AFC West at 12-4. Just a week before the season finale, franchise QB Derek Carr suffered a season ending leg injury that could have very easily cost them the division title, and perhaps a playoff win or two as it forced rookie Connor Cook to start under center having minimal experience.
The Raiders needed to take a long look in the mirror this offseason and look to rebuild a pass defense that was one of the worst in the NFL, allowing the league’s 9th most pass yards. Oakland saw to that early in this draft and added key pieces in that secondary while also addressing needs along the defensive front as they try to get the defensive side of the ball on par with the offensive unit. Ultimately hoping to land themselves as early favorites for a Super Bowl title.
Round 1, Pick 24: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Round 2, Pick 56: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Round 3, Pick 88: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
Round 4, Pick 129: David Sharpe, OT, Florida
Round 5, Pick 168: Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
Round 7, Pick 221: Shalom Luani, S, Washington State
Round 7, Pick 231: Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State
Round 7, Pick 242: Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
Round 7, Pick 244: Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo
Conley allowed fewest yards in coverage compared with all top corners in the draft. 24 looks more like a steal each day for Oakland. pic.twitter.com/nZ3oV4adep
— Nathan Britton (@NathanBritton_) May 8, 2017
Gareon Conley, CB: My 2nd ranked cornerback in the draft, Conley was accused of rape in an Ohio hotel a week before the draft – a horrible situation for all parties involved. Conley was surefire first round pick before the accusations. After, there was talk about him going undrafted. New evidence surfaced which made the Raiders feel good enough to take him at pick 24. Conley has the skillset of an All-Pro defensive back and could be a centerpiece in Oak…. Vegas for years to come, assuming this accusation doesn’t develop into a guilty verdict for Conley. The Raiders got a top 15 talent ten picks later and could have the last laugh with a shutdown corner on that defense. This grade could go up or down depending on what happens with Conley’s legal situation, but where I’m sitting, it has the looks of a solid pick. Grade: B-
Per @PFF_Steve Obi Melifonwu has only missed 26 of 284 tackle attempts in his 3 years at UConn.
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) May 1, 2017
Obi Melifonwu, Safety: A top 5 safety in the class, Oakland got a steal with this pick. Most mock drafts had the UConn product going late round one or very early on day two. Melifonwu falling to 56 is a dream situation for the Raiders who needed to add to that secondary. Playing alongside last year’s first rounder in Karl Joseph and new corner Gareon Conley, Melifonwu is going to help at a variety of positons. At 6’4”/225 he climbed up draft boards with an outstanding performance at the Combine and Pro Day. Melifonwu is still a raw product and will take some grooming before he becomes an every down player, but the ceiling is sky high for this kid. Melifonwu can play numerous positions on the defense and will add versatility to Oakland’s defense, and even more youth along with Conley and Joseph.
The former Charlotte Catholic stud, Elijah Hood, is now an Oakland Raider.
3rd team All-ACC in 11 games as a Jr at UNC. https://t.co/rDyIBElN5I
— Matt Harris (@MHarrisWSOC9) April 30, 2017
Elijah Hood, RB: The departure of Latavius Murray in the offseason left a big hole in Oakland’s backfield. The return of Beast Mode should help cushion the blow left by Murray’s absence. Lynch isn’t going to be the battering ram he was in Seattle, but he should provide solid reps in a rotation along with youngsters DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. With Lynch’s age, the Raiders needed a back that emulates the skillset and rushing style of Lynch. Hood (6’0” 230), may make the team, but will have limited snaps mainly in goal-line and short yardage situations, if they don’t decide to pass it. Hood could become a good piece for that backfield as the primary power back of the future. The North Carolina back may not be the perfect prospect to replace the power lost by Murray and an aging Lynch, but he may be able to provide something in the ground game for Oakland.
Overall Grade: A
Oakland had a big need and addressed it, that simple. They have been snake bitten since the early 2000’s with tons of coach turnover and whiffed draft picks. Jack Del Rio has taken this team and turned them around, so much so that I feel they will be competing in the AFC championship game this season, barring injuries to key players. The revamped secondary will take this team to the next level defensively and with reigning DPOY Khalil Mack, this Oakland team is going to be a force and could run away with the AFC West title.