Every year, the Oakland Raiders add new players in the NFL Draft. And every year, there are players already on the team who know one of those draft picks might take their job. So of course, every year we like to take a look at the roster shortly after the draft to see if we can predict who might be finding themselves on the hot seat.
But for the purpose of this piece, we aren’t talking about the future, just the now. So if a draft pick is seen as the heir apparent for a given position but not for another year or two, that’s not someone we are going to talk about today. This is about players who’s addition means someone else might get cut before the 2017 season starts.
So let’s take a look at who is now on the bubble after the draft:
Taiwan Jones, ST/RB
I’ve long said that I love Taiwan Jones but he just doesn’t offer enough value to maintain his roster spot forever. Jones is a very good special teams gunner but offers no value beyond that. He’s seen a small number of snaps on offense but every coach who has tried to get him involved quickly backed away from the idea soon thereafter. Now that there was another running back taken in the draft, it might mean the end for Jones.
No, Elijah Hood is not going to be a gunner but he could still offer special teams value. And if he shows out in training camp and the preseason, the Raiders might not want to risk putting him on the practice squad. If so, it could be Jones’ spot he takes. Some might think that’s crazy after losing Darren Bates and Brynden Trawick in free agency, but special teams isn’t as bad as some think. They also added Cordarrelle Patterson who is a VERY good gunner. They are also likely to bring back a healthy James Cowser who looked great on special teams. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if a lot of draft picks like Obi Melifonwu and Shalom Luani are added to special teams as well.
Jamize Olawale, FB
Elijah Hood could also mean the end of the road for another backfield player in Jamize Olawale. Hood is a guy who was seen by some as someone who should move to FB at the next level because of his limitations at running back. But the Raiders could look at that another way, as Hood being a versatile player who can fill the fullback role while also filling the short yardage role. He is a good lead blocker and pass blocker while also being an absolute bulldozer on short yardage downs.
The one big advantage that Olawale has over Hood is his speed. Olawale is a matchup issue for defenses making him a pass catching threat out of the backfield. The problem for Olawale is that the Raiders already have two very good pass catching backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. But of course, this and Taiwan Jones both rely on Hood proving his value early on in camp and preseason.
This was my first thought when the Oakland Raiders drafted Obi Melifonwu. During free agency, safety was one of the positions I thought the Raiders might target because unlike some other positions, it was a fairly deep free agent class. Because while Reggie Nelson may have gone to the Pro Bowl, anyone who watched him play every week knows that was based more on people forgetting to update their memories from the prior season than him playing like a Pro Bowl caliber safety.
Nelson has clearly lost a step and whether it was because of that or because he was free lancing or because he would bite on fakes, Nelson often times found himself way out of position. For a guy who was supposed to be the last line of defense, Nelson found opposing players behind him far too often in 2016. But despite all of that, Nelson is still pretty safe. First off, the depth at safety is pretty bad so if he leaves, that’s a problem. Second, Melifonwu is an excellent prospect but he’s still a bit raw and may not be ready to start on day one.
The addition of Gareon Conley may mean the departure of Sean Smith, David Amerson or maybe both. But that departure won’t happen this season. The Raiders don’t have the depth to let either one go and their contracts make it smarter to hang onto them for another season. But the addition of a blue chip corner prospect could mean the end of the road for one or both of the developmental corners on the roster.
Both McDonald and Hamilton were forced into duty thanks to injuries the past couple of seasons and neither one did much to impress. But unlike the other names on this list, these are two guys who could end up on the practice squad if the Raiders decide they don’t have room on the 53 man roster for them. Both are still pretty young and the Raiders may still have hope for them in the future.
I know, I know, the Raiders literally just signed him. But they also just drafted two offensive tackles and already had four on the roster (Donald Penn, Autin Howard, Vadal Alexander and Denver Kirkland). Though it’s theoretically possible I just can’t see the Raiders keeping seven tackles on the roster. On the Raiders website, Kirkland is listed as a guard and Alexander as a G/T. Both were prospects that many saw as guards in the NFL so perhaps the Raiders are going to move them there this season, which would create room at tackle.
There’s also the chance that David Sharpe, Jylan Ware or both could end up on the practice squad themselves. Both guys are big bodied developmental projects who are likely not ready to play much in year one. Then again, the same was said about Vadal Alexander and not only did he make the roster, he played an important role as offensive tackle depth when injuries struck. If both Ware and Sharpe show more than expected, it could mean Newhouse’s stint with the Raiders was rather short lived. Cutting him would mean taking a $500,000 cap hit this season but that’s far from the end of the world considering how cheap Ware and Sharpe will be.