A roundup of mock drafts of notable members of the NFL media, compiling predictions of who the 10th overall selection will be for the Oakland Raiders.
The 2018 NFL draft is almost a week away, and as a result, the pundit machine is in full gear. Predictions and prognostications are a dime a dozen this time of year, as mock drafts become the most sought after, most clicked on fix for hungry fans — especially those of the Oakland Raiders.
The NFL draft is as close as football comes to simulating Christmas. We all have a few things on our wish-list. Maybe I put down a Playstation (Roquan Smith), whereas you wanted an Xbox (Trumaine Edmunds), or someone else asked for an iPhone (Denzel Ward). Come Thursday night, we will find out whether we got what we wanted, or ended up with the proverbial socks for Christmas. The point is, there is no other event (no, not you NBA draft) that quite captures the potent mixture of anticipation, nervousness and surprise that comes with the NFL draft.
The only certainty of course is uncertainty. No-one on the face of the planet outside of the Raiders organization knows for sure who they will pick, or even if the player they think they will pick will be available. Peter King astutely warned us to “believe one in 50 things” we hear about the draft this week.
With the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft, the general assumption across the internet and air waves is that the Raiders will go defense. This is certainly the case upon examining the most prominent mock drafts. What follows is a rundown of what each pundit’s prediction is for the Raiders in the first round, as well as my own take on it. Be sure to sound off your own take in the comments below!
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB Alabama
In Jeremiah’s latest mock, he has shifted from his previous selection of Georgia Linebacker Roquan Smith to Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama. It should be noted that in his latest mock, Jeremiah has Smith being selected by the Niners at No.9, no doubt in light of the Reuben Foster situation.
Fitzpatrick is an incredibly versatile defensive back, who possesses the ability to play anywhere in the secondary. He played both cornerback and safety for the Crimson Tide, and has outstanding ball skills, can hang it with the best of them in man coverage, and by no means shies away from making a tackle.
Fitzpatrick would give Gruden a very interesting chess piece on the back end. However, I believe Gruden is really high on Rashaan Melvin, whom he heaped praise on during the Colts Monday Night Football game last year. Obi Melifonwu, last year’s second round pick hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself as of yet, so I don’t believe the secondary to be the Raiders first priority in the draft.
Bucky Brooks, NFL Network: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
As GM, Reggie Mckenzie did an admirable job giving his franchise guy on offense, Derek Carr, a solid supporting cast. The same cannot be said for Khalil Mack however, which is where Brooks’ statement rings true.
Roquan Smith would provide some much needed relief for Khalil Mack, and would help anchor the Raiders defense from day one. Smith is an outstanding linebacker prospect, winning the Butkus award for the nation’s best at his position, and Rose Bowl MVP in a thrilling win over Oklahoma.
Smith has great tracking skills, able to track runs from sideline to sideline. He’s an intelligent player at the second level, who excels when blitzing but can also be called upon in coverage. Some have knocked his size, but in fairness, he’s virtually identical to Foster (Smith is 6-1, 225, Foster 6-1, 228), who was not criticized for his frame.
Smith would be an ideal fit for the Raiders. He’d instantly upgrade the run defense and bring some much needed star power to a linebacker corps that struggled in 2017.
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Roquan Smith
I don’t always agree with Mel Kiper, but here he’s on the money. As I mentioned before, Smith is a great fit for the Raiders.
Todd McShay, ESPN: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Like Daniel Jeremiah, McShay has Roquan Smith going off the board before the Raiders, admitting “they would love him here.” That of course, only builds to the sentiment that Smith and the Raiders would be a perfect fit. Nevertheless, McShay has the Raiders snapping up Virginia Tech phenom Tremaine Edmunds, who some (including Daniel Jeremiah), value over Smith.
Like Smith, Edmunds is a sideline to sideline player. He is scary coming off the edge, and flashes serious potential as a pass rusher at the next level. He is excellent in pass coverage against running backs and tight ends, the latter of which have killed the Raiders over the middle of late.
Where Smith would provide an anchor, Edmunds would provide lightning, and would be an exciting pick for the Raiders. I believe Smith is the preferred choice, but Edmunds’ ability to rush the passer would free up Khalil Mack like he hasn’t been before.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Miller is the first of our pundits that has the Raiders picking someone other than Smith, with Smith still on the board.
Ward is, as Miller argues, easily the draft’s best cornerback. He is aggressive in man coverage, showing a consistent ability to blanket opposing team’s number 1 receivers and high point the football in contested situations. In addition, despite his smaller frame, the man can deliver a solid hit should the opportunity arise, meaning the Raiders would be adding a tough, physical corner to their stable that the secondary would certainly benefit from.
As aforementioned, I believe Gruden is quite high on Rashaan Melvin, but pairing Ward with his former college teammate Gareon Conley (with Melvin to boot) could just mean the Raiders’ glaring weakness of last year could just be a strength.
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Per Palazzolo: “The Raiders are still looking for a viable threat opposite Khalil Mack and Chubb offers a three-down option on the edge. He’s outstanding in the run game… has continued to improve as a pass-rusher.”
Bradley Chubb is considered by many to be the best defensive prospect in the draft, so getting him at No.10 would be a steal for the Raiders. Slight disclaimer with this mock, however. Palazzolo has bucked the consensus in more ways than one with his draft. He has Mayfield going number 1 to Cleveland, Maurice Hurst going number 4 to the Browns also, Barkley falling to the Bucs at 7, and the Niners passing over Chubb for Boston’s Harold Landry at 9. So it goes without saying this situation would be unorthodox to say the least.
But, in the crazy situation the Raiders do land Chubb, Oakland would boast a dynamic one-two punch at both defensive end spots. Chubb has a vast array of pass rush moves in his arsenal, he consistently dominated the edge against opponents and displayed that he’s a man who finishes, and finishes in nasty fashion. He plays very well against the run also, and anyone who thinks blocking him with a tight end is a good idea will be in for a short career. He reportedly wore a suit to his pre-draft visit with Giants, so you know he’s all business.
Chubb would be an outstanding pick, a great fit, but is most likely a pipe dream for the Raiders at 10.
Joel Klatt, Fox Sports: Derwin James, S, Florida State
I’m unconvinced. I think if the Raiders go defensive back at no. 10, it will be for a cornerback. Karl Joseph is locked in at one safety spot (and it’s fair to say that, whilst serviceable, we’ve yet to see him take off per se), but Obi Melifonwu is only one year in. They also signed Marcus Gilchrist who started 13 games for the Texans last season. Safety doesn’t seem to be the position Mckenzie and Gruden are eager to add to by any means. James has shown that he can line up at cornerback however, and even he played linebacker in specific packages for the Seminoles, in which he showed tremendous physicality.
James demonstrated an exceptional ability to cover tight ends during his college career, and is a great blitzer. He showed a knack for laterally pursuing ball carriers, and is aggressive in run support. Some have lamented his interception totals, but he should translate to a physical presence in the NFL. He would certainly give the Raiders secondary an attitude that it has missed for many years. I think James would work very well in Gruden/Guenther’s defense, but the need at linebacker and defensive line will most likely prove to be more pressing.
Dan Kadar, SB Nation: Derwin James
As above, James would fit the Raiders well, but it’s interesting to note that in Kadar’s mock, both Smith and Edmunds are on the board, as well as dark horses Vita Vea and Maurice Hurst, defensive tackles from Washington and Michigan respectively. Kadar, therefore, views safety as a high priority for the silver and black.
So there you have it, the round up of what all the draft experts are predicting the Raiders will do with the number 10 pick come next Thursday night. Roquan Smith and Derwin James are tied at the top with two predictions apiece. The majority of these predictions do indeed have the Raiders going linebacker, most likely Smith of course, but Edmunds still gets some love. Some certainly see the Raiders work on their secondary being far from over, as apart from James, Ward and Fitzpatrick receive one pick each, but some of these secondary picks are predicted as a result of Smith and/or Edmunds being off the board.
Whatever crystal ball, deck of cards or stack of tea leaves these experts consult, the only consensus is a lack of consensus. Of course, anything could happen on draft night, and we could be left ecstatic, devastated, intrigued, or some bizarre mixture of the three. That’s the beauty of the draft, a draft that by all accounts, can not come soon enough.