Oakland Raiders 2015 Draft: Aggregating Report Card Grades from Around the Web

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2015

Oakland Raiders 2015 Draft: Aggregating Report Card Grades from Around the Web

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders' draft class of 10 is drawing mixed reviews from NFL analysts and pundits across media platforms. However, the consensus is this draft wasn’t as good as the 2014 draft class, but will it be enough to push the Raiders forward?

    Of course, it’s still early, and there’s a lot of fluidity with a new coaching staff in place led by Jack Del Rio. The most concerning question going forward is the alignment of the defense.

    Oakland drafted two players who played linebacker in college and a 5-technique defensive end; that smells like the recipe for a 3-4 defense. There was buzz about Khalil Mack playing more time at DE, as noted by Shawn Krest of CBSSports.com, but he doesn’t fit within a 3-4 defense on the defensive line. For that particular alignment, he should remain an outside linebacker.

    Common themes for the following draft grades focused on: a solid choice to bring in Amari Cooper as a No. 1 receiving option for quarterback Derek Carr, poor value selecting Jon Feliciano with a fourth-round pick and the upside of sixth-round pick Max Valles.

    Each of the following analysts gave their two cents assessing the Raiders’ 2015 draft class.

NFL.com: Bryan Fischer

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    Madison Kirkman/Associated Press

    NFL.com’s Bryan Fischer gave one of the more gleaming reviews for the Raiders’ draft with a grade A stamp of approval:

    Jack Del Rio could have built his defense around Leonard Williams and Khalil Mack, but grabbing the safest player in the draft was a nice way to start things out. Cooper can play inside and outside and gives QB Derek Carr a much needed safety net who will catch everything thrown his way.

    After nailing their pick with Mack last year, these were not the Raiders we're used to seeing on the first night of the draft. Throw in a top-tier defensive lineman like Edwards, who can play everywhere, plus an athletic tight end like Walford, and GM Reggie McKenzie is stocking the roster with young talent.

    Fischer is partially correct here. First off, I don’t see Edwards as a top-tier talent, possibly a solid starter in the league, but let’s not get carried away here.

    Secondly, Fischer focused on the top three picks and conveniently stopped assessing the Raiders’ draft at the point it got ugly in the fourth round.

    The Raiders essentially drafted three Week 1 starters, one of which is a questionable scheme-fit and the draft class gets an "A"? The grade is way too lenient for the lack of value the Raiders brought in with 10 draft picks.

CBSSports.com: Pete Prisco

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    Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has more questions than answers concerning Oakland’s draft class, which explains his C-minus grade:

    Best Pick: I love the pick of tight end Clive Walford in the third round. He will become a 65-catch player for Derek Carr.

    Questionable move: What are they getting in Mario Edwards? He has played heavy at times, but when he's lean he's a much better player. So what is it?

    Third-day gem: Sixth-round outside linebacker Max Vallas flashed on the tape I watched of Virginia while studying Eli Harold. He has a chance to make the team.

    Analysis: I was surprised they passed on Leonard Williams in the first round to take Amari Cooper. I like Cooper, but I liked Williams more. I'm not sure about the rest of their draft after Walford.

    Grade: C-

    Prisco is also weary of the Edwards pick due to lack of discipline with his conditioning. If the Florida State DE blows up to 320 pounds, he should be competing for Justin Ellis’ position as a defensive tackle. There’s no way he’s putting pressure on QBs or sealing the edge in run support out of shape at any weight level above 300 pounds.

    Just like Prisco, I was surprised Leonard Williams wasn’t the choice, but I’m totally on-board with developing Carr by giving him a No. 1 receiver. In agreement with the CBS analyst, Valles could be the steal of the draft in the sixth round. Keep a close eye on his development as a pass-rusher.

Yahoo Sports: Evan Silva

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Yahoo Sports writer Evan Silva wasn’t too impressed with McKenzie’s choices either. He gave this year’s draft class a C on the backdrop of a solid 2014 draft class:

    Overview: I was very high on Oakland's 2014 draft. I don't think GM Reggie McKenzie did quite as well this year. Cooper was a no-brainer pick at No. 4, but Edwards was a college underachiever who didn't take care of the Raiders' edge-rusher need across from SLB Khalil Mack. Walford is a high-floor, low-ceiling in-line tight end.

    Feliciano is a thickly-built brawler who I don't see as more than a stopgap, short-term starter. Heeney and Ball are athletic 4-3 outside linebacker types who may max out on special teams. The seventh-rounders are likely throwaway picks. Valles may be the most intriguing prospect McKenzie drafted, offering a plus combo of college production and athleticism.

    McKenzie knocked it out of the park last April, but beyond the Cooper selection I don't think the Raiders got a lot better this year.

    Grade: C 

    Another analyst points to Edwards as an enigmatic pick for Oakland in the second round. Those high on Edwards look at his ability to stop the run, but it’s not what the Raiders needed from a rookie DE. They needed a QB crusher, and Edwards doesn’t fit the description. It’s not a knock on him as a 3-4 DE but a condemnation on the Raiders’ brass for making that selection. 

    I’ll dispute with Silva about the Raiders’ seventh-round picks as throwaways. Anthony Morris comes from Tennessee State, which is off-the-radar, but he has the capabilities of playing both tackle and guard if you watch his tape. Secondly, Dexter McDonald could be the Raiders’ best bump-and-run defender on the perimeter.

ESPN: Mel Kiper Jr.

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Kiper gave some criteria as to how he assesses draft classes:

    • How much overall talent did a team add, based on board position?

    • How effectively did they address key personnel voids?

    • How efficient were they in maneuvering on the draft board?

    Based on that criteria, Kiper gave the Raiders’ draft class a B predicated on choosing Cooper at the top of the draft.

    If I'm critiquing, it's probably in Round 2, where I thought Mario Edwards was a bit of a reach as my 61st-ranked player. Edwards was a need, but this team has plenty of them and I had a couple dozen players rated higher there. I do like the Clive Walford pick as another matchup weapon for Carr; he has a great catch radius and will see the field early. 

    Jon Feliciano could help at guard, though value there was just OK. I do really like Ben Heeney's chance to compete for a starting role at middle linebacker at some point. Max Valles was a pretty good value in the sixth round.

    I had a couple question marks, starting with Edwards, but for me, you couldn't do any better than Cooper at No. 4, and almost alone that makes it another good draft for Oakland.

    Kiper is also singing Cooper's praises and it seems as though bringing him in helped the Raiders' draft grade tremendously. Carr gets a No. 1 receiver, who is ready to make an impact out of the gate. 

    More questions on that Edwards guy again. If the Raiders switch to a 3-4, it should answer some of those questions marks as to why he was the choice in the second round. 

    Kiper is pretty high on tight end Clive Walford, Ben Heeney and Max Valles. Walford will start right away in Week 1 over Rivera at tight end.

    It may take Valles a bit longer to earn a spot as the starting DE, but eventually, he'll get a chance to shine as a solid pass-rusher. He's going to be coached up by defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and will have a great opportunity to thrive in a defensive end/linebacker tweener role. Justin Tuck has one year left on his contract, per Spotrac, and the Raiders will need someone to apply QB pressure off the edge.

    Heeney could see substantial field time in a 3-4 alignment. He has the sideline-to-sideline motor to play on special teams right away. It’s also worth mentioning his exceptional football instincts. He's capable of shooting gaps with tenacity in blitz-scheme packages.

    Kiper didn't delve too far into the Feliciano pick other than the offensive guard would be "OK", but no forecast on what his role could be leading up to Week 1 of the season. Is it possible that Feliciano flew under Kiper's scouting report? It was probably the most baffling pick of the Raiders' draft and not many outside of the Raiders' organization can pinpoint the urgency in drafting the guard in the fourth round.

SBNation: Dan Kadar

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    SBNation’s Dan Kadar gives the Raiders’ 2015 draft class a B-minus; guess which pick really hurt the grade?:

    Best pick: Walford - Obviously taking Cooper was a smart move, but it's Walford who could really take Oakland's passing offense to another level. He's a sound player who will be a great check down for Derek Carr.

    Questionable pick: Edwards - Although Edwards flashed at times for Florida State, he never stood out for the Seminoles.

    The Raiders made the right moves by adding to pass-catching threats to the offense in Cooper and Walford. They're going to see a lot of targets early in their career for Oakland.

    Feliciano, a powerful blocker is someone who can push for playing time on the inside. Heeney is one of my favorite players in the draft. At the worst he'll be an asset on special teams.

    Valles was a surprise entrant in the draft but he has traits that can be developed. The odd choice is Edwards in the second round.

    Overall grade: B-

    Cooper was the obvious choice for Carr. Walford is the Raiders’ best choice that required some thinking. The combination of Cooper and Walford will elevate Carr’s game play exponentially. The Miami tight end also provides a big body in pass protection and a lead blocker for the running backs.

    Kadar is also high on Heeney and Valles as decent contributors for Oakland in the long term. The upside for both players will help them earn more playing time as the season progresses. Interestingly, this is one of the few analysts that liked Feliciano in the fourth round. Kadar didn’t outright back Feliciano as the favorite for the starting job at guard, but he simply gives him a fair chance at earning playing time.

Final Grades

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    NFL.com A
    CBSSports.com C-
    Yahoo Sports C
    ESPN B
    SBNation B-
    Bleacher Report B-

    This is how the final grades stack up among all the NFL analysts and columnists, including myself. As mentioned, there are common themes correlating with all these draft assessments.

    Edwards is clearly the most polarizing pick of the bunch. Some think he’ll become a solid cog in the Raiders’ defense, some have questions and others aren’t in favor of the Florida State DE fitting in Ken Norton Jr.’s defense. I’m in the latter category with a few other analysts.

    Secondly, very few people dislike Cooper as the No. 4 overall pick. The only speculation that arises with Cooper is passing on Williams. It’ll be interesting to see how Williams develops with the New York Jets. If he becomes a dominant player in the middle worth $100-plus million, it’ll be viewed as a botched pick unless Cooper fulfills expectations as a quality No. 1 receiver.

    Walford in the third round is an underrated pick, but among the analysts, he's a solid choice as an upgrade over Mychal Rivera. Carr may benefit just as much from Walford as he will from Cooper. As a combination tight end, he’ll become a red-zone target as well as another imposing body to protect Carr off the edge.

    From the fourth round onward, there are a bunch of question marks on what might be or could be, but Valles out of Virginia is drawing the most intrigue. Personally, I think he could have been a first- or second-round pick if he returned to school for another year. He had two years of college eligibility left.

    Nonetheless, he declared early as a sophomore and will become an absolute steal in the 2015 draft. Valles will take over as a starting DE for the Raiders by 2016 and become a force with double-digit sack totals in the prime of his career.

    Which analysts did you agree with on the Raiders' draft class? Which analysts were way off on their assessments? Tweet your thoughts to Maurice's Twitter.


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