The Oakland Raiders entered last weekend's NFL Draft with three first-round picks, having several defensive areas which needed addressing. After dealing away perennial All-Pro edge-rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears and two-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys, all eyes were on coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock and their decision-making.
With the fourth overall pick, Oakland needed to go after one of the draft's premier pass-rushing threats. While the silver and black did indeed select a defensive end, Clelin Ferrell (Clemson Tigers), questions arose as to why they decided upon a player who was likely to remain undrafted until much later in the first round. Some have speculated that Oakland took others into consideration, however, Ferrell happened to fit better into the Raiders' defensive scheme. Reports also spoke of Gruden's being impressed with Ferrell's discipline and character, likely a result of being the son of two longtime military parents.
Oakland also had the benefit of the 24th and 27th picks, later in the first round, generated by the Mack and Cooper trades. With these two picks, Gruden and Mayock selected the draft's consensus no. 1-rated running back, Josh Jacobs (Alabama Crimson Tide), and hard-hitting safety Johnathan Abram (Mississippi State Bulldogs). Both of these picks were solid, as the Raiders desperately needed a skilled three-down back and sure-tackling safety depth with starter potential.
The Raiders actually traded-back to the eighth slot in the second round, taking cornerback Trayvon Mullen out of Clemson. Mullen will be plugged straight into slot coverage, as Oakland was absolutely torched last season by slot receivers "to the tune of 9.2 yards per catch," according to ESPN's Chris Sprow.
Without a selection in the third, the Raiders would have to wait until day three–the fourth round–where they possessed three picks. Again addressing positional depth needs, Gruden and Mayock took defensive end Maxx Crosby out of Eastern Michigan, Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson, and tight end Foster Moreau of LSU. Oakland tapped the defending National Champs (Clemson), once more, taking wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fifth round. With their final pick, in the seventh round, the Raiders selected yet another d-end in Prairie View's Quinton Bell.
Overall, Gruden and Mayock did well addressing their needs with talented players. The one questionable choice was, of course, their first-round (fourth overall) pick, Clelin Ferrell. Odds are that the Raiders could have traded out of their position, gaining even more draft capital, and still would have been able to get their guy later in the first. Time will tell whether the right decision was made, in this instance, or not.