The draft and free agency are keys to winning a championship, just ask the Denver Broncos. The Raiders hope to do the same as they’ve already nailed free agency, they just need one more good draft.
Last season the Raiders finished 7-9 and flirted with a playoff berth through the first 10 weeks. Thanks in most part two their success in the draft the past two years. Where the team found starters and contributors, especially in the first three rounds.
With eight picks the Raiders can add the final pieces to their potential playoff team. It won’t be as easy as the past two years, when they had two top five picks.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie has his work cut out for him.
The last two times he picked outside the top 10 he came up with average drafts. They didn’t pick until the third round in 2012 and in 2013 they took a chance on D.J. Hayden and it has yet to work out.
To be 100 percent fair to McKenzie, little impact has come of the two aforementioned classes for any team — 2013 may go down as the worst class in football history.
In 2014, though, the Raiders were able to lock up starters Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson. They also grabbed T.J. Carrie and Justin Ellis in the seventh and fourth rounds.
The next year brought similar success with selections of Cooper, Mario Edwards Jr. and Clive Walford. Once again they secured depth in later rounds with Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball.
McKenzie hopes to have another solid draft in 2016. He’ll be on the hunt to fill needs he was unable to address in free agency, and to help the Raiders continue their pursuit for the AFC West Title for the first time since 2002.
The Raiders had a terrific free agency grabbing three major needs in offensive guard Kelechi Osemele, cornerback Sean Smith and Edge rusher Bruce Irvin.
Positions McKenzie won’t have to stress over in the draft. He will still select either of these position if they’re high enough on the Raiders draft board.
Their most glaring needs are safety, middle linebacker, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, running back and cornerback.
Round 1: 14 – ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
The Raiders’ defense lacks an imposing middle backer and the SEC Defensive Player of the year Reggie Ragland gives them one. If Oakland wants to get to the next level and become a playoff team they need an instinctual Mike linebacker.
A position they haven’t had for years.
A real thumper in the run game, who possesses pass rushing skills. Ragland solidifies the Raiders front seven and shores up some of the intermediate area.
He may not be the fastest available linebacker, but what he lacks in that department he makes up for with instincts and leadership. Traits the Raiders could use on their defense.
Round 2: 44 – S Keanu Neal, Florida
With Charles Woodson retired there is a void in the secondary. Keanu Neal can fill it, a hard hitting athlete with adequate balls skills. Neal may be the most complete safety in the draft after West Virginia’s Karl Joseph, who will likely be gone by the time Oakland picks in round two.
Last season Woodson excelled in pass coverage, but struggled against the run and injured his shoulder early in the season.
The addition of Neal shores up any problems in the run game as he isn’t afraid to ring a tailbacks bell. In pass coverage he has the speed and range to play either safety spot. He’s also a high character guy, something Jack Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie love.
Round 3: 75 – DT Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
The Raiders continue to sure up their defense with an interior pass rusher as they grab a athletic defensive lineman Hassan Ridgeway.
He can play either the five technique in the 3-4 or a three technique in the 4-3 defense. Questions about conditioning and the fact that this is a deep defensive lineman draft is why he falls to the Raiders.
Even with conditioning questions the Raiders’ coaching staff can keep Ridgeway in check. Similar to the work they did with Mario Edwards Jr. last year. The addition of Ridgeway will give the Raiders a solid front seven.
In a 3-4 he, Dan Williams and Mario Edwards Jr. will have their hand in the dirt.
The linebacking core will be solid with Ragland in the middle, Malcolm Smith next to him, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin as edge rushers. It would be a defense that will give the oppositions’ quarterbacks nightmares.
Round 4: 114 – RB CJ Prosise, Notre Dame
Prosise is a receiver turned running back who has the frame to tote the rock every down. He’s a former receiver, so he can can be a dynamic weapon out of the backfield.
Giving the Raiders a new wrinkle in their offense.
He’s a very patient runner who lets plays develop in front of him allowing him to burst through holes in the o-line. Prosise has a lot of upside and will give the Raiders a solid 1-2 punch with Latavius Murray.
Round 5: 143 – OLB Travis Feeney, Washington
The Raiders struggled to keep opposing tight ends from having big games against them. Week after week tight ends tortured the silver and black’s linebackers.
Feeney, a former safety, can help put an end to that. Not only is he good in coverage, but is able to add depth to the Raiders pass rush, he totaled 15.5 sacks in his career at Washington.
Feeney is a playmaker with great upside with the height and coverage ability to blanket tight ends.
Round 5: 154 – OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
Oakland lost a solid backup offensive lineman, Tony Bergstrom, in free agency this offseason. They could use someone who could add depth to their offensive-line as injuries due happen.
The Raiders saw first hand when star center Rodney Hudson went down last season. Seumalo adds insurance if any injuries happen on the interior of their offensive line.
Round 6: 194 – OT Brandon Shell, South Carolina
This pick just makes sense. Shell is the great nephew of former Raider great, Art Shell. He can add depth to an offensive line that lost J’marcus Webb and possibly Khalif Barnes.
He started all four years in the SEC and could one day be a starter if not a solid backup.
Round 7: 234 – CB Juston Burris, NC State
Burris fits the mold of a Raiders cornerback big, strong, and has speed. He can play off man and press coverage successfully. He’d be a steal in the seventh and I believe he can play any position in the secondary including nickel corner and safety.