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Placer alumnus among Raiders Day 2 picks
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ALAMEDA (AP) — The Oakland Raiders stuck to defense on day two of the NFL draft, taking Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu with their second-round pick and UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round.
The Raiders took Melifonwu with the 56th overall pick Friday night, adding more help for the secondary after taking Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley with their first-round pick. They followed that by filling a hole at defensive tackle with Vanderdoes at 88th overall.
Oakland was targeting defensive help in the draft after struggling on that side of the ball last season. General manager Reggie McKenzie had made the most of his pre-draft additions on offense because he felt there was plenty of defensive talent in the draft.
The Raiders have a glaring hole at inside linebacker but opted for a hard-hitting safety and defensive tackle instead on Friday.
Melifonwu had 118 tackles as a senior at UConn with four interceptions and 2 1/2 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-4, 224 pounds, Melifonwu has the size to match up with NFL tight ends and was also clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
Melifonwu can play both in the box and at deep safety and also worked at cornerback in the Senior Bowl practices, providing some versatility for the Raiders.
The Raiders took a strong safety with their first-round pick last year with Karl Joseph and also have Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson at free safety.
Coach Jack Del Rio said one of the biggest weaknesses on defense last season was a lack of interior pass rush. Edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin combined for 18 of the team’s 25 sacks last season.
Vanderdoes is strong in the run game and as a pass rusher and will help fill the void created by the departures of Stacy McGee and Dan Williams this offseason.
He missed almost all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL and struggled with his weight last season. But the Raiders hope he will get back to the level he had before the injury and become a key part of the defense.
Oakland has five picks in the final four rounds of the draft Saturday, including two seventh-rounders.