Running Back DeAndré Washington
The 2017 NFL Draft is around the corner and there's been much deliberation on the talent in this year's class. With so much analysis and speculation going around, Raiders.com writers Kyle Martin and Eddie Paskal reflect on last year's draft, and look ahead to this year's.
Who was the most productive rookie from the Raiders 2016 draft class?
KM:In my eyes, safety Karl Joseph was the most productive out of all the players drafted, but running back DeAndré Washington gave him a run for his money. The Raiders first round pick from a season ago entered training camp in 2016 dealing with a knee injury he suffered during his final year at West Virginia, but fortunately made a full recovery after ultimately missing the duration of the team's Offseason Workout Program. Prior to the 2016 regular season, Joseph got a taste of the NFL tempo with some game experience in the preseason. While he didn't see extensive action in the preseason, the coaching staff felt the rookie was ready to make his first start in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans.
In his first start, Joseph showcased his hard-hitting 5'10", 207-pound frame, and finished the outing with 10 tackles. Two weeks later, Joseph notched his first career interception off none other than Philip Rivers from the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers. In his first season, Joseph totaled 60 tackles – which was the fifth most on the team – and an interception; not bad for a rookie.
EP:While Karl Joseph is certainly a quality selection here, I think I'm going to go with running back DeAndré Washington. The Texas Tech-product finished his rookie season ranked third on the Raiders with 467 yards, and a pair of rushing touchdowns, as well as 17 receptions for 115 yards. While those numbers might not necessarily jump off the stat sheet, where Washington's real value resided was as yet another explosive weapon – both on the ground and through the air – for the Raiders offense. Last season, the Silver and Black were at their most effective when all three of its running backs (Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and Washington) were involved in the game plan, and with all due respect to Murray and Richard, Washington certainly seemed to add a special little wrinkle to the offense when he got rolling. Since he's taken over as general manager, Reggie McKenzie has done a tremendous job of not only hitting on picks in the first and second rounds cough Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper cough but as well as finding gems like Washington later in the draft who end up becoming bigtime contributors.
What positions do you see the team addressing in the 2017 NFL Draft?
KM:When it comes to adding talent to the Oakland Raiders roster, General Manager Reggie McKenzie's philosophy is simple; build through the draft and supplement through free agency. It's been reiterated time and time again, but his approach has paid dividends for the Silver and Black since he took over in 2012. McKenzie has hit several homeruns in the draft with Pro Bowlers like quarterback Derek Carr, defensive end Khalil Mack, and wide receiver Amari Cooper, but has also surrounded them with capable playmakers through free agency.
Following a 2016 campaign that saw the Raiders rattle off a six-game winning streak en route to a 12-4 record, a playoff berth, and a Defensive Player of the Year in Mack, McKenzie is determined to build on the team's recent success.
Throughout the offseason this year, the Raiders have seen players come and go in free agency. With the departure of linebacker Malcolm Smith to the San Francisco 49ers and linebacker Perry Riley, Jr., still on the free agency market, the team could use some added depth at the position.
An exclusive look at the top 50 prospects leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, according to Daniel Jeremiah.
Finding a quality linebacker in the draft could add to an already potent Raiders pass rush and provide necessary support in the middle of the field. Several NFL experts have released multiple mock drafts recently in preparation to the draft, and many of them alluded to the Raiders selecting a linebacker with the 24th overall pick.
At the end of the day it's McKenzie and the coaching staff's decision, as to whom the team will draft. They could opt for one of the many gifted cornerbacks – in what's been emphasized as a defensive back heavy draft – or go offensive, but either way the Raiders will select a player that helps the team improve going forward.
EP:This might go a little against conventional wisdom, but it wouldn't surprise me if Reggie McKenzie and his staff added a little depth on the offensive line in the early stages of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Silver and Black boasted one of the top offensive lines in all of football last season, so picking up another high-level lineman almost seems like a case of the rich getting richer. However, let's not forget that nearly each week last season, it seemed like there was a new variation of five linemen trotting out onto the field at the start of the game. Now, the fact that regardless of the personnel, the Raiders offensive line was nothing short of stellar all season is a credit to the work that Mike Tice did with the group, but it seems like you can never have enough capable linemen in today's NFL. The Raiders no doubt have their franchise quarterback in Derek Carr – along with a plethora of offensive weapons all over the field – so giving "DC" ample time to operate is paramount for the success of the Raiders offense as a whole. Picking at No. 24 overall – and coming off a 12-4 campaign – McKenzie will have the luxury of likely taking the best player available when the Raiders are on the clock. Who that player is remains to be seen, but it will certainly be the talk of Raider Nation for the next two weeks.