The Oakland Raiders went into this offseason needed to address their secondary in a major way. They were ranked No. 24 in pass defense and gave up the most pass plays over 20 and 40 yards. The Raiders went 12-4 with that kind of defense because of the play of budding elite quarterback Derek Carr.
If Carr can stay healthy and the Raiders can defend just a little, the sky’s the limit for them. So in the 2017 NFL Draft, they took CB Gareon Conley in Round 1 and SS Obi Melifonwu in Round 2. Conley is a shut-down CB prospect that is at his very best when he is in press-man coverage.
Melifonwu is a freak athlete at 6’4″, 225 pounds that can match up with big, athletic TEs. He also allows 2016 first-round S Karl Joseph to move back to his more natural position of FS. That would bump current FS Reggie Nelson, who has clearly lost a step despite his five INTs, from the lineup.
And with CB Sean Smith played well below the standard for a player with his salary. So the Raiders want Conley to come in and take over as the team’s shut-down CB sooner than later. At the very least, they want him to come in and play in the slot, another area the Raiders struggled in 2016.
The word out of Raider Nation these days is that both Conley and Melifonwu tare impressing. DC Ken Norton Jr. especially likes what he sees from them in relation to what he wants from them. At a post OTA press conference, he spoke glowingly of his team’s first two pick in 2017, saying:
“Those guys are good, really good football players, glad they’re on our team. Long, fast, they love ball, they love practicing, they chase well, they’re always trying to improve and they’ve done a great job of understanding our system.”
Norton would then go on to talk about their versatility, particularly Conley’s ability to play in the slot.
It sounds like the Raiders defense is on it’s way.