NFL Draft Talk Volume V
As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level.
What will the Raiders do with their three picks in round one?
The Oakland Raiders have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft, most but any team, as they hold the fourth, 24th and 27th overall selections in the opening round. They have a plethora of needs on both sides of the ball and five picks in the first 66.
The first year general manager and former NFL draft expert Mike Mayock will work together with Head Coach Jon Gruden, who is entering the second year of his second stint with the franchise, and the rest of the organization’s brain trust to build this team through the draft with needs all over the roster.
They acquired the 24th overall pick from the Chicago Bears in a blockbuster trade that sent All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack to the windy city in exchange for the Bears’ first-round selection this year and next year, along with some other later round picks in next year’s draft.
This left a huge void in the pass rushing department for an already struggling Raiders’ defense that dropped from 24th in sacks in 2017 with 31 to the bottom of the league last season with just 13 on the year. In his first season in Chicago Mack finished with 12.5 sacks, just half a sack short of match his former team’s total on the year, received his third first-team All-Pro honors and came in second behind Aaron Donald in votes for Defensive Player of the Year.
The strength of this year’s class is believed to lie within positions along the front seven, and especially deep with pass rushers. They should be able to find impactful players on the defensive side of the ball throughout the draft, but they might want to use one or even two of their three first round picks on a player(s) that can get after the quarterback.
They received the 27th overall pick from the Dallas Cowboys in a straight up trade for wide receiver Amari Cooper, who the team took with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft. At the time of the trade, it seemed as if Jerry and Steven Jones got fleeced for a first round pick as Cooper only managed 22 catches, 280 yards, and a single touchdown through six games with the Raiders.
However, it turned out to be a great deal for Dallas that ignited their offense and saved their season. Cooper would become third-year quarterback Dak Prescott’s favorite target over the second half of the season and produced big plays with regularity.
He would finish the year with 53 catches for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys, compared to tight end Jared Cook, who finished as Oakland's leader in receiving yards with 896 on the year, six touchdowns and tied for the team lead in catches with 68 in 2018.
Veteran Jordy Nelson led the team’s wide receiver position with 63 receptions for 739 yards and just three scores on the year. This year’s draft isn’t front-loaded at the receiver position and none are deemed to be worthy of the fourth overall pick, but there should be some talented pass catchers at both the receiver and tight end position at the tail end of the first round where the Raiders pick three picks apart at 24 and 27.
There are some rumors circulating that Gruden and his staff aren’t committed to starting quarterback Derek Carr as the face of the franchise moving forward and that they could package those two picks at the end of the first round to jump back up into the top 10 to select their new franchise quarterback as well as a difference maker on defense.
That is what the Cleveland Browns did in last year’s draft when they took Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick and took cornerback Denzel Ward just three picks later with the fourth overall selection. Ward made the Pro Bowl in his first year and Mayfield finished a close second to New York Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley for Offensive Rookie of the Year.