Noted ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr., spoke to media members from across the country via conference call on the heels of the release of his first 2016 NFL Draft Round 1 Mock Draft.
1. Mel Kiper Jr., has the Raiders taking Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin with the 14th overall selection in the draft.
Mel Kiper Jr.: I thought about going corner, I penciled in a corner, it's just the way it worked out, Jack Conklin was there. Remember they have unrestricted free agents at both tackles, I think that could be a major need area for them, protecting Derek Carr is a priority for your young quarterback who is showing incredible promise, as is [Clive] Walford at tight end, and [Amari] Cooper, with [Michael] Crabtree, and all the young guys you have coming along there. Adding a tackle like Conklin, who played left tackle and played it very, very effectively for Michigan State, he's an outstanding football player. At one point and time I had him going a little higher than that. Conklin would be a great pick.
2. The 2016 NFL Draft is deep at cornerback.
Mel Kiper Jr: A lot of good corners have gone second or third round and they could probably find one this year with the depth at that spot, a position where there's going to be some really good ones drop in to the second or third round. Harlan Miller - Southeastern Louisiana is a real good under-the-radar-type of guy, Zack Sanchez - Oklahoma, or William Jackson from Houston, KeiVarae Russell from Notre Dame, all really good players. So that's really one of the better positions in the Draft.
- The past two drafts, plus the upcoming draft, have the Raiders on the verge of being a playoff team.**
Mel Kiper Jr.: The draft last year with Cooper, with Mario Edwards [Jr.], Walford, [Jon] Feliciano, Ben Heeney was a steal in the 5th round, [Neiron] Ball showed promise at one point, you gotta feel that this draft was one, along with the draft that they had leading up to that, that has allowed the Raiders to be a team that you have to believe can be in the playoffs next year. [If] Carr continues to evolve into one of the better young quarterbacks in the league, and they help that offensive line with a guy like Conklin and add a cornerback or two, they are well on their way.
4. There will be some good linebackers available.
Mel Kiper Jr.: Inside linebacker in particular its not great but there are some good ones, you look at a guy like Antonio Morrison from Florida, he had the injury came back, he was a tackling machine you might see him in the third or fourth round, Scooby Wright gives you versatility, how will he test out, that will determine where Scooby Wright from Arizona goes, he's intriguing. Versatile kid like Terrance Smith at Florida State. We mentioned McKenzie at Auburn, a kid that had tons of plays behind the line of scrimmage, getting after the quarterback, sideline to sideline, Kentrell Brothers at Missouri, I didn't even mention Myles Jack who's going to go in the first round out of UCLA. It's a pretty good group, it's not tremendously deep, there are a couple of under the radar guys I like that I haven't talked a lot about. The 1-AA guys who have a chance. Luke Rhodes who's a versatile linebacker at William & Mary, keep an eye on him, Don Cherry an inside linebacker at Villanova has a chance as a late rounder/priority free agent to help somebody. There's some other players out there beyond the obvious. There's a pass rusher coming out of Eastern Kentucky who was at Ohio State, would have been another Buckeye in the first or second round, he's going to the senior Bowl that's Noah Spence, really came on late in the year. He's got a chance to be a pass rusher coming off the edge that you can pick up probably early to mid-second round.