We’re a little less than a month away from the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and 80 days away from the NFL Draft, but with the Super Bowl officially behind us, it’s that time of year when mock drafts start being put together.
Let’s take a closer look at who NFL experts have the Oakland Raiders selecting in the first round:
Expert | Matt Miller
Breakdown: The hire of Jon Gruden might have fans thinking Oakland will go offense early in the draft, but the Raiders have massive holes on defense that must be addressed. One glaring hole is at linebacker—which is why Georgia's Roquan Smith makes a ton of sense at No. 10 overall.
Smith is a rangy, fast, smart linebacker with the tools to drop into coverage in the middle of the field or go after the run on plays outside the hashes. Yes, there are times he gets bogged down by blockers in the run game, but with an NFL defensive line in front of him keeping his jersey clean and improved strength training, Smith can and will improve there.
What should excite Raiders fans is that Smith and the development of the young secondary will hopefully mean a team that's struggled with pass defense in the past will take a big step forward in 2018.
Expert | Chris Trapasso
Breakdown: Like Chubb to Tampa, Smith to Oakland is perfect. The Raiders desperately need impact play from their linebacker spot and the Georgia star is productive at the line of scrimmage and in coverage due to immense athletic traits and high-caliber football smarts.
Expert | R.J. White
Breakdown: Even though offensive guru Jon Gruden is in town, the Raiders should be targeting best defender available with this pick. The Raiders can save $14.5 million by cutting Sean Smith and David Amerson in the offseason, and if they can get T.J. Carrie re-signed after his standout year, having him, 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley and the speedy Ward at the cornerback position instantly makes the Raiders younger, cheaper and flat-out better at an area of need.
Expert | Mel Kiper Jr.
Breakdown: Smith is the type of player new coach Jon Gruden loves. He's physical. He can get sideline to sideline in a hurry. He's a force in the middle. Smith was one of the best players on the field in the College Football Playoff National Championship, and he could slot into the middle of the Raiders' defense in place of NaVorro Bowman, who's a free agent. Oakland also could target a pass-rusher to help Khalil Mack & Co.
Expert | Lance Zierlein
Breakdown: The Raiders have been in need of help at inside linebacker for a while, and they get an ascending playmaker in this spot.
Expert | Bucky Brooks
Breakdown: Explosive athlete with the speed and movement skills to blossom into a CB1.
Expert | Daniel Jeremiah
Breakdown: Smith is a bit undersized, but he makes plays sideline to sideline and provides a physical presence in the middle of the field.
Expert | Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz
Breakdown: Oakland's defense has little to offer outside of Khalil Mack and needs assistance at almost every level. With excellent instincts and a knack for finding the ball, Smith might end up a foundational figure for whichever team drafts him.
Pro Football Focus
Expert | Steve Palazzolo
Breakdown: Running backs must be able to contribute in the passing game, and that’s just what Barkley can do after leading all college running backs with 632 receiving yards. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and will add a three-down weapon to the Raiders’ offense as they transition to new head coach Jon Gruden’s scheme. Even if they ‘win’ the coin flip with San Francisco, Barkley would still be in play at pick No. 9.
Expert | Walter Cherepinsky
Previous Selection: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Breakdown: The Raiders need to upgrade every area of their defense. Cornerback, linebacker and defensive tackle are seen as the big problem areas, but Oakland also needs a dynamic edge rusher to start across from Khalil Mack.
Jon Gruden could see Marcus Davenport as his next Simeon Rice. Davenport is a highly athletic edge rusher who has been generating tons of buzz lately. He could be a top-10 pick with a strong pre-draft process, and he's off to a good start by performing well at the Senior Bowl.
Expert | Dan Kadar
Breakdown: The Raiders finished 24th in the NFL in run defense last season, and need to add a couple of pieces to the middle of the defense this offseason. Vea is the biggest and best run stopper in this year’s draft, so the fit seems obvious.