If the Denver Broncos are going to get back to the Super Bowl, they will have to go through the division rival Oakland Raiders, who earned a Wild Card berth last year for their first playoff appearance since 2002. Here’s what the Raiders did in this year’s draft that Broncos fans need to know…
The Raiders needed to upgrade their secondary. They used their first two draft choices to shore up the back end of their defense. They addressed some questions on the interior of their defensive line as well as linebacker. Six of their nine picks went to the defensive side, their weakest unit in 2016.
Most notable pick – Obi Melifonwu, S, Round 2
Rated as Mike Mayock’s No. 4 safety, the Raiders were intent on giving their secondary a boost with the selection of Gareon Conley in the first round and Melifonwu in the second. The former UConn safety, Melifonwu, has drawn comparison to Kam Chancellor of Seattle with his size and speed combination. Not just a Combine star, Melifonwu had eight interceptions his junior year and followed that up with another four in his last season with the Huskies. Like Chancellor, there are some concerns about his ability to cover, but he fits the mold of what the Raiders look for in their draft picks.
Head scratcher – David Sharpe, OG, Round 4
One of the biggest strengths for the Raiders last season was its offensive line. Despite losing Menelik Watson to Denver, they still maintained enough depth to have an equally effective offensive line entering 2017. Sharpe is huge, coming in at 6-foot-6 and 357 pounds, but has a medical concern with his having only partial vision in his right eye. He’s also not the most mobile lineman either. Picks in the fourth round have the ability to be productive, so choosing Sharpe was a bit of mystery.
Despite having one of the best players in the league in Khalil Mack, the Raiders have plenty of room to improve in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and defending versus the pass. They addressed one of those concerns with the Conley and Melifonwu selections, with both being in line to be starters come the start of the season. In the same division that has Philip Rivers and Alex Smith, we will find out quickly how improved the Oakland secondary will be.