The Oakland Raiders may not be moving to Las Vegas for another two seasons, but it seems by their actions in the 2018 NFL Draft, they’re already starting to gamble.
Day three of the 2018 NFL Draft for the Oakland Raiders began with a first. They actually used their pick on a player instead of trading down, up, or for a player. They also chose a ton of talent with a high risk factor, gambling that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and staff will be able to work through any perceived or real issues to get the draft selection to pan out.
With their fourth round pick, 110th overall, the Raiders selected cornerback Nick Nelson from Wisconsin. Nelson had a second round grade, but tore his meniscus during his pro day. Nelson set a single season record last year with 21 pass break ups. He locked down first round draft pick D.J. Moore to three catches for 44 yards when they met last year.
As for that knee, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the meniscus only needed a trim, as opposed to more invasive work, and that Nelson should be ready by Raiders camp. That could explain Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie’s comfort level with drafting him.
Wheeling and Dealing Again
The Raiders went back to their trading ways by trading up in the fight round (140th overall) with the Indianapolis Colts for picks 159, and 185.
It turned out to be a great deal as the Raiders drafted highly touted Michigan defensive tackle Maurice “Mo” Hurst Hurst. Hurts had been listed as a potential first or second rounder but was taken off the board by many teams after he was sent home from the combine after a heart condition was discovered.
Hurst was later cleared by a doctor to play, but his condition is one where he will have to have his heart checked yearly. That lead numerous teams to pass on him. However, at the 140th pick, the Raiders felt the need to finally pull the trigger. McKenzie said,”We have no concerns about him playing, he has a condition, a condition that will require a yearly check up.”
Hurst said he’s more than excited to join his new teammates and feels the Raiders will have a special unit on defense.
“Yeah, Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Shilique Calhoun, and you know, P.J. [Hall] and Arden Key,” Hurst said during his media conference call. “I mean it’s just such a talented group of players and just growing up watching Coach Gruden, I loved the Bucs. Warren Sapp was my favorite player growing up and I just loved that defense and that’s what I think he’s trying to bring back there and I’m just excited to be a part of that process and be one of those pieces to the puzzle.”
If his health holds up, Hurst has elite talent at the 3-tech position. He could the absolute steal of the draft.
So The Raiders Need a Punter?
With the Raiders second pick in the 5th round, they stood pat and selected University of Florida punter Johnny Townsend. The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said,”Townsend is the best location punter in the entire draft.”
Not only was Townsend a “location punter,” but he also averaged almost 48 yards per punt.
Townsend wasn’t intimidated know he will be the starter walking into the NFL.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity. I’m going to have to come in and compete and I’m going to have to bring my ‘A’ game throughout this whole process,” Townsend said. “Just having the opportunity presented to me is just unbelievable. I’m just going to take it and run with it.”
When asked if drafting Townsend was a reaction to a punter run Reggie said, “No, he was our guy, I’m just glad he was there.” Townsend also said that Raiders special teams coach Rich Bisaccia went to Florida to have a private workout with him.
So the Raiders Need a Linebacker?
In the sixth round the Raiders chose Azeem Victor, a talented linebacker out of the University of Washington. Victor looked like a day two prospect in 2016. However, he had a weight issue last season as well as a DUI in November. Maybe having a “swift kick in the pants type” coach in Gruden could be just what this prospect needs.
McKenzie believes that “The coaching staff and culture” should make a positive impact on players like Victor. That said McKenzie went on to say that “[The Raiders] will not lower their standards.”
So the Raiders Need Another Wide Receiver?
The Raiders selected in the seventh round pick Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman. Ateman is a big bodied receiver that beats his man with breaks and jump balls. Speed is not his strong suit, but he does create separation with crisp route running. Last season he won the Barry Sanders Award which is the most contribution but the least recognition.
McKenzie said, “We really like his size, we believe he could be special.”
Oh wait bonus round!
But wait there was more. The Raiders traded defensive tackle Jihad Ward for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Ryan Switzer. Switzer is a special teams player with slot receiver upside. He was expendable for two reasons. One the Cowboys just acquired wide receiver Tavon Austin, and second, they really needed competition at defensive tackle.
For the Raiders it was an easy decision. Ward was not going to make the team and anything they could get to salvage their 2016 second round selection would be amazing.
Overall, RaiderNation should be happy with how the day three went – especially the icing on the cake at the end. But it still was a bit of “risky business” on day three with all the baggage.
Next up for the Raiders: undrafted free agency and the inevitable cuts to the current roster that will follow.