Raiders trade back again to get defensive lineman in draft
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Jon Gruden’s first NFL draft since leaving the broadcast booth has been a busy one.
One day after trading back in the first round and making another deal to acquire veteran wide receiver Martavis Bryant, the Oakland Raiders remained one of the NFL’s most active teams in the draft Friday night with a series of trades.
Oakland began by trading down in the second round and acquiring defensive lineman P.J. Hall from Sam Houston State with the 57th overall pick, then made another deal to move up in the third round to get offensive tackle Brandon Parker.
The Raiders later dealt away two more picks to move up to 87th overall and drafted linebacker Arden Key from LSU.
“I thought (general manager Reggie McKenzie) did a great job pulling the trigger, making some trades last night and today to help us basically get five football players,” Gruden said. “It’s exciting man, it really is.”
The flurry of activity at the Raiders headquarters on the second day of the draft was to be expected as Gruden continues to remake the team in his image. In vintage fashion that would have probably made late owner Al Davis proud, Oakland acquired a pair of players from small schools and a third who has a history of off-field issues.
“My mom called me and she said maybe Mr. Davis was calling down the picks down from heaven,” Gruden said.
The Raiders acquired Hall with an eye on improving the interior of their defensive line. Oakland had 31 sacks in 2017, only 1 ½ from players playing inside full-time.
Hall should be an immediate help. The 6-foot-1, 310-pounder had 42 sacks in four seasons at Sam Houston State and was the Southland Conference defensive player of the year in 2016.
“I was really surprised,” Hall said. “I hadn’t heard about me going in the second round at all during this process. It really shocked me once I got the phone call.”
An edge rusher who alternated between standing up and lining up with his hand on the ground during his first three college seasons, Hall switched to defensive tackle as a senior where his quickness helped make up for a size disadvantage.
The Raiders are thin inside. Eddie Vanderdoes and Justin Ellis were the starters in 2017 but Vanderdoes is coming off a torn ACL in his left knee suffered in Oakland’s final regular-season game. Jihad Ward, the 44th overall pick in 2016, has one career sack in 21 games.
“We love (Hall’s) measurables. The only thing he’s not is tall,” Gruden said. “But this man is extremely powerful. We need an inside pass rusher. I’ve said that since I’ve been here, somebody that can disrupt running plays and penetrate, and this guy can do that.”
Hall was taken on the second day of the draft despite not getting invited to the NFL combine in February. The snub, he said, was extra motivation.
“I was a little down about it for like a day or two, but after that I felt like it helped me,” Hall said. “I got more time to prepare for my pro day and I had an excellent pro day. I crushed it. I feel that’s kind of what raised my stock.”
To get Hall, Oakland shipped the 41st overall pick to Tennessee in exchange for the 57th and 89th overall picks.
Then Gruden and McKenzie worked the phones and made another trade to grab the first pick in the third round. The Raiders traded the 75th, 152nd and 212th overall picks to Baltimore for the 65th, which they used to get Parker.
Parker is a two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference offensive lineman of the year who started four seasons at left tackle for North Carolina A&T. According to the Raiders, Parker did not allow a sack during his college career, although he disputed that.
“I think I gave up maybe one or two sacks,” Parker said. “I don’t know where that came from.”
Parker’s selection came on the heels of the Raiders drafting Kolton Miller with the 15th overall pick. Miller is expected to compete for the right tackle job while Parker will likely back up left tackle Donald Penn.
Key had 26 ½ sacks during three seasons at LSU but left school early after a 2017 season filled with highs and lows. He was limited to eight games last year due to injuries after checking himself into rehab the previous spring.
The Raiders see him as another outside edge rusher and a potential complement to Khalil Mack.
“He’s made some mistakes,” Gruden said. “He’s had some difficult times in his young life. I know where he’s been for the last several months, I know what he’s been through in his career. He has a lot to prove and we have a lot to prove.”
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