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Oakland Raiders: An Early 2017 NFL Draft Review

fanspeak via Flickr

2017 NFL Draft: Oakland Raiders Feeling Risky

In hopes of returning to the playoffs next season, the Oakland Raiders had to fill quite a few holes in their roster. The signing of Marshawn Lynch adds depth to the running backs, but does not assure production. After allowing over 375 yards per game last season, it became obvious that Oakland’s defense required attention. While their defense was able to cause plenty of turnovers, they were unable to stop offenses of any sort. However, the Raiders used their picks in this year’s draft to fill various needs on both sides of the ball.

First Round: Gareon Conley

Gareon Conley (#8), cornerback for the Ohio State Buckeyes, was selected 24th overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2017 NFL Draft. (Eleven Warriors via Flickr)

While some teams held cornerback Gareon Conley’s rape allegation against his draft stock, the Oakland Raiders went another route. Oakland took the defensive back with the 24th pick in the NFL Draft, despite investigations. Conley’s play on the field made him a first round prospect following the 2016 season. He had the best QBR in college football at 14.0, while allowing under 160 yards on just 14 receptions all season. In addition, the Ohio State corner added four interceptions and seven pass breakups. His six-foot, 195-pound frame also makes him the prototypical size for a corner in the NFL.

Although Conley had a dominant season in 2016, he struggled in his first two seasons at Ohio State. He allowed a passer rating over 71 in 2015 and just under 130 in 2014. The Buckeye alumnus also needs to improve as a tackler. Last season, he averaged a missed tackle every 5.6 attempts.

Second Round: Obi Melifonwu

Obi Melifonwu (#20), safety for the University of Connecticut Huskies, was selected 56th overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2017 NFL Draft. (newspaper guy via Flickr)

The six-foot-four, 223-pound safety out of Connecticut may be the steal of the draft. Melifonwu received praise with comparisons to that of Kam Chancellor, and rightfully so. A traditional strong safety, Obi has shown versatility. He has lined up as a run stuffer, covered in the slot, and played cornerback during the Senior Bowl. Obi Melifonwu allowed just 318 yards on 25 receptions this past season and an additional 4 interceptions.

Melifonwu did allow over 70 percent of passes his way to be complete passes . Occasionally, he over-pursues tackles, opening cutback lanes as a result. While showing strength in coverage, Obi did allow a passer rating of 88.5 this past season. He often seems to engage his eyes in the backfield rather than his field of play as plays develop.

Third Round: Eddie Vanderdoes

Eddie Vanderdoes (#47), defensive tackle for the UCLA Bruins, was selected 88th overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2017 NFL Draft. (fanspeak via Flickr)

In 2016, the Raiders could not stop the run — even if it meant free hotdogs for the Black Hole. The defensive interior needed help, and it received it in the form of Eddie Vanderdoes. The UCLA defensive tackle is quick off the line and great with his hands. He had 16 defensive stops in 2016 and has been graded positively in each of his three college seasons (via Pro Football Focus). In addition, Vanderdoes has the ability to lineup across the defensive line.

Conditioning may be a concern for Eddie. As the season wore on, his play declined. A torn ACL in 2015 cost him his season, while also raising questions of his continued health. Knee issues kept him out of a Week 2 game in the 2016 season, and he wears a brace on the surgically repaired knee.


The Oakland Raiders were willing to take a few risks with their picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Conley raises questions due to off-field issues, but brings intrigue with his on-field play. Vanderdoes brings injury concern, but can be a force if he remains healthy. As previously stated, Melifonwu may end up being the steal of the draft. The versatile safety could presumably become the next enforcer in the NFL, if Kam Chancellor ever vacates the role.