Photo via Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports
As much as Raider Nation would love to see the Oakland Raiders draft a flashy player with huge star potential such as former Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie must fight the urge to do so.
Consider, Oakland had the No. 26 ranked defense in 2016 and have lost defensive tackle Stacy McGee to the Washington Redskins, just released fellow DT Dan Williams (who was the team’s best interior lineman left on the roster) and let linebacker Malcolm Smith (who led the team in tackles last season) walk to the San Francisco 49ers.
Interestingly, the team has also shown little-to-no interest in re-signing LB Perry Riley Jr. despite him grading out as one of the best linebackers in football (T-15), per Pro Football Focus.
If Oakland were to decide to go with flashy picks such as McCaffrey, Miami tight end David Njoku, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, etc. — it’s likely the team won’t be any better than they were last year come this fall.
The Raiders have too specific of needs to chance taking the best available player in any given round. McKenzie should (almost exclusively) be looking to secure a defensive tackle, middle linebacker and cornerback it Days 1-2 of the 2017 NFL draft unless an extremely talented can’t miss prospect falls into his lap.
Players such as former Michigan State DT Malik McDowell, former Houston DE Tyus Bowser, former Florida LB Jarrad Davis and Texas A&M CB/S Justin Evans would be excellent choices.
While these names aren’t flashy, they’re certainly the most formidable players at the most important positions of need for the Raiders, and each should end up in draftable positions for McKenzie.
Finally, those same anxious fans that want to see nothing but fireworks from the Raiders offense (even at the expense of the defense) should recall that All-Pro quarterback Derek Carr elevates the play of everyone around him (see wide receiver Seth Roberts’ 2016 campaign while noting his propensity to drop the ball).
Moreover, Carr already has excellent talent at skill positions around him making any flashy offensive draft pick early on beyond unreasonable. Understanding these facts, Raiders fans should expect McKenzie to stay grounded and make the proper selections come draft day.
After all, the man isn’t the reigning executive of the year winner for nothing.