After targeting two of their biggest needs on the first two days of the NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders looked to fill a hole on their offensive line on the final day.
The Raiders drafted Miami guard Jon Feliciano in the fourth round Saturday after trading down twice to acquire three extra picks.
“A lot of the targets that we went into in terms of needs matched up in certain areas with the value of the board, and that’s how we put together our draft weekend,” coach Jack Del Rio said.
Oakland later added two linebackers in the fifth round in Kansas’ Ben Heeney and Florida’s Neiron Ball. The Raiders then took Virginia defensive end Max Valles in the sixth round, and Tennessee State tackle Anthony Morris, Florida return specialist Andre Debose and Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald in round seven.
They add to a class that features two pass catchers for quarterback Derek Carr in first-round receiver Amari Cooper and third-round tight end Clive Walford, and a potential pass rusher in second-round defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. out of Florida State.
“You have to realize when you come into it, you can’t always fulfill every need that you maybe go into — or every person on the wish list,” Del Rio said. “But I thought, for the most part, we were disciplined in terms of staying with value and working the board from that standpoint.”
The Raiders took Feliciano 128th overall with hopes he can compete for the starting right guard spot. General manager Reggie McKenzie traded down twice before making the selection, adding a fifth- and seventh-round pick from Carolina in the first trade and a seventh-rounder from Tampa Bay in the second deal.
Oakland moved last year’s starter Austin Howard to right tackle to compete with 2013 second-rounder Menelik Watson for the starting spot. That left converted tackles Khalif Barnes and Matt McCants as the top two options at guard leading into the draft as offensive line coach Mike Tice said the race on the right side is “wide open.”
“That’s all you want coming in is an opportunity to compete and get better,” Feliciano said. “We have that there at the Raiders and I know everyone is going to go in there and compete and try to get better and that’s going to be awesome.”
Feliciano has experience playing tackle, guard and center. Feliciano is listed at 6-foot-4, 323 pounds and is a physical player who fits Oakland’s style of play. Feliciano allowed just four sacks the past three seasons at Miami.
“It’s going to be great to add him to the mix,” Tice said. “We’ll get some young blood in here with some toughness, intelligence, versatility.”
Feliciano had a tough road to the NFL. He was born breech and with a foot deformity that required a brace and was told he would never play sports. His mother had bouts with cancer and his home was condemned when he was in high school.
That made draft day all the more fulfilling for Feliciano, who watched at a friend’s house surrounded by those close to him.
“Growing up there was a lot of just extra stuff that I had to go through and everyone here at this house right now at this party helped me get through it,” he said. “That’s why I wanted them around me and to be able to get drafted in the fourth round by such a great organization. It’s a blessing and I’m so happy.”
Ball also overcame a lot. The former four-star recruit was diagnosed after his freshman year with an arteriovenous malformation, a defect of the circulatory system in the brain. He sat out the 2011 season recovering from brain surgery before playing his final three seasons at Florida.
He missed the final three games last year because of knee surgery but said he is completely healthy now.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Ball said. “I just feel like I’m just so blessed. I can’t really explain the feeling that I’m going through right now.”
Ball and Heeney both add depth at linebacker and will be counted on to contribute on special teams.
Valles is a raw player who has potential as a pass rusher. He played both linebacker and defensive end in college but will be used primarily as an end in Oakland. He had nine sacks this past season at Virginia.
“Obviously, if you’re still involved down low like that, there is a reason that you slid down the board,” Del Rio said. “We’ll try and help him grow through some of those things and become a kind of player that can help us.”