Oakland Raiders could shock us all come draft day
Andrew Flores – Apr 25, 2016
The draft is 3 days away and so far this year’s draft has been anything but predictable. Yet with the 14th overall pick the Raiders could very well shock us all. While general manager Reggie McKenzie has always taken the best player available, this draft is different as the Raiders have no obvious needs and could gamble on elite talents with injuries in order to continue building a legitimate contender. Talents like Myles Jack, Jaylon Smith, and Karl Joseph are all likely to slide come draft day, while no one knows how far they will slide. These players are all blue-chip talents, and while they won’t make an instant impact they very well could develop into all-pro talents at their positions. Further the precedent for the Raiders to shock us by going against the grain has already been set, after all Reggie did gamble on D.J. Hayden in 2013 and while that didn’t set the best precedent. This move established that Reggie isn’t afraid to go against the grain, with that said here is my mock draft.
Round 1, pick 14: Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss
In the first round the Raiders shock everyone and take Laquon Treadwell at 14. While at first glance this seems like a head scratcher, here’s why it is just crazy enough to explore. Coming out of high school Treadwell was a 5-star recruit, an All-American and the top receiver in the country. Treadwell justified the hype exploding onto the scene and establishing himself as an elite receiver. Yet despite all he’s done there are still analysts who feel like Treadwell will not succeed at the next level. Scouts have consistently used Treadwell’s 4.63 40-yard dash time to justify his fall from grace. But what they haven’t mentioned is that at 6’2 and 225 Treadwell compares very well to Dez Bryant. But it goes beyond just size see while so much has been made out of Treadwell’s 40 time the analysts have largely ignored his 20-yard shuttle 4.29 and 3-cone drill 7.05 happen to compare very favorably to Bryant’s own times. While the claims have been that Treadwell lacks athleticism these results seem to contest that narrative, as his results compare extremely well to Bryant’s.
In analyzing Treadwell I can’t help but feeling he could very well develop into the Raiders’ version of Dez Bryant. While the argument against drafting him would be that the Raiders have two solid receivers in Cooper and Crabtree, the addition of Treadwell would give the Raiders an elite end zone target and would bolster an already talented offense. Although, Treadwell doesn’t project as a slot receiver which is the Raiders actual need, the addition of Treadwell could very well give the Raiders the flexibility to move Cooper into the slot. Cooper has already shown he can excel in the slot and the addition of Treadwell would make the Raiders’ explosive offense a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Other players in consideration if they are available at 14: MLB Myles Jack, CB Vernon Hargreaves III, and OT Ronnie Stanley
Round 2, pick 44: Karl Joseph FS West Virginia
After addressing the offense the Raiders shore up the defense by drafting safety Karl Joseph. Widely considered the best pure safety in the draft there have been questions about Joseph’s durability due to his less than ideal size. Yet his size should not scare analysts, as from a pure size standpoint Joseph 5’10 compares favorably with both Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu. Further, the concerns are unmerited as Joseph has proven himself durable having started every game in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Joseph is a fiery competitor who has no problem making the tone-setting, bone-jarring hits we all love. But Joseph isn’t just a hard-hitting, tone-setter he is a sneaky ball-hawk who can more than hold his own in coverage. Joseph is also a fit from a character standpoint as he was a team captain and was viewed as an excellent leader by many of his peers. While Joseph could end up missing the first few weeks of the 2016 season, the Raiders have the luxury of bringing Joseph along slowly as he recovers from his ACL injury. Reggie works his magic again as he takes the best player available and fills a position of need.
Round 3, pick 75: Jaylon Smith MLB Notre Dame
Truth be told there is no knowing if Smith will fall this far. In all honesty his projections are all over the place, and having once been considered one of the top players in this draft a team could very well end up gambling on him earlier. Rumors are currently circulating that the injury sustained in his final game may be worse than previously believed. As a result many analysts are no longer projecting Smith as a first round draft pick and there have been whispers that Smith could end up seeing a fall from grace similar to what former 49er running back Marcus Lattimore experienced when he fell all the way to the 4th round due to injury concerns. Yet while the caution was merited with Lattimore, Smith is another story.
There is a strong likelihood that Smith will end up missing his rookie year, but at age 21 Smith is young enough to where he has a good chance of recovering from the injury. Smith’s college career speaks for itself as he proved himself as a dynamic do-it-all linebacker. When you turn on the tape you see a blue-chip talent. Smith is so impressive that Bleacher Report Draft Analyst Matt Miller has continually gushed about him even comparing Smith to Patrick Willis. In scouting Smith his athleticism and versatility jump out at you. Smith is an elite athlete and despite being 6’3 and 240 pounds Smith has the top end speed to cover today’s tight-ends and receiving backs with ease. Smith has also proven himself a sure-tackler in space and he displays excellent awareness. But personally the most exciting aspect of Smith’s game for me was watching him blitz, when he shoots the gap it is truly spectacular. Smith’s blitzes are downright scary as he comes flying at the quarterback like a bullet dodging blocks and busting plays. And Smith has a final faucet to his game, because he is such a dynamic athlete Smith can also be used to contain mobile quarterbacks. While Smith has all the traits to become a dominant force for years to come he will need to improve his play strength as he struggles to shed blocks and can be susceptible to giving up the edge. At times I would like to see Smith make the attitude play and punish some people, but this is more of a personal preference. If Smith is available in the 3rd he could be the biggest steal of the draft.
Round 4, pick 114: Brandon Shell LT South Carolina
In the 4th round Oakland addresses the offensive line drafting the nephew of the legendary Art Shell. While Brandon is very raw, Shell’s versatility is enough to get Reggie to pull the trigger early. Shell is a physical freak and will fit in well with the Raiders already daunting offensive line. While he is raw and is far from a plug and play prospect the Raiders take the chance on a player with upside that is too tempting to pass up.
Round 5, pick 143: Aaron Wallace LB/DE UCLA
While he isn’t Myles Jack fans should be excited about this pick the Raiders snag another versatile linebacker. Wallace’s elite athleticism will give the Raiders the option to deploy him at linebacker but he will not be limited to that position as he also flashed as a pass rusher. Wallace gives the Raiders already flexible defense another weapon.
Round 5, pick 154: Ronald Blair DE/DT Appalachian St.
The Raiders snag a versatile defensive lineman in Blair; the Raiders could end up drafting him to play a role similar to the role Mario Edwards Jr. played for them last year. Personally I project Blair as a versatile defensive lineman that can push the pocket from the interior or hold the edge against the run, while he may not have the same upside as Edwards he definitely has the potential to develop into a quality starter for the Raiders. Do the Raiders strike gold a second time?
Round 6, pick 194: LaQuan McGowan LT Baylor
At 6’7 and 400 pounds the 23 year old would be a project with the boom or bust potential teams love late in the draft. In spite of his size McGowan has moves in fact Baylor utilized him at both guard and tight-end. Believe it or not there is actually film of him catching a pass for a touchdown. If the Raiders were to draft McGowan they would be taking a risk as there is a real chance that McGown never develops into an NFL offensive lineman he might not even play a meaningful down in the NFL. But his athleticism is honestly next level and if the Raiders can develop him they might very well have found a true diamond in the rough.
Round 7, pick 234: De’Vante Harris CB Texas A&M
I know what you are thinking where are the corners we need help in the secondary and your prayers are answered as with their final pick in the 2016 NFL Draft the Raiders roll the dice on a corner that has flashed excellent instincts and ideal awareness. At 5’11 Harris has the height that teams look for in corners and his ability is unquestioned, yet he struggled to make tackles and will need to put on weight at the next level. Harris is a willing tackler but play strength is an issue. He may end up being no more than a special teams player in his rookie season, but if the Raiders do give him a shot Harris could end up being quite the steal.
This year's draft has the potential to shock us all, personally I think the future of this franchise couldn't be brighter. It has been a long time coming, but this truly is the birth of a new era in Oakland. Regardless of what the future may hold, the Raiders we all love are back.
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