Marquel Lee release another blemish on Raiders 2017 draft class
The Ugly: Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu, Jylan Ware, Elijah Hood
Gareon Conley could have been in the “Bad” category, but his draft slot, and the players the Raiders could have had instead of him places him firmly in the “Ugly” group. Conley was selected 24th overall despite some character concerns, but he is now on the Houston Texans.
After 2.5 subpar years, the Raiders shipped him off to Houston for a third round pick, and they have yet to sign him to an extension, so he may be a free agent after this season.
Even if we limit it to just the first round, the Raiders could have passed on Conley and selected one of the following players who would have contributed much more to the team: Jabrill Peppers, Tre’Davious White, Takkarist McKinley, David Njoku, TJ Watt, and Ryan Ramczyk. Hindsight is obviously 20/20, but it felt like a reach at the time, and it is evident that that was indeed the case.
Obi Melifonwu is another player that never panned out due to injury, but he belongs in the “Ugly” group because of his draft slot and the players the Raiders missed out on just after him as well. Melifonwu was chosen 56th overall, and again, if we keep it just in the round he was selected, the Raiders could have had a starting linebacker in Zach Cunningham, a solid pass rusher in Tanoh Kpassagnon, a starting cornerback in Chidobe Awuzie, or a star wideout in JuJu Smith-Schuster.
After a brief stint with the Patriots in 2018, Melifonwu was only on the practice squad in 2019 and was released in April of 2020. The former UConn Husky had all the physical tools but injuries never let him get his career off the ground, and it may be over for good after playing just seven games over two seasons on an active roster.
Jylan Ware and Elijah Hood were both selected late in the seventh round and neither made any impact for the Raiders. Ware has bounced around practice squads and Hood was last seen in the XFL with the Los Angeles Wildcats.
The 2017 draft class was another in a long list of failures by Reggie McKenzie who seemed to live off the selections of Khalil Mack and Derek Carr for much longer than he should have. Taking a look back at the Raiders’ history of draft picks in the McKenzie era after 2014 is enough to make any fan queasy, but the 2017 version may be the most egregious.