With the 2018 NFL Draft drawing near, the Oakland Raiders have an opportunity to address many of their needs heading into the upcoming season. With the flip of a coin, the Raiders hold the 10th overall selection and will have plenty of options to choose from. Here are four prospects the Raiders should look to target with their first-round selection.
4 First-Round Targets for Oakland Raiders in 2018 NFL Draft
Georgia’s National Championship run cemented Roquan Smith as one of the top defensive prospects in the 2018 NFL draft. In Georgia’s two College Football Playoff games, Smith tallied 24 tackles and three tackles for loss. Smith’s performance against the best teams in the country showed why many consider him the best linebacker in his class. At the end of his junior season, Smith registered 137 tackles (85 solo), 6.5 sacks, and 14 tackles for loss. While slightly undersized, Smith makes up for it with his sideline-to-sideline speed and high football IQ. His ability to change direction on a dime makes him an ideal option to cover backs coming out of the backfield. With his size and play style, Smith compares similarly to San Francisco’s Reuben Foster, who showed flashes of dominance throughout his rookie season.
With the departures of Sean Smith, David Amerson, and T.J. Carrie, the Oakland secondary will look plenty different heading into next year. Iowa’s Josh Jackson possesses a natural playmaking ability that Oakland’s back-end hasn’t had in quite some time. Jackson combined for five interceptions and two touchdowns in conference games against Ohio State and Wisconsin. During his only year as a starter, Jackson tallied 18 pass breakups and led the country with eight interceptions. Jackson isn’t the fastest corner in this draft, but he is a ballhawk that excels in jump ball situations.
Ohio State continues to churn out premier cornerbacks. Denzel Ward is the latest Buckeye to solidify himself as one of the best corners in the upcoming draft. What separates Ward from other prospects is his elite athletic ability. Ward showcased this ability by running a 4.32 40-yard dash, which was tied for the best among DB’s, along with posting a 39 inch vertical. His fundamentally sound footwork paired with his fluid hips makes it difficult for opposing receivers to create separation. In this past season, Ward recorded 15 pass breakups, which helped him earn consensus All-American honors. Ward looks to become the fourth Ohio State corner drafted in the first-round in the last three years.
After being duped by Ndamukong Suh, the Raiders still lack a dominant force in the interior of their defensive line. Milpitas native, Vita Vea, combines a rare form of overwhelming strength coupled with extraordinary athleticism for a player his size. At the combine, Vea measured at 6’4”, 347 pounds to go along with a 5.1 40-yard dash time. In his final year at Washington, Vea accounted for 43 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Vea’s tape speaks for itself as he can be seen effortlessly tossing offensive linemen to disrupt plays. Vea’s versatility allows him to play several different positions on the defensive line.
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