Grading the Raiders’ 2015 draft

The Oakland Raiders took offensive players early, which is big for a team with a struggling offense.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper in the first, tight end Clive Walford in the third, and guard Jon Feliciano in the fourth.

B+

Cooper and Walford should be day one starters if healthy, and their injury histories aren’t lengthy at all, while second round defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. can start also.

This is a big reason why the Raiders get a good grade, though we’ll have a much better idea of the overall quality in three or four years.

What keeps them from getting an A grade is an overall lack of notability on Day 3. Sure, they did their homework better than I. There’s no question about that.

So, in some ways, I suppose they may have gotten it right. I just can’t be sure.

Feliciano is an interesting one. He is a pulling guard who offensive line coach Mike Tice really likes. The Raiders will be running an uptempo offense under new coordinator Bill Musgrave.

For that, they need mobile linemen, the perceived best available lineman on the board was Florida State’s Tre Jackson, who is a pure power run blocker.

For the scheme, Feliciano was probably the best available but not the best available in general. But they can’t be knocked for being logical and tabbing a guy who fits best.

There’s also the possibility they trade for Eagles guard Evan Mathis, or sign former Falcons guard Justin Blalock.

With either, Oakland’s line would be kick-ass, even with some questions at right tackle. That should be prefaced for my admiration of the power run game. It’s what New England and Seattle do best, the two best in football last year.

Another area where the Raiders really improved is special teams, which is a much bigger deal than often made out to be.

It’s what made the difference three years ago when the Ravens beat the 49ers — returner Jacoby Jones ran back a 109-yard touchdown to open the second half.

The seven points were what put Baltimore over the top. It’s also what prevented the 49ers from making the super bowl in 2011 — former San Francisco returner Kyle Williams muffed a punt and kickoff in back to back attempts, and lost it for them.

All Day 3 picks will play a role. And look pretty good there on paper.

Best and worst of the 2015 NFL Draft

  • Pittsburgh took pass rusher Bud Dupree 22nd overall, a huge value considering he was a top five talent.
  • San Diego might of had the best draft of any team. They tabbed a power runner in the first, the best run stopping middle linebacker in the whole class in the second round, and then possibly the best sleeper in the class, pass rushing linebacker Kyle Emmanuel.
  • The 49ers, once again, drafted like idiots. There’s no way to be nice about it. They drafted players with no obvious role, overdrafted many, adding to the case that general manager Trent Baalke won’t last the next year or two.

2015 NFL Draft subplots

Perhaps the biggest side story in the draft is offensive tackle La’el Collins and the murder investigations of his former girlfriend.

Collins is not a suspect, but after the Aaron Hernandez murders, no team was willing to take a chance.

Collins will be signed as an undrafted rookie when he is clear, which seems plausible, after being projected as a first round pick.

There aren’t many teams who wouldn’t be instantly better with Collins slotted as a day one starter. Both the Raiders and 49ers need right tackle help, and Collins will be seeking minimal competition in order to bolster his future salaries.

The caveat for any team in California is tax-related. Defensive end Justin Tuck paid an additional $90,000 in taxes for each of the eight games he played in California this year.

Sure, he’s got it, but who wants to spend an additional $720,000 per season for nothing?

On Blalock and Mathis, the Raiders should heavily consider acquiring either. Mathis is the best of the two, but is 33 years old to Blalock at 31 years old.

Either would substantially upgrade the line, which has been a problem.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.