JBB’s Oakland Raiders Mailbag: Post-Draft Edition


The post-draft edition of JBB’s Oakland Raiders mailbag, answering questions sent to our Twitter account.

The 2017 NFL Draft was an eventful one, as the draft always is. The Oakland Raiders ended up with a haul of nine picks, and initial reaction is starting to pour in.

Raider Nation had plenty of questions, so let’s not waste any time.

Note: Some of the questions were duplicates or similar to other questions that had already been asked. If you don’t see your question specifically responded to, that is likely the reason why.

I’m confident Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu will start day one. The Raiders could go with Conley over Smith or Amerson on the outside when they have two CB’s on the field, or they could just throw him into the slot. Obi is an immediate upgrade over Reggie Nelson, or he could be used in some sort of hybrid role, but whatever they do, he’ll be on the field.

Marquel Lee has a path to a starting job. With the linebacker position still being a question mark, he could be in line for a starting role with a strong camp and/or preseason performance. With Dan Williams and Stacy McGee gone, Eddie Vanderdoes also has a path to a starting job.

So I think it will be at least two day one starters, with potential for four.

Calhoun and Ward both disappointed in their rookie campaigns, especially Ward as a second round pick. Between the two, I’m more optimistic about Calhoun having a positive impact. As a pass rusher, he has the needed athleticism to make it work.

Ward has some natural power, but in his rookie year, he just looked so far away from being able to make a positive impact. Reports are he has transformed his body and the team is expecting him to take a big step forward, but I have my reservations.

Ishamel Zamora definitely has a chance to make the 53-man roster. Evaluating him on the field, he’s a mid-round pick. Character concerns, most of which stem from the incident involving dog abuse, is what caused him to go undrafted.

He’s a legit size and speed guy with a ridiculous 40″ vertical. Given his catch radius and body control, he’s got the makeup of a bonafide red zone threat, and he can absolutely be a legitimate wide receiver in the NFL.

Zamora’s route tree is quite limited, and he’ll need to be sharper in and out of his breaks to help give himself some more separation. And drops creep in from time to time. But all in all, he’s a very intriguing on-field talent.

Raider Nation won’t like hearing that Seth Roberts isn’t going anywhere, at least not this season, and Cordarrelle Patterson should have at least that no. 4 spot locked down. But Johnny Holton’s spot isn’t set in stone, or the Raiders could choose to carry six wide receivers if Zamora can prove his worth on special teams.

Brown is interesting, but I think it’s a longshot he makes the 53-man roster. Jared Cook, Lee Smith and Clive Walford seem set at the top three, and there is also Gabe Holmes in the mix.

I’m not sure there will be three veterans cut, but I do think there will be at least one. But the three that come to mind, are Keith McGill, Taiwan Jones and Denico Autry.

Most will point to Reggie Nelson as the most likely to go due to the selection of Obi Melifonwu, but the team values his leadership. With the selection of Shalom Luani, it’s Keith McGill that is the one on watch.

Luani has the makeup of a special teams stud, and he can replace McGill there as well as safety depth. The Raiders could carry Joseph, Obi, Nelson and Luani as the four safeties.

Taiwan has been a player most of Raider Nation has wanted gone for a few seasons in a row. He failed to make a positive impact at running back and cornerback, and his only value is special teams. But with Trawick, Bates and Holmes gone, he’ll be needed more than ever in that role. And his $1.15 million salary doesn’t exactly break the bank.

Nelson and Taiwan stand out as the most likely, but ultimately, I think both stay. If I had to pick a third, Autry is probably it. I like him, but he has been inconsistent. With Eddie Vanderdoes and Treyvon Hester being added to the defensive line, and Darius Latham also playing well for his rookie season, he could fall out of favor in the rotation.

But with that being said, depth is important, so I think he stays. Taiwan will stay as well, but McGill will be gone.

It would be difficult, but yeah, this team absolutely can win the Super Bowl with only a decent linebacker core.

The Raiders have a future perennial MVP candidate at quarterback, a threat to win the defensive player of the year award every season in Khalil Mack and a dominant offensive line. That’s a lot more than most what NFL teams just right there.

The defense as a whole isn’t going to be great, at least not anytime soon. They’ll likely end up on the bottom half of the league again in terms of total yards. But if they can continue to be a turnover prone group, and if the offense can continue it’s high-octane ways, the Raiders will be Super Bowl contenders.

Ware has the size and athletic ability to be a left tackle, but as a seventh round selection from a small school, he’s certainly going to be a project. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him end up on the practice squad while Mike Tice helps him hone his craft.

Given his draft slot, the Raiders most likely see David Sharpe as the potential left tackle. He started 26 games at that spot for Florida, so he has experience there. With the stable of players already at right tackle, it doesn’t make much sense to draft one in the 4th round who is going to compete with that group. My guess is Sharpe ends up as the backup left tackle.

Eddie Vanderdoes could be this year’s Mario Edwards Jr., as I can see some of those comparisons because of how their final year in college played out. Edwards Jr. was considered to be lazy, and also out of shape, and his production suffered.

Vanderdoes wasn’t considered lazy, but his production suffered due to his conditioning and weight being poor following his ACL tear. But both players are quality athletes and former big-time recruits. So if Jethro Franklin can tap into Eddie like has for Mario, then he’s going to be a very, very good third round.

The full list hasn’t been announced, so some of these might not be correct or there could be some missing, but these are the reports I’ve seen:

  • Seth Russell, QB, Baylor (tryout)
  • Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor
  • Keon Hatcher, WR, Arkansas
  • Isaac Whitney, WR, USC
  • Gary Brown, WR, Cal (tryout)
  • Nick Kurtz, WR, BYU (tryout)
  • Pharoah Brown, WR/TE, Oregon
  • Jordan Simmons, OL, USC
  • Elijah Wilkinson, OL, UMass (tryout)
  • Dylan Wiesman, OG, Tennessee
  • Kareem Are, OG, Florida State (tryout)
  • LaTroy Lewis, DE, Tennessee
  • Fadol Brown, DL, Mississippi
  • Jordan Wade, DT, Oklahoma
  • Paul Boyette Jr., DT, Texas
  • Breon Borders, CB, Duke
  • Nicolas Morrow, S, Greenville
  • Ahmad Thomas, S, Oklahoma
  • Anthony Cioffi, S, Rutgers
  • Rickey Jefferson, DB, LSU
  • Ryan Navarro, LS, Oregon State
  • Anthony Kukwa, LS, Erie State

Justin Ellis’ best season was his rookie year, and since then, it’s been up and down for him. So with that being said, I don’t see the team offering him a contract extension.

In my opinion, they’ll let him hit the market and see what his value is. If the price is right, they’ll bring him back to be in the rotation. But that price will likely have to be fairly low in order for that to happen.

Obi is versatile, which is what makes answering the question difficult. Given his athleticism, he’ll certainly play right away — I don’t think that’s in question. But where they place him remains to be seen.

He could replace Reggie Nelson in the starting lineup, and between him and Karl Joseph, both can play at either safety spot. Or the team could use him in a hybrid linebacker role, and officially field three safeties.

But whatever it is, yes, he’ll play right away.

There has been no word whatsoever on the Raiders kicking tires on any other linebackers, and there have been no updates on Perry Riley.

The presumption is the two sides are at a standstill in negotiations. Given that Perry Riley came in off the street and helped patch the defense, he might be valuing himself more than Reggie McKenzie is valuing him.

Or maybe Riley just wants some extra time off before starting the grind of the offseason and the year. But whatever the hold up is, ultimately, I think a deal will get done.

My least favorite pick was David Sharpe in the 4th round. At the time, I had already heard the rumors of him being legally blind in his right eye, so it was a puzzling decision to me.

But that has been cleared up, as Sharpe says it’s not true. But even outside of that, he’s a really poor athlete for the position, and if they want him to play left tackle, he’ll have a long way to go to be thought of as the LT of the future.

Also, I felt there were some better tackles out there, such as Will Holden. But Mike Tice wanted him, and Mike Tice knows more about offensive lineman than just about anyone on the planet. So go with his opinion on this, not mine.

The answer at inside linebacker might be Marquel Lee, actually. He’s got the size to do it, and his play style as a thumper also fits the bill for an inside linebacker.

Lee is a quality tackler, and he has good enough athleticism to make it work. His coverage skills don’t seem great, so he might not be a three-down linebacker unless he can be sufficient in that area. But with Perry Riley’s status up in the air, he has a path to the starting job.

Yes. The draft did not suck because Reggie McKenzie passed on Reuben Foster.

I tried to warn everyone this was a legitimate possibility. On April 25th at 10:13pm, I tweeted: “Reuben Foster is going to fall and the Raiders are going to pass on him. I’m mentally and emotionally preparing for that.” and I also wrote an article about it.

There are serious questions about his shoulder, including the potential of a second surgery, and a linebacker with a physical play style and a bum shoulder is a scary proposition. There was the incident at the combine that caused him to be sent home, rumors of known drug use while at Alabama and reports of poor interviews.

Next: Mel Kiper Gives Raiders Draft a 'C' Grade

That’s quite a bit of risk. With Gareon Conley, the Raiders felt comfortable with the evidence that points to him being cleared of any wrong doing. He’s a Top 15 talent at a position of need, and beyond that, I’m a fan of the majority of the picks that were made after that.