The Pioneer

Oakland still needs more defenders

Matthew Carrera,
Contributor

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The NFL draft concluded on April 28, and the Oakland Raiders came out with an average draft. There is a lot more they could have done, and they made some moves that made fans scratch their heads.

Oakland needed to secure their defense, and they failed to do that. The Raiders left a lot of good players off the board with their first-round selection mainly on the defensive side which is their biggest need. Some of the players they selected have had trouble in school, health problems and injuries which are red flags that deserve concern.

The Raiders first round pick, Kolton Miller, an offensive tackle out of UCLA, was a solid pick. He solidifies the offensive line, which has many looming questions. Without a good offensive line, a team is almost destined to fail, but it would’ve been much more preferable if they selected a defensive player with their first-round selection.

Oakland had the 23rd ranked defense in the NFL last season according to NFL.com. The defense was the achilles heel of the team last season. Time after time, the defense let them down by allowing too many points and staying on the field for a long time. Oakland recorded only five interceptions all last season. That is just abysmal. It is just mind-boggling that they didn’t select a top defensive player with their first-round selection when so many great players were still left on the draft board.

Oakland originally had the tenth overall pick, but they traded down to the fifteenth overall pick and received two extra draft picks. This is good because they have so many holes to fill, more picks will help, but they left some great players that were picked eleventh through fourteenth. They also missed on some great players that were selected after there pick.

They could’ve selected players like Derwin James, a safety out of Florida State University, who was rated one of the best safeties by most analysts and experts. Virginia Tech linebacker, Tremaine Edmunds was still available and the Raiders could have used his skill set at linebacker, something the Raiders are lacking. These players could have been day one starters and have made an impact on the defense immediately because of their high talent levels and intangibles.

The problem with some of their picks is that some of the players they drafted have off the field issues, medical problems, which can be a concern when drafting players. Gruden doesn’t mind rolling the dice and taking the risk with some of these selections.

Third round selection, Arden Key, a defensive end out of Louisiana State University has a plethora of red flags. He had shoulder surgery and a knee injury in college, entered a rehabilitation center voluntarily for marijuana abuse. When he rejoined the team, he came back overweight and his production fell off. This is a risk Gruden is willing to take. “We feel like he’s a gamble worth taking,” Gruden said to Raiders Media following the draft.

Maurice Hurst, a defensive tackle out of the University of Michigan, the Raiders fifth-round selection, should’ve been selected in the first round, but wasn’t because of one major problem that made teams completely take him off their draft boards. He has a heart condition. There are concerns about his heart after an EKG taken at the combine showed irregularities.

A football player diagnosed with heart condition turns away a lot of teams. This is a very tricky situation because at any point, the player can pass out and his condition could possibly worsen, and a lot of NFL teams wouldn’t want that burden. But it could be a great risk worth taking if it works out and he has a solid career.

Fourth round selection Nick Nelson, a cornerback out of the University of Wisconsin, had a very good collegiate career. But, in a private workout earlier this month, he tore his meniscus and needed surgery. That can be very detrimental for a young player having an injury like this. Especially since it is a meniscus tear. Knee injuries are never good for a cornerback since they thrive on changing direction at fast speeds at any time while running. It is possible he may never be the same he once was after this injury.

Nick Nelson also was penalized for a grand total of 183 yards and 12 holding and pass interference penalties. He also did not have one single interception during his college career.

Azeem Victor, a linebacker from the University of Washington, was selected in the sixth round, and again there are some off-the-field problems. He was arrested in 2017 after being charged with a DUI and was suspended indefinitely by the team. Victor was also suspended the first game of the 2017 season for an undisclosed reason. He suffered a broken tibia during his junior season. He started five games his senior year and ultimately got benched in his senior season. He did not look like the same player from his previous years.

Gruden had better have gotten to know these players very well and got their off-the-field issues taken care of. Some of these are very risky picks and hopefully, they work out. In his first season back coaching the silver and black, he better hope his first draft is a home run and overall a success.

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