Okay, now we can breathe a little bit.
The three-day rollercoaster that is the 2018 NFL Draft is now officially in the rearview mirror, and per usual, there was no lack of drama over the weekend for all 32 teams in the league.
When all was said and done, and the Oakland Raiders had finished wheeling and dealing, the team had made nine selections, and while the 2018 class will be dissected and analyzed ad nauseum – we’ll be doing the same thing – over the next several months, here are a few topline thoughts with Rookie Minicamp set to kick off later this week.
1. The roster overhaul is continuing
After a disappointing 6-10 outing last year, the Raiders roster has been overhauled the past several months, and that trend continued over the weekend.
With nine draft picks and two players acquired via trade – not to mention the forthcoming undrafted free agents that get signed – now entering the fold, the 2017 Raiders are going to look very, very, different than the team last year, and that’s probably not a bad thing.
Head Coach Jon Gruden wanted to build the Silver and Black in his image, and with 20-plus new faces added in free agency, along with a completed draft class, that certainly appears to be what’s happening in Oakland.
2. The Raiders invested in the big guys
Coach Gruden wants to dominate the line of scrimmage, and two of the Raiders first three draft picks should help do just that.
After trading out of the No. 10 overall slot, the Silver and Black selected UCLA tackle Kolton Miller at No. 15, an absolute behemoth of a man who can hopefully be a mainstay on the offensive line for years to come.
After picking up Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall – a guy who provides a much-needed interior presence in his own right – the Raiders took another big tackle, this time North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker.
Quick aside, this is a perfect chance to tell you to watch “The Call: Brandon Parker Becomes A Raider” on Raiders.com; General Manager Reggie McKenzie is super fired up to get the big man, and it’s one of the cooler behind-the-scenes clips we’ve produced in a while.
Anyways, back to business; good teams are dominant in the trenches and at the line of scrimmage, and it sure looks like that’s what the Silver and Black want to do in 2018.
It’s no secret that the offensive line was one of the best position groups on the team last year, and now with two more top-flight talents in the mix, I’m excited to see what Tom Cable gets out of his unit going forward.
3. Maurice Hurst could be the steal of the draft
The Michigan defensive tackle had an outstanding college career, and was viewed by many as a first-round draft pick until some health concerns arose that plummeted him down draft boards.
The Silver and Black selected the former Wolverine in the fifth round (No. 140 overall), and according to McKenzie, there’s no reason to be concerned about the health of the dynamic rookie going forward.
“The fact is, he does have a heart condition, but it is a situation where he’ll get checked every year,” said the Raiders GM. “Right now, he’s good.”
While McKenzie did acknowledge that Hurst will get checked each year, he also said that he doesn’t anticipate Hurst having a shortened career because of the condition, and if the big defensive tackle is indeed ready to rock, the Raiders have found first-round talent in the fifth round.
Plain and simple, Hurst was a beast at Michigan, and his arrival in the Bay Area could be a perfect match for a Raiders team who covets some interior pass rush.
4. Keep an eye on the wide receivers
As of now, the Raiders currently have 10 wide receivers on the roster – and that doesn’t even include Ryan Switzer – and you don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that not all 10 of those dudes are going to be on the roster come the regular season.
Competition is the name of the game in the NFL, and the more you can foster that competition, the better.
Amari Cooper is a stud, and Jordy Nelson is arguably the highest-profile free agent the team signed this offseason, but besides those two, I’d imagine the remaining spots are up for competition.
Oh, and we haven’t even talked about Martavis Bryant yet either.
The explosive wide receiver was acquired Thursday night via trade, and he’s going to be a very intriguing guy to watch going forward.
“We’ve been looking for a size receiver, a big receiver,” Gruden said of Bryant. “He’s big, he’s 6-foot-4. We’re looking for a fast receiver and he’s fast, he runs sub 4.4. So he has size, he has speed.”
The former Pittsburgh Steeler certainly looks the part of an NFL wideout, and when he’s on the field, he’s shown to be one heck of a playmaker.
Wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett’s group got a lot more interesting over the weekend, so make sure you keep an eye on their battles the next few weeks and months.
5. Needs were addressed
No offense to Colby Wadman, but I think we all anticipated the Raiders selecting another punter at some point in the draft, and that’s exactly what they did, picking up Florida punter Johnny Townsend in the fifth round (No. 173 overall).
The former Gator is one of the best punters in program history, and with a cannon for a leg, it’ll be fun to watch him and Wadman go toe-to-toe coming up.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Townsend said. “I’m going to have to come in and compete and I’m going to have to bring my ‘A’ game throughout this whole process. Just having the opportunity presented to me is just unbelievable. I’m just going to take it and run with it.”
It's only natural to compare Towsnend to former punter Marquette King, but don’t expect to see any elaborate celebrations from the newest Raiders specialist.
“I’m the type of guy just to kick the ball and run off the field or kick the ball and try to make a tackle,” Townsend explained. “But if something big time happens, if it calls for a celebration, then sure.”
Townsend also played free safety in high school, so maybe we’ll see the athletic punter lower the boom.
There’s nothing I’d love to see more.
6. Buckle up for Rookie Minicamp
The Silver and Black kick off their three-day Rookie Minicamp Friday at their Alameda, Calif., facility, and while Amari Cooper, Marshawn Lynch and Co., obviously won’t be in attendance, don’t sleep on how important those sessions are.
Not only is it the first time Gruden and his staff will get the whole rookie class together, it’s also a chance for the undrafted free agents to make a case as to why they belong in the NFL.
Just ask running back Jalen Richard about the importance of Rookie Minicamp, and I’m sure he’d be willing to tell you.
Anyways, Gruden and McKenzie put together a dynamic, nine-man draft class, and it’s going to be exciting to see them all on the field together later this week.