Raiders Draft Class Superlatives

The 2017 NFL Draft is complete and now is the time for us to reflect on the nine newest members of the Oakland Raiders. As always, we won’t know for sure how good or bad this draft class is until a few years from now. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss them and their potential impact now. And what better way to discuss such speculation than by making a few predictions in the theme of senior class superlatives. You remember those from senior year of high school? Where you watched as the overachievers in your class were awarded with such pointless honors as “Most likely to be a teacher.”

Well, this is the Raiders Draft Class Superlatives Extravaganza! So let’s get started:

Most Likely to Surprise People

And the award goes to: Eddie Vanderdoes, 3rd round pick

One of the bigger surprises and one of the guys many felt was a reach for Reggie McKenzie was third round pick Eddie Vanderdoes, a defensive tackle out of UCLA. After a dominant 2014 season, Vanderdoes tore his ACL in 2015 and looked like a shadow of his former self in 2016. But then at the Senior Bowl, he looked like the beast we saw before the ACL. He lost a lot of weight, regained his speed and terrorized quarterbacks.

It was a huge risk taking Vanderdoes based on one week of practices and a Senior Bowl where players are extremely motivated to earn a pay check. But at the same time, Vanderdoes is a guy who could turn out to be a first round caliber player who makes his way to Pro Bowls while being a major part of the Raiders defense.

Most Likely to be a Day One Starter

And the award goes to: Gareon Conley, 1st round pick

Assuming the rape allegations turn out to be nothing and Gareon Conley doesn’t miss time in training camp and isn’t distracted by dealing with legal issues, he’s a day one, plug and play starter. Conley can start right away as the nickel, slot corner and eventually move outside to replace David Amerson or Sean Smith if the Raiders choose to move on from either or both of them. So no matter what, right away, Conley is a starter for the Raiders because, yes, I consider the nickel corner a starter. Recent stats show that NFL teams spent 67% of the time in sub packages (such as nickel or dime) in 2017. Given how often teams line up in three WR sets these days, the nickel corner is a starter in my mind.

But there’s even a chance that Conley is a starter on the outside depending on how well he plays during training camp and the preseason. If he’s heads and toes better than Smith and Amerson right off the bat, which isn’t crazy to think, he could be the number one corner on day one.

Most Likely to be an All Pro

And the award goes to: Obi Melifonwu, 2nd round pick

While I believe Conley will have the biggest impact right away, it’s second round pick Obi Melifonwu who has the most potential in my mind. Though he is still pretty raw. what’s so attractive about Melifonwu is his potential. The guy is an athletic freak who has that highly coveted and rarely present combination of size and speed standing at 6’4 weighing 224 pounds and running a 4.4 40 yard dash.

The Raiders are going to need to figure out where to play Melifonwu and then develop him at that position. But if Melifonwu is able to improve his on the field skill set to match his physical traits, he could be one of the best safeties in the entire league. He has a long way to go before he gets there with a lot of work to be done inbetween, but his physical traits gives him the potential to be elite.

Most Likely to Contribute in The Future

And the award goes to: Elijah Hood, 7th round pick

It’s good to think about what the Raiders will get from their draft picks in year one. But equally important is what the Raiders may get from their picks in a few years from now. Because let’s be honest, it takes a few years to really know what you have in a draft class, especially with the late round picks.

But in this case, the wait will have more to do with roster changes. Elijah Hood is a guy who could probably contribute right away but given the depth at running back, he probably won’t get many looks this season. But by the time Marshawn Lynch retires, Hood will be ready to take over and make a big impact.

Most Likely to be a Bust

And the award goes to: David Sharpe, 4th round pick

To be perfectly honest, I just don’t really like this pick by the Raiders. I believe there were better prospects still on the board when the Raiders drafted Sharpe in the fourth round. And even among the two offensive tackles that the Raiders drafted, I like the potential for 7th rounder Jylan Ware better than Sharpe.

Sharpe is a big boy who has a lot to learn about the tackle position before he can sniff snaps in the NFL. That’s not a problem for a rookie tackle but Sharpe isn’t necessarily a guy who’s seen as a lock to make the improvements necessary to make the jump. It would not be surprising to me at all if Sharpe is unable to do much in the NFL. I wouldn’t even be shocked if we end up hearing from Jylan Ware before Sharpe.

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