NFL Draft Talk Volume XXXVI
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 Oakland Raiders do with their trio of first round picks? They have the most first round picks of any team with three (fourth, 24th and 27th overall) and have perhaps the most holes to fill on both sides of the ball of any team as well. They have been one of the biggest spenders this offseason. In free agency they signed wide receiver Antonio Brown and left tackle Trent Brown to record deals. They have signed other veteran free agents to one-year deals as well but they still have a plethora of needs on both offense and defense that need to be filled. What they might do at four: The strength of this year’s draft class is in the trenches along the defensive and offensive lines, especially at pass rusher. There is an embarrassment of riches of edge rushers throughout the draft and the top 10 is expected to see the cream of the crop come off the board. The last time they drafted a pass rusher in the top five was Khalil Mack back in 2014 at fifth overall. He has become one of the most versatile and dominant defensive players in the league winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2016 and is the only player in league history to be named an All-Pro at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Despite his lofty accolades, the team traded him to the Chicago Bears last season and have sorely missed him ever since. They aren’t completely out of the Kyler Murray sweepstakes after hosting the Heisman trophy winning quarterback for a pre-draft visit and private workout and Head Coach Jon Gruden has been on record numerous times expressing his admiration for his game. However, if Murray does end up going No.1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals, which most pundits do believe will happen, that will leave the Oakland with a chance to select one of the top edge rushers in the draft. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, and Alabama’s Quinnen Williams are expected to be drafted right after Murray in no particular order so the Raiders will have a chance to give their woeful pass rush, that finished dead last in the league in sacks with 13, a major and much-needed boost. What they might do at 24 and 27: With the team selecting three picks apart late in the opening round, the talent pool at that part of the first is about even with the occasional unexpected player that took a bit of a fall after an early run on a position earlier in the night. They still have a lot of glaring needs on defense and could double down with another pass rusher or could find a stud outside corner. With Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin not under contract and with Lynch not even committed to coming back for another season, they could use one of these picks on a running back. They could also look to fill the void left by Jared Cook at the tight end position when he signed with the New Orleans Saints. Cook was team’s leading receiver last season with 896 yards and tied for the lead in catches with 68. If they opt to go the running back route, the top prospect at that position in Alabama’s Josh Jacobs could be available at 24 and could even fall to them at 27 if the board shakes out in their favor. If they want to take Cook’s replacement at tight end in that range, they could have an opportunity to draft Irv Smith who also played his college ball at Alabama. He is viewed as the third-best prospect at the position in the draft and is projected to go in the late middle to bottom of the first round. If they chose to select another pass rusher with one of those picks an option that still might be around in that part of the draft is defensive end Jaylon Ferguson from Louisiana Tech. As a senior, he racked up the most sacks in all of college football with 17.5 and finished his collegiate career as the all-time sack leader in college football history with 45. If they want to take a corner, many of the top prospects at that position are expected to start coming off the board around the 24th pick. The Georgia Bulldogs’ DeAndre Baker could still be available at that point. He was the 2018 recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award, awarded to the most outstanding defensive back in all of college football. While he doesn’t have the prototypical size of the tall lanky corners that have become so popular in the league since the Legion of Boom roamed the Seattle skies, he is a disruptive outside corner that can excel in a zone defense but also plays tight in man coverage.