INDIANAPOLIS – The Raiders have selected 26 players over the past three NFL drafts. New head coach Jon Gruden named just one impact player from that crew.
Outside the two-time Pro Bowl receiver, the Raiders haven’t benefitted from recent drafts. Gruden believes that has to change. Immediately.
“We need some talent to rise within this organization, I’ll tell you that,” Gruden said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “In our last three drafts, when I’m looking at it, we need someone other than Amari Cooper, some of these other young players, to explode on the scene. It starts there. We need young people to emerge. A lot of them have been injured. Jihad Ward, I don’t know what happened to him. Obi Melifonwu, Gareon Conley, we need these guys to play. Big time. I’m going to start with that.”
Some players might disagree with Gruden’s assessment. Few, however, would have a solid argument. Karl Joseph could certainly cite 24 starts in two professional seasons. Defensive lineman Mario Edwards has that same total in three seasons, with one largely lost to injury. Cory James and DeAndre Washington could be considered contributors. That’s about it. From 26 guys.
That’s not good enough, especially when so much money devoted to Derek Carr and a massive extension coming Khalil Mack’s way. Drafts become vital when a significant salary cap percentage goes to a few guys.
The depth chart has suffered, with little injury protection for established starters and glaring holes within the first team.
The Raiders have similar needs to a year ago, failing to find solutions at defensive tackle, inside linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle. Receiver and edge rushing depth is also required. The Silver and Black needed help from the 2017 class especially, top defensive backs Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu were hurt virtually all year. Most everyone else proved ineffective.
Ward was inactive most of the year, and Shilique Calhoun was cut last September and relegated to the practice squad.
Free agency and an immediately impactful draft class still can’t fill the holes on the 53-man roster. The Raiders need guys already in house to develop and take on important roles. If that doesn’t happen, the Raiders might be in trouble next season.
“We have to get the (new coaching) staff going and see what they can do with them,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “A lot of it is going to be on the players to work. A lot is going to be on them to learn their spots and responsibilities and their coaches to figure out they can fit in, and help this team win. This staff will do that. They’ll get (the most) out of them. We’ll see exactly what they are, what they can be and get some production. Health plays into it, as does the weight program and the rehab process.”