Las Vegas Raiders 2018 NFL Draft class facing crucial third season
By Brad Weiss
The Raiders 2018 NFL Draft class has yielded little fruit so far, and are entering a third season in the NFL than could be make-or-break for most of the class.
During the 2018 offseason, the then-Oakland Raiders started out with a bang, bringing back head coach Jon Gruden, who dominated in that role in the his first go-around with the team. In his first draft, he and Reggie McKenzie tried to address the many holes on the roster, as the team was coming off a 6-10 season.
In 2016, the Raiders looked like a real contender in the AFC, as they were rolling heading into their Christmas Eve matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Well, we all know what happened there, as Derek Carr broke his leg, and the hearts of Raider Nation along with it.
The 2017 season brought a ton of change in the coaching staff, and after their terrible season, Jack Del Rio was let go. Enter Gruden, who was expected to bring the franchise back to being a perennial playoff contender, and the 2018 draft was his first chance at getting that process started.
This was the Raiders complete haul in the 2018 NFL Draft
- 1st round, pick No. 15: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
- 2nd round, pick No. 57: P.J. Hall, DT, Sam HOuston State
- 3rd round, pick No. 65: Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
- 3rd round, pick No. 87: Arden Key, Edge, LSU
- 4th round, pick No. 100: Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin
- 5th round, pick No. 140: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
- 5th round, pick No. 173: Johnny Townsend, P, Florida
- 6th round, pick No. 216: Azeem Victor, LB, Washington
- 7th round, pick No. 228: Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State
Originally, Miller was seen as quite the stretch, as many did not even have him listed as a first round pick. Hall and Parker were from smaller schools, and the fact that the team drafted a punter was also widely criticized.
Entering their third season in the league, this draft class has a few highs, and a bunch of lows, and are going into a crucial year. Some players are already gone, including Townsend, Nelson, and Victor, some are hanging on by a thread, and some are actually becoming stars in the league.
Miller and Hurst becoming stars
In terms of the players who have cemented their place on this roster after two seasons, Kolton Miller and Maurice Hurst stand out. After a tough rookie season, Miller is becoming a legitimate left tackle at the NFL level, and has proven to be a tough, consistent player, willing to play through injury and get better every week.
Hurst, who had a first round grade before a heart issue was announced at the combine, is looking like a first round player as he enters Year No. 3. The additions to the defensive line are going to benefit him in a big way in 2020, as he looks to make his first Pro Bowl.
Key and Parker big question marks
Hall is a guy who has steadily progressed the first two seasons, and figures to remain in the Raiders plans moving forward. However, fellow defensive lineman Arden Key is entering a season where he has to stay healthy, and produce, as the franchise has been building up the edge rusher position without him.
Brandon Parker had his chances during his rookie season, but he has still yet to prove he can be a legitimate option at the NFL level. Like Key, the Raiders have built up the offensive tackle position despite him, and he is definitely a guy who is on the bubble in terms of whether or not he even makes the team.
Ateman has been able to hang around since being the team’s final pick in 2018, and there have been times where he has shown flashes that he can be at least a depth guy at the NFL level. Miller and Hurst have been the crown jewels of this class so far, and by the end of the 2020 NFL season, they could be the only ones left standing.