From the best pick of the weekend to the worst, here are rankings for the Oakland Raiders selections on draft weekend.
The Oakland Raiders were one of the busiest teams in the 2018 NFL Draft, trading both up and down multiple times throughout the weekend. Starting with 11 picks to work with, the final haul for the Silver and Black totaled 9 selections — not including the traded pick for Martavis Bryant.
From best to worst, including the Bryant trade, here are my rankings for the Raiders picks on draft weekend. No UDFAs are included.
#1 – Maurice Hurst – Round 5, Pick 140
The race for the best pick the Raiders made during draft weekend was about as close of a race as one between Justin Ellis and Usain Bolt would be. The Raiders committed highway robbery by picking Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, and it was arguably the best value pick any team was able to make in the entire draft.
On the field, Hurst is talented enough to have justified a selection 10th overall, yet alone 140th. But serious medical concerns regarding a heart condition caused him to slide all the way into the 5th round. It’s been reported that roughly half the teams in the NFL didn’t have him on their draft board, fearing that his professional career may be over before it even starts.
But when Hurst was still available at the 140th selection, instead of waiting around, the Raiders traded up to get him. The pick came as a surprise to many in Raider Nation, considering a tweet from Vic Tafur of The Athletic suggested he was off their draft board. However, in Vic’s article on the subject, he did specify that Hurst was off the team’s board only for the first two days.
Hurst says he’s good to go, and it sounds like there will be no limitations placed on his practice or playing time. The Raiders will monitor him, of course, and will do an annual exam on him to ensure things are fine.
Maurice fills a huge need of an interior pass rusher, which is going to be of immense help to Khalil Mack. Having a pass rusher of Hurst’s caliber on the interior to push the pocket will greatly reduce the QBs ability to step up to avoid the outside rush. The Raiders have some quality run-stuffers they instead may use in run situations, but Hurst can hold his own in that regard if needed.
So while this may have been the riskiest pick of the draft, the risk is worth the reward. If Hurst does have to cut his career short, spending a 5th round pick on him was a chance worth taking. But if his heart doesn’t cause him any issues, he will easily outplay his draft slot.
#2 – Martavis Bryant – Traded Round 3, Pick 79
When the Raiders traded out of the #10 pick to drop five spots, they acquired the #79 pick as well as a 5th round selection from the Arizona Cardinals. Comparatively, Oakland should have received greater compensation for the trade down, but what they did next came as a surprise to everyone.
With the #79 pick acquired from the Cardinals, Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden flipped that pick to the Steelers in exchange for wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
For some, the biggest takeaway from this trade is that it finally ends the love affair the Raiders have had with Seth Roberts as the team’s no. 3 receiver. Plenty reason to celebrate, but the big picture here is simply how much better this makes the Oakland passing game.
Let’s take a look at some numbers:
Averaging Seth’s career totals over the three seasons he has played, you get 37.6 catches, 444 yards and 3.7 touchdowns for a 16-game season.
In only 11 games played in 2015, Martavis put up 50 catches, 765 yards and 6 touchdowns. If you extrapolate those numbers over a 16-game season, you get 73 catches, 1,113 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Obviously it’s not as straight forward as that — other factors are in play — but it paints a picture in the difference in upside of the two players.
On the field, Martavis will provide Derek Carr with a reliable and dangerous outside weapon. Bryant’s presence will also give the Raiders the freedom to mix and match Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson in the slot however they see fit.
The downside to this deal is that Martavis is in his contract year. With a big season comes a big contract, so there will be a fine line here the Raiders will have to consider. If the team is forced to let him walk, trading a 3rd round pick for him ends up as a disaster.
Also, Bryant’s off-field troubles are a concern. He was suspended for the entire 2016 season for his second substance-abuse infraction, and a third suspension could lead to an Aldon Smith type of situation.
So certainly there is quite a bit of risk for this trade, but there is also quite a bit of reward. Ultimately, the Raiders wanted another pass-catching weapon for their franchise quarterback, and it was a relatively weak class to do that in. So trading a 3rd rounder for a player as talented as Martavis is a risk worth taking.
#3 – Arden Key – Round 3, Pick 87
In terms of draft position compared to talent, Arden Key is one of the better value picks in this draft. But off-field issues and some concerns about his health and conditioning led to his fall to the third round.
Key was highly sought after recruit, and he lived up to that billing in his sophomore season. In 2016, Key racked up 11 sacks in 11 games, with an impressive 12.5 tackles to loss to go with that. He was wreaking havoc against SEC powerhouses, and many draft pundits figured he was on his way to a top five selection in the draft.
But some trouble off the field, a couple of nagging injuries, and poor conditioning that resulted in him gaining weight led to a poor junior season. He flashed some nice moments in 2017, but the player LSU had in 2016 appeared few and far between.
Arden also had shoulder surgery that played a part in his slide on draft weekend. He got a late jump to train for pre-draft process, and he only managed to muster a 4.85 40-yard dash at 238 pounds. He played at upwards of 270 pounds, so his slow 40 time paired with his newly lean frame was a troubling combination.
Key took a pre-draft visit with the Raiders, and he and Bruce Irvin quickly developed a bond. Irvin has taken him under his wing, and if Arden can get back to that 2016 form, the Raiders got themselves a steal. Plus, this fills a need at what is the second most important position in football. So while Irvin will show Key the way, the Raiders are drafting him as the future Bruce replacement.
As far as his role on the team, he’ll serve immediately as the team’s third pass rusher. Ideally, he’ll have his hand in the dirt because that’s where he excelled at LSU, but Paul Guenther will certainly find creative ways to use him, Mack and Irvin. For now, Key will likely be used just on passing downs, but he could be effective against the run with some development.
#4 – P.J. Hall – Round 2, Pick 57
Statistically, there may not be any player in the entire draft with numbers like P.J. Hall. Given, he did play at the FCS level, but Hall’s production is straight out of a video game.
Check out his career numbers:
- 284 tackles
- 86.5 tackles for loss
- 42 sacks
- 33 passes defensed
- 14 blocked kicks
- 9 forced fumbles
- 4 interceptions
All of that is absurd.
It’s hard to say which of those stats is most impressive, because they all are. Having nearly one-third of his career tackles behind the line of scrimmage stands out though, as it did set an FCS all-time record.
Oh, and he can squat over 750 pounds, he benched 36 reps at 225 pounds at his pro day, he ran a 4.71 40-yard dash and did a 38″ vertical jump. The cherry on top is that he did all of this at 308 pounds.
A player with this type of athleticism and production is virtually always a first-round pick, so how did the Raiders snag Hall in the second round?
Well, Hall was actually pegged by the majority of draft analysts as a third-round pick, or even a fourth. Playing at a small-school, there were times where Hall would disappear and struggle to get off of blocks.
His agility testing was also below average, he is undersized for the position, and his technique needs refinement. He generally got by on his athleticism at the lower level, but that alone won’t fly in the NFL.
While Hall may have been a bit of a reach with the 57th overall pick, the good news is that the Raiders traded down from 41 to get him, for the no. 57 and no. 89 pick — pretty good value.
Like with Hurst, he fill an important need, so the combination of the two of them improves pass-rushing threat from the interior as well as Eddie Vanderdoes insurance, who is recovering from his second ACL tear.
#5 – Nick Nelson – Round 4, Pick 110
Nick Nelson was considered a possible second round pick by some draft analysts before he tore his meniscus in a pre-draft workout. So when he fell to the Raiders in the 4th round, this ended up being one of the team’s better value picks of the weekend.
Nelson is well-built at about 5’11” and 200 pounds. He has short arms, though, so his role figures to be as a slot cornerback or simply as the T.J. Carrie replacement. He’s physical and plays well in press, but he’s not the type of cornerback that is going to stick with the shorter and shiftier wide receivers that have given the Raiders fits in recent years.
The biggest positive with Nelson is that he is fantastic at locating the ball, turning his head and making a play on it. He led the nation in pass breakups in 2017 (21) and finished his career with 42 total. The bad news is that he has zero career interceptions, and he also commits quite a few pass interference and holding penalties.
Even though the cornerback room is crowded thanks to the plethora of CBs the Raiders signed this offseason, every single player brought in has been on a one-year deal. So outside of Gareon Conley, there is not one other player that is in the fold for the long-term, and Nelson offers the potential to do that.
If Conley pans out, Melvin sticks around for a few years and Nelson develops, that’s a decent 1-2-3.
#6 – Kolton Miller – Round 1, Pick 15
For months, the rationale among Raider Nation was that a standout defensive player would be available 10th overall – Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Maurice Hurst and a few others being the most common names tossed around. But in the week leading up to the draft, the buzz grew that the Raiders were targeting an offensive tackle, and that Kolton Miller was a top target.
Low and behold, that is exactly what ended up happening — with the exception that the Raiders traded down from 10th to 15th to select Miller. And it’s the trade down that makes this pick more tolerable, as the compensation acquired eventually netted Martavis Bryant and Maurice Hurst (in an additional trade up).
Miller has all the tools you could want in a high-end offensive tackle — great size, elite athleticism and good enough arm length. The problem is that his technical flaws are quite severe, and he has to make a ton of progress to become even a decent offensive tackle. And on top of that, the coach he has that will be responsible for his development is Tom Cable, who has a rough track record when it comes to developing young offensive linemen.
On paper, the picks makes sense though. Miller has elite traits at a premium position that was a need. Derek Carr has suffered two major injuries in two seasons, and protecting the $125M franchise quarterback is priority number one. Donald Penn is one year older and coming off an injury. The right side of the o-line is mixed with young, unproven players and a bad veteran tackle.
So taking a flier on Miller will pay massive dividends if it works out, but it’s a huge risk as well. Especially when the Raiders could have had several immediate impact players instead.
#7 – Johnny Townsend – Round 5, Pick 173
Yes, punters are people too.
With Marquette King sent galloping out of town, punter was suddenly a need that couldn’t just be filled with any Joe-Schmo. Not with the team’s legacy of all-time great punters such as Ray Guy and Shane Lechler. And yes, even Marquette was one of, if not the best in the game.
But his shenanigans, including mocking the Crabtree chain-snatching incident, was too far. So Gruden pulled the plug.
Enter Johnny Townsend.
Towsnend led college football in yards per punt at 47.9 in 2016, and he was second in 2017 at 47.5. There were several punts he boomed over 60 yards in the air, and Mike Mayock called him “the best directional punter in college football”.
It’s not a sexy pick, but you know what is sexy? Having your opponent start inside their own 5-yard line thanks to a 60-yard coffin corner punt.
So is your new punter dishing out a pancake to a defender that gets in his face.
In case y’all didn’t see Johnny Townsend pancake the other day pic.twitter.com/hFvhDE1vLx
— Barstool Florida (@UFBarstool) September 25, 2017
Johnny doesn’t play around.
#8 – Brandon Parker – Round 3, Pick 65
Even though the Raiders nabbed Kolton Miller with the 15th pick, there was buzz that they were interested in picking another tackle on the second day of the draft.
P.J. Hall ended up being the pick in the second round, but it didn’t take long for the Raiders to add another tackle in Round 3. To be specific, it only took until the first pick of the round as Oakland traded up to select Brandon Parker.
Like Hall, Parker is a small-school guy. But Parker lacks the absurd production and big-time athleticism that at least made the Hall pick justifiable.
Generally, most early picks that attended a small-school are great athletes, but that isn’t the case with Parker. He’s only an average athlete, although he does have good size (and especially arm length).
Instead, Parker is quite technically sound, and on film he looks pretty good. There isn’t much that stands out about his game, but he’s a steady presence on the offensive line that is capable of playing on either side. The big question is if he has the athleticism to continue to be that in the NFL, and betting a third-round pick on that (plus trade compensation to move up) is a risky proposition.
In the Senior Bowl — as well as the practices leading up to the game — Parker had an up and down week. He impressed at times but was also beat by some of the top-end edge rushers.
It will be interesting to see how the Raiders use Miller and Parker. Will Miller start immediately on the right side, and then make the transition to the left once Penn is gone? A common misconception is how easy it is for an offensive lineman to just switch which side of the line they are in, when in reality it is incredibly difficult. So the Raiders would be wise to decide who plays where and keep him there, as opposed to having either one flip later on.
#9 – Marcell Ateman – Round 7, Pick 228
Some may rank Marcell Ateman higher than this, as he certainly has his fair share of fans out there. He’s 6’4″ and he’s got great hands, but the truth is he has an outside at best shot to make the 53-man roster.
The biggest thing that will prevent Ateman from having success in the NFL is arguably the most important trait a wide receiver must have, and that’s route-running and the ability to separate. Unfortunately for Ateman, these two areas are not his greatest strengths.
Ateman ran a limited route tree at Oklahoma State, and even in his own interviews, he has had to talk about running a full route tree in high school to justify that he is capable of doing so. The second part to this is that he struggles to gain separation.
To his credit, he one of the best contested catchers in the nation. But that’s also just a nice way of saying “couldn’t get open but still caught the ball”. Obviously not every time, but generally the wide receivers that lead in contested catches are the ones that don’t easily get open.
If not for Martavis Bryant, Ateman’s chances of making the team would be much greater. The Raiders need a big-bodied red zone target, and they have one in Bryant. Perhaps a second one could be justified, but a practice squad spot might be more likely.
#10 – Azeem Victor – Round 6, Pick 216
To wrap-up the countdown is sixth-round pick Azeem Victor.
Victor is more talented than his draft slot, but there are several major reasons to be concerned he’ll ever live up to that. Mainly, off-field issues and character concerns will be his biggest obstacles to overcome.
At the University of Washington, Victor was charged with a DUI, was suspended multiple times and there also have been reports of confrontations with the coaching staff that led to one of those suspensions.
On top of that, Victor also suffered a broken leg that affected his conditioning, causing him to gain weight and look quite rough on film. He’s got good size (6’2″, 240) but he’s a below-average athlete and may be a longshot to make the 53-man roster.
The Raiders like their young linebackers quite a bit, so with Tahir Whitehead, Cory James, Nicholas Morrow, Marquel Lee, Kyle Wilber and possibly NaVorro Bowman, there may not be room for Victor.