Chucky is back! Coach Jon Gruden returns to the Oakland Raiders after stints in Tampa Bay and the ESPN broadcast booth, bringing a fresh sense of enthusiasm to a Raider franchise just one year removed from its most wins (12) since Gruden’s first tenure with the team back in 2000.
The Raiders want to firm up their defensive interior and continue to keep their offensive roster primed for long-term success, tasks the 2018 NFL Draft will be important in accomplishing.
Using the FanSpeak On The Clock Mock Draft Simulator, here is one realistic scenario that would make sense for the Raiders.
Round 1, pick 1o: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is gone in this simulation, which makes the decision an easy one: NaVorro Bowman was a great free-agent addition to the team but is not a long-term answer. With nose tackle Justin Ellis up for free agency and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes suffering from a torn ACL this past year, the Raiders need to get the middle of the defense right. They can do that here with Smith.
Round 2, pick 41: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Like Bowman at linebacker, the Raiders did well to address their running back position with an aging star. The problem? Marshawn Lynch caused the team to get away from its core running plays in 2016 and adopt more zone concepts. The square peg/round hole problem must give way to a new long-term answer. Sony Michel is dynamic and brings a blended running style to match whatever system Gruden wants to implement.
Round 3, pick 75: R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami (FL)
The ACL tear by Eddie Vanderdoes in the season finale wasn’t just a cause for concern in 2018; it’s now bigger problem. This isn’t Vanderdoes’ first ACL tear, which brings durability into question. Big-bodied interior defenders are easier to acquire, so ensuring penetration from this front is paramount. R.J. McIntosh is a fun one-gap penetration defender who has a solid first step and could be a productive rookie in 2018.
Round 4, pick 112: Kevin Tolliver, CB, Louisiana State
The Raiders cut ties with David Amerson — that marks more change in the secondary for Oakland. 2017 first-round selection Gareon Conley is primed to man one starting slot, but the other? Veteran CB Sean Smith is a candidate, but he is currently mired in off-field troubles. Kevin Tolliver isn’t a universal prospect, but in a press-heavy system that likes to implement length on the boundary, he can be an interesting fit.
Round 6, pick 188: Marcus Baugh, TE, Ohio State
Few prospects are flying more under the radar than Baugh, who comes out of Ohio State as a polished blocker with a better run-after-catch skill set than most realize. Jared Cook is an effective receiver but won’t play in-line for the Raiders and win at the line of scrimmage. Baugh can compete with Clive Walford for reps.
Round 6, pick 195: Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Oakland is loaded in the sixth round, so there’s some ability to roll the dice on players. Antonio Callaway is a risk worth investing in. He’s a terrific athlete but not especially developed as a receiving technician. Given his substantial off-field troubles, there’s a lot to be leery about. If Callaway sticks, he could push Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson on the depth chart.
Round 6, pick 210: Joe Ostman, DE, Central Michigan
The Raiders need depth in all phases of the pass rush, given the Vanderdoes injury and the failure of Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun to develop through their first two seasons. No one is calling for those players to be replaced, but competition (especially this late in the draft) is a good idea.
Round 6, pick 213: Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech
Facyson fits general manager Reggie McKenzie’s “type” very well. No, Facyson doesn’t have great short-area agility or long speed, but he has the needed length to play press and is effective in challenging receivers at the catch point. That is, of course, as long as he’s able to stay attached at the hip when defending the route.
Round 6, pick 217: Jamil Demby, OT, Maine
An aging Donald Penn is backed up by 2017 fourth-round pick David Sharpe, who could feasibly stick in the long run. The right side? There is not a lot of promise behind listed starter Marshall Newhouse, where former offensive guard Vadal Alexander is currently penciled in.
Round 6, pick 218: Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State
As with Antonio Callaway, Matthew Thomas is a risk thanks to some red flags (a medical redshirt and sizable suspension included). But his speed at LB would be a welcome addition to the roster; he has more range than anyone currently on the LB depth chart.
Round 7, pick 228: James Hearns, DE, Louisville
Hearns isn’t an exceptional athlete, but his flashes of quality at Louisville have come in bunches. Hearns makes sense as competition directly for Shilique Calhoun, who should beat out the Louisville product but needs the extra competition.