The Oakland Raiders could easily go into 2017 with Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph as the starters. But I could also see them drafting another safety in the first round to pair with Joseph for the next decade. Perhaps it won’t be a guy who would start right away but instead, one who can play behind Nelson for a year. But if they want a day one starter, they do have some options in round one.
Jamal Adams, S
Seen by many as the best safety in this year’s draft, Jamal Adams is likely to be gone before the raiders pick. But if for some reason he does fall, he would make a great addition. Adams rings the versatility bell that I love so much. An athletic safety who can play nickel corner and cover slot receivers and is great in run support as well.
His turnover production in college wasn’t great but you could argue that was due more to teams avoiding him than being an issue that NFL teams should be concerned about. He can also be a little overzealous at times, leading to missed tackles and big plays. Those, however, are minor issues that really shouldn’t impact Adams’ ability to be a day one impact starter.
Malik Hooker, S
Probably the best option at safety for the Seattle style defense that Ken Norton, Jr. has been trying to run in Oakland. Hooker has the athleticism to cover sideline to sideline as a single high safety. He has great instincts and anticipation making him a great center fielder. Unlike Adams, Hooker did have a lot of production in college and has proven to be a great playmaker with very good ball skills.
The downside on Hooker is that he often doesn’t take very good angles to the ball carrier. On top of that, he needs help with his tackling fundamentals. Neither problem is huge and both are ones that can be fixed at the next level. And much like all aggressive safeties, Hooker can guess wrong at times and give up big plays.
Hooker was a basketball player before football player and his limited experience can cut both ways. He was only a starter for one season in college and that means he still has a lot of work to be done. But that also means he has a high ceiling as he clearly has a lot of room to improve.
Obi Melifanwu, S
Round: First to Second
Melifanwu is a guy who worries me a bit. A great athlete who has played both corner and safety, Melifanwu wowed at the combine. A four year starter who is a good tackler and does well playing the ball, Melifanwu is the kind of player Al Davis would have loved: 6’4 and 224 lbs with crazy athleticism.
But much like some other players Al Davis fell in love with, Melifanwu may have shown more at the combine than he did on college game tape. Relying primarily on his athleticism in college, coaches in the NFL will need to work on his technique, especially with footwork.
But for me, the bigger concern is that he doesn’t play with much instinct. He’s slow to react and that can prevent him from making plays. His technique and footwork can be helped but instinct is not something you can teach. Though his athletic upside is huge, there are also reasons to be concerned about him.