Call it a comeback. And quite the return to prominence as well. But despite a 12-4 finish this past year which saw the Oakland Raiders return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 (a season which saw them reach Super Bowl XLVII), this was a Silver and Black squad with some major holes. The major shortcomings were on the defensive side of the football despite some big-money free-agent additions such as outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and free safety Reggie Nelson. And despite the presence of 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, Jack Del Rio’s team finished 26th in the NFL in terms of fewest total yards allowed.

But help looks like it is on the way thanks to a 2017 draft where the emphasis was on stopping the opposition.

The total haul

All told, general manager Reggie McKenzie wound up selecting nine players in this year’s three-day event. And the Oakland Raiders used exactly two-thirds of those picks on helping the defense. The team’s first two choices addressed a unit that finished 24th in the league in passing yards allowed per game and a club that gave up 27 scores through the air. Hence the additions of cornerback Gareon Conley (Ohio State) – who is currently under investigation for a rape accusation – and safety Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut) in the first and second round, respectively. McKenzie used third- and seventh-round picks on defensive tackles Eddie Vanderdoes (UCLA) and Treyvon Hester (Toledo).

The Raiders also added linebacker Marquel Lee (Wake Forest) in the fifth round and safety Shalom Luani (Washington State) with the 244th overall pick. Finally, University of North Carolina running back Elijah Hood was the third of four seventh-round selections while tackles David Sharpe (Florida) and Jylan Ware (Alabama State) were day-three choices.

Immediate contributions?

Defensively, we are talking about an Oakland Raiders’ club that allowed 45 offensive touchdowns in 16 regular-season games. And the team was also a very disappointing 23rd in the league against the run. Hence, Vanderdoes could challenge for a starting spot this year. The team lost Stacy McGee in free agency to the Washington Redskins and veteran defensive tackle Dan Williams was cut loose.

Conley and Melifonwu could press for some playing time early in a secondary that includes Smith, Nelson, 2016 first-round strong safety Karl Joseph and cornerback David Amerson. The Raiders did not re-sign 2013 first-round corner D.J. Hayden and he signed with the Detroit Lions. Keep in mind that this was an Oakland team that allowed 24.1 points per contest despite finishing second in the NFL with 30 takeaways.

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