Silver and Black Today welcomes our newest staff writer Kelly Kriner. Kriner will serve as our in-house NFL Draft analyst and prognosticator. Kriner’s years of draft projections and sports handicapping brings a new perspective to our site and he will also join us on our CBS Sports Radio 1140-AM radio show and podcast.
2019 is just a few days old but when the team you cover isn’t in the playoffs, it’s never too early to start thinking about what Jon Gruden and new Raiders general manager Mike Mayock may do together in their first NFL Draft as a team. Yes, projecting the team’s draft picks this early (pre-Senior Bowl and NFL Combine) is akin to throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, we take an early look for conversational purposes.
With the massive turnover in play personnel during the 2018 season, the Raiders have needs all over the field. Yet some positions (defense, offensive skill positions) jump out. Let’s dive in for our first look at what Gruden and crew may do come April at the NFL Draft in Nashville.
Round 1 #4: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Defensive Tackle isn’t one of the Raiders top needs but a talent this good is hard to pass up. A trade down could be a possibility if the draft falls this way but a DT rotation of Williams and Hurst would be trouble for the league. Williams is a lightning quick player that just jumps off the screen. Only one year of production, but that hasn’t been an issue with Alabama players in the past.
Round 1 # 24: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Thorpe Award winner for the best cornerback in college football. Baker isn’t a superior athlete which is why he may be available this late in the NFL Draft. Good size and speed but makes plays with his high football IQ and aggressiveness.
Round 1 #28: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
22 sacks over his last two seasons in the SEC is exactly what this Raiders team needs. First step explosiveness and great hand usage help set up several counter moves that make Sweat a handful to deal with.
Round 2 #35: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Linebacker is a big need and a rangy linebacker like Bush would fit perfectly into the Raiders system. Sideline to sideline speed helps make him an athletic force. A hip injury will sideline him so we may not get to see him at the combine but his tape and Pro Day should reinforce him as a top player.
Round 3 #66: Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forrest
One of my favorite players in this draft Dortch combines great hands with top-notch speed. His route running is advanced for someone who is just a redshirt sophomore. His stock will rise after the combine but in a WR class that has a ton of talent, he should be available at the beginning of the third round.
Round 4 #100: JR Reed, S, Georgia
Quick feet and a high motor are what makes Reed a good safety prospect. Smart player that can diagnose the play quickly makes up for him not being a top-notch athlete. Will not wow you on film but it always around the ball.
Round 5 #131: Jordan Jones, LB, Kentucky
Ideal size to play LB at the NFL level. A super high motor and ability to move in space are what make him an intriguing prospect. That high motor is also one of his flaws as he can overrun the play from time to time and take himself out of plays.
Round 6 #188: Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA
Great hands and route running are the hallmarks of Wilson’s game. More of a pass catching TE block downfield in the run game but struggles inline blocking. Would be a good fit in the offense is Cook is not resigned or better backup to learn from Cook.
Round 7 #196: Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville
Injuries and the complete dumpster fire of a season at Louisville have hurt Smith’s stock but the talent is there. Had a chance to leave as a junior but decided to come back. Look at his junior year tape for a more representative example of his talent. Will be a great value option for the Raiders to add depth to the WR core.
Round 7 #215: Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
Small school talent that will get a big boost when talent evaluators get a good look at him. Clifford Harris award winner for the best division 2 defensive player. Rangy athlete with the traits you look for in a late round corner. Lack of competition is always a concern with small school players, but the talent and drive are there.
While nothing is ever guaranteed in the NFL Draft, Gruden, Mayock, and the Raiders certainly have a talented class to choose from. Going heavy on defense should suit them well for the 2019 season.