Last year, Oakland had a breakout season, finishing 12-4 and securing a wild card birth in the Playoffs. Due to injuries, especially to quarterback Derek Carr, Oakland disappointed in their opening round game, losing to the Houston Texans. If the Raiders can add a few quality pieces through the draft, they can be contenders once again. Let’s examine a few prospects who Oakland may take in the first round.
Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
Oakland had a dominant offensive line in 2016, and all five starters return. However, the right tackle position was frequently a liability, and left tackle Donald Penn is in his 30s and may retire soon. Ramczyk is a well rounded prospect, he’s technically sound, is good in pass protection, and does a good job in the run game. However, he isn’t elite in anything. His footwork is average, and he has short arms. I don’t think Ramczyk will ever be an elite tackle in the NFL, but he’s the most pro ready tackle in this draft and should be a day one starter at right tackle for Oakland.
Garett Bolles, Offensive Tackle, Utah
As I mentioned with Ramczyk, offensive tackle is one of Oakland’s bigger needs. Bolles is a tremendous athlete, not only can he get to the second level of defenses and pull ahead of running backs, he also has very quick feet. As far as pure left tackles go, Bolles is the best in this class. Bolles also plays with a nasty streak; he enjoys pancaking defenders in the run game. However, Bolles is skinny at just 297 pounds. Even more concerning is his age, Bolles will be 25 at the start of the season. For a tackle as raw as Bolles, that’s a problem. However, he could learn as a right tackle for a year or two before sliding to the left once Penn retires.
Alvin Kamara, Running Back, Tennessee
The Raiders have been talking to Marshawn Lynch about bringing him to Oakland. While most Raider fans would love to have the former Seattle monster, realistically Lynch is old and worn down. Not only is he 31, he’s also accumulated 2,144 carries in his career. This running back class is DEEP, and Kamara is a top 20 prospect who will almost certainly be available for Oakland at 24. Kamara is a physical back with excellent hands out of the backfield. While he lacks elite deep speed, Kamara would likely be a force behind the dominant Raider line, at ten years younger than Lynch.
Tre’Davious White, Cornerback, LSU
The Raiders have David Amerson and Sean Smith at corner, but the pass defense still left much to be desired. Oakland is also in desperate need of a nickel corner, a smaller defender with incredibly quick feet and hips. Tre’Davious White has the feet and hips Oakland would need in a nickel corner. White played outside at LSU, excelling in man to man coverage. He may be good enough to start outside for Oakland, but even if his lack of size and press coverage force him inside, he’ll be a reliable player.
Malik McDowell, Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
It’s no secret Oakland needs to upgrade their defensive front. Mario Edwards is talented but constantly injured. Dan Williams is old, and has never been able to get after the passer. Darius Latham showed flashes, but he’s still unproven and likely isn’t a starting caliber lineman. Denico Autry is a solid player, but he just doesn’t have enough talent to be a game changer. Malik McDowell is absolutely dripping with potential. He’s 6’6″ with long arms and an explosive first step. He can play everywhere from nose tackle to defensive end. He’s quick enough to get after the passer and strong enough to hold up against the run. However, McDowell has massive character concerns. Multiple teams reported McDowell had the worst interview of any Combine participant. McDowell may be a top ten talent, but Reggie McKenzie will have to do his homework before he pulls the trigger.
Obi Melifonwu, Safety, UCONN
Before the scouting combine, few fans had ever heard of Melifonwu. Then, he put up the most absurd performance of any prospect that attended, with 4.4 40 yard dash, an 11′ 9″ broad jump, and a ridiculous 44 inch vertical leap, all at 6’4″, 224 pounds. He has the measurables of a supercharged Kam Chancellor, but plays free safety on tape. Melifonwu does have flaws, he’s raw and doesn’t understand the nuances of coverage. However, paired with Karl Joseph in Oakland’s new two high safety look, Melifonwu could be an absolute beast.
The Raiders certainly have other needs, and there are many other prospects they would consider. Oakland MUST draft at least one linebacker this year, but it is unlikely any worthwhile prospects falls to them. If Oakland can get a defensive stud like Melifonwu or White, or a plug and play tackle like Ramczyk, they will be absolutely deadly next year.