Raiders have found newer NFL draft sweet spot in the intermediate rounds – NFL Nation

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HENDERSON, Nev. – Although we’ve already dealt with the Las Vegas Raiders’ overall draft problems lately – only six of their 68 draft picks from 2012-19 have been signed for the second contract in a row and only three of their first-round draft picks since 2005 have been signed for extensions – there has been a bright spot.

As in … a silver lining for a decidedly black cloud.

For for every JaMarcus Russell, Rolando McClain, DJ Hayden and Gareon Conley as first-round flops, the Raiders have found mid-round gems like defensive tackle Justin Ellis, defensive end Maxx Crosby, receiver Hunter Renfrow and cornerback Nate Hobbs.

Call it a certain sweet place.

And since the Raiders do not have a selection in this year’s draft before the third round at No. 86 overall – the first and second round picks went to the Green Bay Packers for receiver Davante Adams – the challenge for the new regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels is that keep that pick (luck?) going.

Well Ziegler thinks this year’s draft has quality depth, right?

“I think when you find players in the intermediate rounds who eventually develop into core contributors to your team, there’s a degree of pride in finding those guys because … there’s always the kind of players who has risen to the top for one reason or another, “Ziegler said at his recent pre-draft media conference.

“Not that all those players are breaking out. We know very well that they are not.”

As such, Ellis was taken in the fourth round as No. 107 overall in 2014 by GM Reggie McKenzies and coach Dennis Allen’s regime and played five years for the Raiders. Crosby (fourth round, No. 106 in 2019), Renfrow (fifth round, No. 149 in 2019) and Hobbs (fifth round, No. 167 in 2021) were selected by coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock.

Ellis continues to produce, having spent the past three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens before signing with the New York Giants this spring. Crosby, the defensive MVP for the recent Pro Bowl, has just embarked on a $ 94 million four-year extension with the Raiders on March 11 after collecting 25 sacks in his first three seasons and leading the NFL with 108 total pressures this past season , after Pro Football Focus.

Renfrow is also in line for a new deal after capturing 103 passes in 2021, the second-highest single-season total of a receiver in franchise history behind the 104 receptions Hall of Famer Tim Brown had in 1997. Hobbs was PFF’s highest-rated cornerback when he lined up on the pitch last season with a grade of 81.5.

Yes, those are plots, players, that the Raiders found on Day 3 of the draft.

The New England Patriots also had success with Day 3 finds during Ziegler’s time in the Patriots’ personnel department. Since joining New England in 2013, the Patriots have found players such as running back James White (fourth round, 2014), defensive end Trey Flowers (fourth round, 2015), guard Shaq Mason (fourth round, 2015), guard Ted Karras (sixth round, 2016), defensive Deatrich Wise Jr. (fourth round, 2017), guard Mike Onwenu (sixth round, 2020) and running back Rhamondre Stevenson (fourth round, 2021) on the final day of the draft.

Again, unless the Raiders switch up in the first or second round – “Always a chance for a trade,” Ziegler said with a laugh – his regime will again have to make its hay late in these intermediate rounds.

And remember this – Ziegler reiterated McDaniels’ philosophy of crafting the best player available, regardless of position.

“I mean, if we work out three [players] in the same position in a row because they are clearly the top three players when it’s our turn to draft, I think you make a force stronger, “McDaniels said at the NFL owners’ meetings last month.

The Raiders’ biggest strengths are the offensive skill positions and their pass-rushers, positions that will be the most coveted in the early rounds. So perhaps quality players with their greatest positional need for offensive line and cornerback can still be found in these midfielders.

Plug-and-play guys? It worked for Ellis, Crosby, Renfrow and Hobbs, and remember, Ziegler praised the depth of this draft.

“You get judged on the staff side by the players you recruit and how well they produce and the types of players they become for the organization,” Ziegler said. “And then there’s a competitive aspect to wanting draft players. You want every single draft pick and every single player you sign, you want that player to produce and overproduce in an ideal situation.

“Yes, we want a good draft. Of course you want to be known as a team that draws well and that develops talent and all that kind of thing. No matter what round it is, we want to make sure we are able to to do it.”

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