Raiders Draft Grades: What The Experts Are Saying

Oct 15, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley (8) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley (8) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

A compilation of the grades for the draft of the Oakland Raiders.

The 2017 NFL Draft is in the books, and UDFAs signed. Teams are starting fresh. This is the time of year where opinions run downhill like a certain something else — and most don’t smell much better. The Oakland Raiders had a bit of a polarizing draft this year, and the various grades dispensed amidst the draftosphere reflects as much.

What are the experts and other saying about the Raiders 2017 NFL Draft? Well let’s see now.

Let’s start with everybody’s favorite hair disaster. Bill Tobin’s personal guru and self-proclaimed NFL draft expert, Mr. Mel Kiper Jr.!

There’s no need for me to into detail about Kiper’s thoughts. JBB Editor-in-Chief Nick Hjeltness did a fine job addressing them here. Kiper gave the Raiders a C- grade. He thinks Conley was a risk and the Raiders gambled there, while Vanderdoes is a big reach. Lee was drafted a round too early and isn’t the answer at MLB. These opinions are shared by many.

Next up is Pete Prisco from Prisco often makes comments that seem to indicate he’s fond of the Raiders, and he acknowledged the boom-or-bust nature of the Raiders draft:

There was some risk in them taking Ohio State corner Gareon Conley in the first round with his legal situation pending, but he is a top talent and could pay off big. The next three picks could also be big-time steals. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu had first-round talent, and if UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes can keep his weight in check he will be a good player. They needed some help up front, so he made sense.

Grade: B-

NFL Network’s Chad Reuter thought the Raiders had a solid draft but he also concentrated on the potential boom or bust nature depending on how things work out.

"Day 1 grade: B+Day 2 grade: B+Day 3 grade: B+Overall grade: B+The skinny: As long as Conley’s off-field issues are cleared up, the Raiders got the long, agile, ballhawk they needed. If he gets in trouble, then GM Reggie McKenzie will have to answer for the pick. The Raiders are in love with long, athletic secondary members. Obi Melifonwu is a hard-hitting guy with nice speed that Al Davis would have loved. If Oakland gets the junior-year Eddie Vanderdoes, they’ll like his interior push; if he’s the 2016 Vanderdoes, they might not like what they see.Oakland needed to get better on the offensive line, but David Sharpe must prove he can move with NFL-caliber players on a down-by-down basis. If he can, his length and size make him tough to get around. They met their inside linebacker need with Marquel Lee from Wake Forest in Round 5. Oakland didn’t ignore the running back position despite signing Beast Mode — Elijah Hood is a banger, as well."

SB Nation likes the first two picks but is pretty much meh on anyone after that:

"The Raiders were another team that came into the draft needing to fix their secondary, and they did so with their first two picks. First-round pick Gareon Conley surprised many because of his current ongoing legal issue. But if he’s in the clear, the placement fits the value. Safety Obi Melifonwu is a classic Raiders pick in that he’s a big athlete. Melifonwu has excellent range for a safety and was productive at Connecticut.After those two, it’s hard to see immediate help from this draft class. Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes once had the potential of a first-round pick, but because of injuries and stamina issues, he dropped to the third round. If the Raiders can keep a fire lit under him, he could help the run defense in a big way. Offensive tackle David Sharpe, the team’s fourth-round pick, is a good fit in the system.Grade: B-"

Bleacher Report’s Doug Farrar couldn’t decide on an overall grade, giving a B- and C as letter grades in two separate spots in the same article. They also graded each individual pick.

If you assign the following value to each letter – A(5) B(4) C(3), and add .25 to the value for a + (B+ = 4.25) and subtract .25 from the value for a – (B- = 3.75) the average individual grade is 4.33 on this scale. That’s a B+ overall grade. Average out the B-, C, and B+ for an accurate B grade. Maths!

Here is his breakdown:

"Round 1 (24): Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (C)The story of this pick is simple: If Conley is not guilty of the sexual assault allegations brought against him, getting him with the 24th pick is a great value, given his talent as a pass defender. If the story goes the other way, this is a disaster for all involved.Round 2 (56): Obi Melifonwu, SS, Connecticut (B)A tremendous athlete who blew up the combine with his test numbers, Melifonwu may project best as a safety, though he could move to cornerback at times in the right scheme. Wherever he plays, he’s going to be a problem for speed receivers with his ability to track opponents downfield.Round 3 (88): Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA (B)Vanderdoes is more of a gap-plugger and run-stopper than a pass-rush artist, though he performs those tasks at a high level. He recovered nicely from a torn knee ligament that caused him to miss most of the 2015 season.Round 4 (129): David Sharpe, OT, Florida (C)Round 5 (168): Marquel Lee, OLB, Wake Forest (B)Round 7 (221): Shalom Luani, SS, Washington State (B)Round 7 (231): Jaylen Ware, OT, Alabama State (B-)Round 7 (242): Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina (A)Round 7 (244): Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo (B+)Grade: C"

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is rightfully regarded as one of the best personnel men in the NFL, but taking Conley this high before the whole story is told is a major risk, no matter how much due diligence the team has done.

Depending on how it goes, Melifonwu may be the top defensive back in the Raiders’ draft class.

Vinnie Iyer at the Sporting News wasn’t a fan, going so far to lump the Raiders in with the Bengals as having one of the worst drafts this year. Iyer’s risk-reward analysis of Conley’s “gambling” style to his “character concerns” was a first I’d read. He strongly implied that Reggie McKenzie invoked the bad side of Al Davis by reaching for players based solely on look and testing results rather than skills. Those players being Obi and Vanderdoes:

"Oakland Raiders: D-The Raiders had nine picks, but it was a struggle vs. previous much better draft and offseason hauls from Reggie McKenzie. Conley’s gambling style isn’t worth the character risk, and Melifonwu and Vanderdoes were taken more because they look the part than anything else. Those early picks had an Al Davis feel to them. Between Sharpe and Hester late, there isn’t much front-line help for a rising young AFC title contending team."

Nate Davis at USA Today acknowledges this draft has the potential for boom or bust, with a lot of if this, then that scenarios laid out:

"GRADE : COakland Raiders: High ceilings and low floors for the first three selections. CB Gareon Conley would likely not have lasted to pick No. 24 had he not been accused of rape in the days before the draft. But he’s a wonderful addition if his record is as clean as he’s claimed. Second-round DB Obi Melifonwu is a physical marvel but maybe not the most instinctive player. Third-round DT Eddie Vanderdoes could plug a glaring hole in the trenches if his burst is back after a lackluster 2016 season when he was recovering from knee surgery."

As is his style, Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus didn’t provide letter grades, but did provide some analysis of how the draft picks addressed needs and will fit on the roster. Based on the comments I’d say Palazzolo’s thoughts are in the B grade range.

"Day 1: The Raiders took a chance on Conley’s off-field concerns checking out, and on the field, they get a nice combination of size and speed to play on the outside. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of only 13.6 when targeting Conley in 2016, best in the nation, and he got his hands on 11 passes (four interceptions, seven pass breakups) while allowing only 14 catches into his coverage.Day 2: Oakland adds another versatile coverage piece in Melifonwu who played safety at UConn. He also dabbled at cornerback at 6-foot-4, 224-pounds at the Senior Bowl. He’s an incredible athlete and a sure tackler who missed only 26 of his 284 tackle attempts over the last three years. Vanderdoes is good value in the third round as he uses his quick hands to penetrate from the interior while showing enough strength to hold up at the point of attack in the run game. Injuries and conditioning have been a concern for Vanderdoes, but he can be productive as part of a rotation.Day 3: Sharpe took a big step forward in pass protection last season, allowing only 15 pressures on 439 attempts. He has work to do at engaging and sustaining blocks in the run game. Lee ranked eighth in the nation with 63 stops as he has developed into a solid run defender. Hood is a reliable running back who gets what is blocked and more as his elusive rating of 117.0 ranked fifth in the draft class in 2016. Hester had a productive career at Toledo and he’ll compete for rotational snaps after his 87.1 overall grade ranked 12th among interior defensive linemen in 2016."

Mark Maske of The Washington Post decided that the Raiders and Bears need some improvement.  That’s two separate analysts comparing the Raiders draft to that of the Bengals and Bears. That’s not great – but also not accurate.

"Analysis: Some within the league were surprised that the Raiders used a first-round pick on Gareon Conley with him being investigated for a sexual assault allegation in Cleveland. He says he is innocent and, clearly, the Raiders believe him. His on-field talent was well worth a first-round choice but was using such an early selection justified, given the circumstances? The Raiders did get a good second-round value in S Obi Melifonwu. Grade: C-"

Just Blog Baby’s comprehensive assessment and grading of each pick culminated in an overall draft grade of B+.

So the overarching theme of the Raiders draft is – if Conley pans out, this was a good draft. If Conley does not, this was not a good draft. Many seem to feel that Obi was good value and has potential. There are split opinions on Vanderdoes. Not many seem to have confidence in Marquel Lee stepping in and filling the MLB hole immediately.

Reggie’s late picks, particularly his 7th rounders, are getting high praise. Based on all the grades around the interwebs, it appears the Raiders are sitting solidly on a B average. Nobody gave them an A. Nobody gave them an F. The D from Iyer is surprising.

The biggest knocks are the risk of drafting Conley, not picking up a MLB earlier, and the questions of Vanderdoes’ health and effort. However, I think it’s a little simplistic to say if Conley is cleared it’s a great draft, if he’s not it’s a bust. There are EIGHT other players that were drafted, any one with the potential to make an impact.

A little uncertainty is understandable as there are question marks in this draft. Players with big-time potential but legal, injury, or production concerns. Reggie took a few more gambles this draft than he has in the past. He’s being roundly criticized for doing so by many critics.

More from Just Blog Baby

Playing it safe and close to the vest has worked to build a solid foundation. But to get to the top of the mountain you have to take some risks.

That’s exactly what the Raiders did in this draft. If those risks pay off this is a great class with some real steals. If those risks don’t this is a poor draft class that will cause the defense to continue to suffer.