It's time for the Raiders to cash in on the last of their draft ammunition they gathered in the Khalil Mack trade two seasons ago and to finally make the leap from rebuilding to good. When the 2020 NFL Draft comes around next week, the Raiders will enter the proceedings with two first-round picks -- the second of which used to belong to the Bears -- and with it, the opportunity to find two marquee players that can impact the team in both the short- and long-term as the team completes its move from Oakland to Las Vegas. It's a chance to accelerate the timeline of their rebuild.
It's also, of course, an opportunity to fail. If the Raiders fail to grab two impact players, their decision to trade away Mack will look like an error. They won't make the leap after a seven-win campaign in Gruden's second season back in charge. They'll fall even further behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. And they'll disappoint their new fans in Las Vegas. That's what's at stake for the Raiders in the draft next week.
The good news is that the Raiders did enjoy a successful first phase of the offseason, Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton shored up their holes at linebacker. Perhaps more importantly, the Raiders brought in Marcus Mariota as for Derek Carr, which frees them up to use their two first-round picks on positions other than quarterback. After all, they still have a few urgent needs.. Signing both
Below, you'll find a four-step plan for the Raiders to have a perfect draft next week.
But before we begin, I do want to float one possibility that seems too unlikely of a premise for me to build the entire article around it, but I do want to mention it nonetheless. I do not think the Raiders should reach for a quarterback like Jordan Love at No. 12 or even No. 19. I'd rather they address other positions. But if Tua Tagovailoa somehow falls to them, they shouldn't hesitate to grab him. It seems unlikely, but with Tua's health as a giant question mark, it wouldn't be beyond belief if he experienced a draft-night fall. This kind of thing has happened before. And it would benefit the Raiders, who would be getting the top quarterback prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft at this time a year ago -- before Tua's injury and Joe Burrow's incredible 2019 season. But again: I do not think this will happen,
Beyond that wild possibility of Tua falling all the way to them at No. 12, here's how the Raiders can have the perfect 2020 NFL Draft, beginning with their first pick in the first round.
Step 1: Take CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy at No. 12
Even this step isn't entirely in their control. But at No. 12, the Raiders might be able to get one of the two top receivers in the draft, especially if there's a run on quarterbacks in the top 10 and a defensive player like C.J. Henderson manages to sneak his way into the first 10 selections as his stock reportedly rises in the buildup to the draft.
The dream would be Lamb, the best receiver prospect in the draft. But there's a good chance the team picking ahead of the Raiders, the Jets, will take Lamb given their clear and urgent need at the position after letting Robby Anderson walk in free agency. If the Jets do take Lamb, the Raiders can still take Jeudy at No. 12 and feel great about it. He's the clear WR2 in this draft and Taking him at No. 12 wouldn't be a reach. He almost certainly won't be there at No. 19.
Last year, the Raiders' leading receiver was their tight end, Darren Waller. Their actual leading wide receiver was Tyrell Williams, who finished with 651 yards and six touchdowns. Williams is better suited to be a WR2 in an offense. Lamb or Jeudy would give the Raiders the WR1 they've been lacking ever since they shipped Amari Cooper to Dallas.
Step 2: Address corner at No. 19
It's time for the Raiders to address another urgent need on the opposite side of the ball. Even beforethe Raiders needed another cornerback -- one that is actually good. It wouldn't be at all surprising to watch them take C.J. Henderson over a receiver if he were to fall to them at No. 12. But in the scenario I outlined above, the Raiders go with a receiver at No. 12. By the time the Raiders are back on the clock, assuming they don't trade up (they shouldn't), Henderson will likely be long gone.
But I still like the idea of the Raiders using their second first-round pick on a cornerback. At No. 19, they should be able to get LSU's Kristian Fulton, TCU's Jeff Gladney or Alabama's Trevon Diggs. Either of those three guys would work, upgrading a defense that ranked 30th against the pass by DVOA last year. As it stands, the Raiders' top two corners are Trayvon Mullen and Nevin Lawson. Upgrades are needed.
Step 3: Add depth on defense
This won't come as a complete surprise after the Raiders got outscored by 106 points last year, but the Raiders still have more holes to plug -- especially on defense. A year ago, they ranked 31st in defensive DVOA. Only the Dolphins were worse.
The good news is that, even though they don't have their second-round pick, which belongs to the Bears in the Mack swap, they do have three third-round picks: Nos. 80, 81, and 91.
With those three selections in a short span, the Raiders should continue adding depth at safety, defensive line, and cornerback -- one good corner in the first round won't be enough to fix a horrible secondary in a pass-happy league and Patrick Mahomes' division. While , they could still use another safety. Randall has been a mostly inconsistent player in the NFL and he's only on a one-year deal. Meanwhile, Abram has promise as a 2019 first-round pick, but he's coming off a one-game rookie season. He's anything but proven. Defensive line isn't necessarily a need after Maxx Crosby broke out for 10 sacks as a rookie, the Raiders used the No. 4 pick in last year's draft on Clelin Ferrell, and they signed Maliek Collins in free agency, but they should continue to add depth behind those players.
Here in the third round, it's all about getting the best value and adding the best players. The Raiders shouldn't reach based on one need outweighing another.
That said, here are five names for the Raiders to eye in the third round:
- Amik Robertson, CB, La Tech
- Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne,
- Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska
- Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
- Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M
Any three of those guys would serve as good depth on a Raiders defense lacking any semblance of depth.
Step 4: Take the best player available, trade down
The rest of the way, the Raiders only have two picks: one in the fourth round at No. 121 and another in the fifth round at No. 159. It's not easy to find quality players at this stage in the draft, but the Raiders did do exactly this a year ago with Crosby in the fourth round and Hunter Renfrow in the fifth round.
The good news for the Raiders is that they have so many needs that they don't need to reach for a player to fill a specific need. At this stage, they should be taking the best player available, regardless of position. Sure, in this iteration of the draft, they grabbed a receiver early on, but they could stand to take another. Sure, they signed two linebackers in free agency, but Littleton and Kwiatkoski need backups. You can never have too many corners or edge rushers in the modern NFL. The point being, the Raiders should just try to add as many talented players as possible without worrying about areas of need. They have a ton of needs.
And on that note, if the Raiders can create more draft capital by trading down, they should. Even though they have two first-round picks, they're without any second-round picks and any picks after Round 5. Trading back to gather as many picks as possible and then using their extra picks on the best players available would be the wisest possible move at this stage.