Oakland Raiders Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Clive Walford, TE, Miami – Round 3
Last season, Raiders young tight end Mychal Rivera came on strong late in the season as a receiving weapon for rookie quarterback Derek Carr, so it was somewhat surprising that Oakland used its third-round pick on Walford. The reason that Walford was the Raiders selection and looks to be the likely starter is because he is a three-down tight end who is a decent blocker, while Rivera is limited in that aspect of his game. Walford should be the featured tight end for Carr for years to come.

Walford showcased his receiving skills in 2014 while playing with a freshman quarterback. Walford totaled 44 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns on the year. He also was excellent at the Senior Bowl as he showed an ability to get open with more athleticism than previously thought. The 6-foot-4, 251-pounder had a good senior year contributing as a run-blocker for Duke Johnson and has the frame to handle NFL defenders.

Walford and Rivera could form a nice duo for Carr. Rivera would be the movement tight end, while Walford should be the every-down player who contributes in all phases of the game. It shouldn’t take long for Walford to earn a starting spot and be a quality starter for the Raiders.

Most Likely To Bust

Mario Edwards Jr., DT, Florida State – Round 2
This was an easy choice for me given Oakland’s draft class. The Raiders took Edwards with the 35th overall-pick, and WalterFootball.com knows other teams that have a much better track record at drafting than Oakland that had Edwards graded as a late second- or third-round pick. Those teams had multiple reasons for Edwards being graded there.

Edwards is a talented athlete with natural strength to go with speed. However in college, he never produced up to his potential. His motor, motivation and effort would go dormant at times. Edwards also needs to develop more pass-rushing moves and totaled only 6.5 sacks over the past two years.

One of the worst things to be in the NFL is a tweener, and Edwards is a tweener defensive end/tackle. He played in the 290s in college but was down below 280 pounds at the Combine and his pro day. At 6-foot-3, that’s undersized to be a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense and makes him more of an end who would move inside in passing situations because he is not a threat as an edge rusher against NFL tackles. Edwards also doesn’t have a great fit in a 3-4 defense as he lacks the length to be a 3-4 five-technique defensive end.

Perhaps Oakland can find the right weight and role for Edwards to thrive in the NFL, but he looks like he has some serious bust potential.

Potential Boom Pick

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama – Round 1
The Raiders had a tough decision to make between Cooper and Leonard Williams, but landing a No. 1 receiver for Carr was too tantalizing for Oakland to pass up. Sources from around the league have said that they think Carr is going to blossom into an excellent NFL quarterback and with that, he should help propel Cooper into a star receiver.

From his freshman season in college on, Cooper ate SEC defenses, and they couldn’t contain him. As a junior in 2014, he was one of the best players in college football as he totaled 124 catches for 1,727 yards with 16 touchdowns. Cooper (6-1, 210) is too fast and sudden for cornerbacks to stay with in and out of his breaks. He is very skilled at getting separation and also uses his size well. When needed, Cooper plays bigger than his listed numbers. He is a tremendous yards-after-the-catch receiver. With an accurate quarterback like Carr, who should consistently hit Cooper on the run, Cooper will likely be darting downfield for big gains.

If Cooper and Carr can stay healthy, they could be poised for stardom. The Raiders just have to give the duro quality coaching and an offensive line, but Carr and Cooper could become one of the NFL’s top quarterback-receiver pairings before long.

Future Depth Player

Jon Feliciano, G, Miami – Round 4
This was a tough choice because I didn’t really like any of the Raiders’ selections on Day 3. Among those picks, Feliciano looks like he has the potential to be a quality backup guard in the NFL. He had a good senior year at Miami as a run-blocker for Duke Johnson, but needs to improve his pass protection for the next level. Feliciano won’t beat out Gabe Jackson or Rodney Hudson for an interior starting spot, but in a few years, Feliciano might factor into a competition to replace Khalif Barnes. Feliciano has the potential to at least be a good depth player for Oakland.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: B+ Grade
The Raiders were torn on Leonard Williams and Amari Cooper. Williams told them that he wanted to play for them, but that apparently didn’t matter to Reggie McKenzie. I have no problem with the Cooper selection. Derek Carr is going to have a tough task in his sophomore campaign without offensive coordinator Greg Olson, so Oakland needed to compensate. Providing Carr with a legitimate No. 1 receiver makes a ton of sense; Carr really had nothing to work with after James Jones predictably busted.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

35. Mario Edwards, DE/DT, Florida State: B- Grade
The Raiders passed on Leonard Williams in the first round, neglecting a huge need they had at defensive tackle. They had to address it on Day 2, and they managed to do so with this selection. It’s a bit early for the undersized Mario Edwards – I had him at the end of Round 2 in most of my mock updates – but I can understand why the Raiders would pull the trigger on the Florida State product.

68. Clive Walford, TE, Miami: B+ Grade
I had Clive Walford going around this range, so I like this pick quite a bit. The Raiders need weapons for Derek Carr, and I think it’s a good idea to add an intermediate target to his arsenal. Walford is a great athlete who can block, so he should see the field sooner rather than later.

128. Jon Feliciano, G, Miami: D Grade
A very curious selection by the Raiders, Jon Feliciano wasn’t seen as a draftable prospect by some teams. Others had him in the seventh round. If he happened to be a good prospect, perhaps he’d fill a need on the interior.

140. Ben Heeney, ILB, Kansas: B+ Grade
This is much better than Oakland’s previous pick. Ben Heeney is a highly athletic linebacker who could have gone a round earlier than this. The Raiders have a weak linebacking corps, so Heeney could push for a starting job sooner rather than later.

161. Neiron Ball, LB, Florida: D Grade
Blegh… Neiron Ball has glaring injury issues. Not only did he have microfracture knee surgery recently; he also underwent brain surgery a couple of years ago. Ball probably won’t be able to play in 2015, which makes this selection very curious.

179. Max Valles, DE/OLB, Virginia: B Grade
The Raiders hadn’t added an edge rusher yet, but better late than never. Max Valles was seen as a sixth-round prospect, so he makes sense at this juncture. He needs to be developed, but he has the tools to eventually emerge as a starter.

218. Anthony Morris, OT, Tennessee State: C Grade
I didn’t have Anthony Morris getting drafted in any of the 500 mocks I did this year. I’m not sure he makes the roster.

221. Andre Debose, WR/KR, Florida: B+ Grade
Andre Debose was a great prospect coming out of high school, but he never developed at Florida. The Raiders are bringing him in solely for special teams, as they see him as a potential dynamic return specialist. He could work out in that regard.

242. Dexter McDonald, CB, Kansas: C Grade
Dexter McDonald has had some troubles in his past, and I didn’t have him listed in my top 400. The Raiders probably could’ve done better here, but we’re talking about the 242nd pick.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

Oakland Raiders Season Preview

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12