ALAMEDA (AP) — After winning just six games a year ago as one of the NFL’s big disappointments, the Oakland Raiders had plenty of needs in their first draft since bringing Jon Gruden back for a second stint as coach.
They opted to bypass some of the most highly regarded defensive players to take UCLA tackle Kolton Miller after trading down five spots to No. 15, hoping to bolster the offensive line in front of quarterback Derek Carr.
“He’s a big man that can move his feet,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “He’s played left tackle and right tackle. He’s been an offensive lineman pretty much his whole life. He understands the game. He’s an excellent athlete who has great potential. We feel really good about adding him to the Raiders roster.”
After the San Francisco 49ers took the top-rated tackle in the draft, Mike McGlinchey, with the ninth overall pick, the Raiders opted to move down from 10 even with talented defensive players Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds on the board. They traded down five spots with Arizona, adding a third- and fifth-round pick in the deal.
Oakland still went with an offensive lineman at No. 15, taking Miller, with James and Edmunds still available.
The Raiders weren’t done getting help for Carr on the first day of the draft, trading the third-round pick they got from the Cardinals to Pittsburgh for talented but troubled receiver Martavis Bryant.
Bryant caught 17 touchdowns in 36 games for the Steelers, but was suspended twice for drug violations. He missed four games in 2015 and all of the 2016 season.
Bryant returned last spring but was quickly surpassed by JuJu Smith-Schuster on the depth chart. He asked for a trade in late September and was deactivated for a game after calling out Smith-Schuster in a post on social media.
The 6-foot-4 Bryant has the size and speed to give Carr a serious downfield threat and Oakland a better option at third receiver to go along with Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. Bryant averaged 15.3 yards per reception with the Steelers.
“He’s what you’re looking for as a receiver,” McKenzie said. “He can play big, play fast and he makes plays. We think he can be a dominating receiver for Derek.”
This is the Raiders’ first draft since bringing back Gruden for a second stint in Oakland. Gruden replaced the fired Jack Del Rio after last season and was given a 10-year contract to become the head of the organization.
While McKenzie remained as general manager and was involved heavily in draft preparation, Gruden is the man who now has the final word on picks for Oakland. Offensive line coach Tom Cable was high on Miller.
Gruden has said the Raiders needed better play at right tackle to protect Carr, especially in a division that features elite pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the Chargers, Von Miller and first-round pick Bradley Chubb in Denver, and Justin Houston in Kansas City.
The Raiders signed Breno Giacomini to a one-year deal to play right tackle but Miller could take that spot while being groomed to move to the left side. Donald Penn turns 35 on Friday and is coming off a season-ending foot injury.
“I’m stoked,” Miller said. “I’m ready to get going there and compete and learn from the older guys. There’s a lot of experience surrounding me. I’m ready to embrace it.”
Miller allowed two sacks and 16 total quarterback pressures in 579 pass blocking snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking 17th in efficiency.
“When you’re talking about pass protection and staying in front of your guy, that’s what he does,” McKenzie said. “He’s got the length, he’s got the great feet. You talk about getting to the second level and pulling. This guy has a lot of talent. We think in our scheme and coach Cabes working with him, he’ll flourish.”
The Raiders still have one pick in the second, third and fourth rounds, three in the fifth, four in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Oakland also waived defensive tackle Darius Latham.
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