With new general manager Reggie McKenzie at the helm, there has been more than enough speculation about the Raiders' plans for this draft.
The way I see it, with picks at such a premium this year, it is important not to select players who are not worth the hassle and/or appear to be projects. More than ever, it is time for the Raiders to value solid football players over guys with questionable character and work ethic, and especially over guys with low football IQs.
Without further ado, here are my five risks the Raiders simply should not take.
This selection is with a bullet. No matter how much it has been said, for the Raiders to be serious about starting fresh and moving away from the culture of their oft-wild past, players like Vontaze Burfict should be avoided.
Beyond his questionable play (16 personal foul penalties in 26 games), you have to wonder how much commitment comes from a player who, knowing the NFL Scouting Combine was such a huge moment for him, would show up out of shape and run a 5.1-second 40-yard dash. That reeks of either entitlement, lack of discipline, laziness, or a combination of all three.
Besides, the Raiders already have a seemingly entitled, often undisciplined and, at times, lazy linebacker in Rolando McClain. No thanks on a less productive sequel.
This one hurts because Cliff Harris is from my hometown of Fresno, Calif. I watched him play at my grandfather's high school (Edison, formerly coached by former All-Pro Tim McDonald) and was among the many proud when he headed up to Eugene to play for Oregon.
But since he's been there, it has been one incident after another. Speeding tickets, driving without a seat belt, marijuana use. Bad judgment. When the separation in skill between players is not as great as it once was in the NFL, character matters.
Harris seems to lack in the decision-making department. You can't just turn high character on and off like a lamp. It has to be worked on day by day, and nothing has indicated that Harris has put in that kind of effort. Not only that, but he had a poor combine, running a slow 4.65 40-yard dash.
When you add it all up, you can only hope the Raiders take someone like Chris Greenwood or Coryell Judie instead.
Unlike Burfict and Harris, this choice has nothing to do with character and more with what I perceive to be a potential lack of production.
Polk was a good running back in the Pac-12. But having watched a ton of Huskies football, I think his rise in the draft is a little extreme.
Chances are the Raiders won't even be in a position to draft him, but still: he is a good (but not great) player who lacks the traditional skills associated with elite runners. In addition, his Senior Bowl performance definitely hurt his stock.
Ultimately, I think the Raiders would be better served going after a running back like Robert Turbin or Ronnie Hillman in the middle rounds.
As with Polk, my reasoning for Hicks is not character driven. For me, he just hasn't faced much true competition playing football in Canada. He had a few scrapes that led him north of the border, but that seems to be less of an issue than the fact that he is extremely raw.
The Raiders need players along the defensive line who can help right away. I don't think Josh Chapman will be on the board when the Raiders first select at No. 95. However, there are options like Nick Jean-Baptiste and Mike Martin who are more apt to help immediately than Hicks.
There is just too much to work that needs to be done before Hicks can be a solid NFL player (i.e. he plays too upright, needs a lot of technique work with his hands and footwork, and does not have a consistent motor).
The Raiders have needs on the offensive and defensive lines. But if Stefen Wisniewski is moved to center, offensive tackle is probably the most pressing.
There are some options in the middle rounds, but Marcel Jones is not one of them. He struggles tremendously against the run and lacks the quickness to be a good zone-blocking tackle. Most scouts project him as a backup in the NFL.
With their picks, the Raiders should look at someone like John Cullen or Donald Stephenson to challenge for the right tackle spot.
Who will be the next draft steal for the Raiders?
Ultimately, the question is how much emphasis the Raiders will put on bringing in players who are solid and game-ready as opposed to reaching for the spectacular prospect and risk striking out.
The five players I listed could end up being productive players. No one can say yes or no for certain. That said, if coach Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie are serious about changing the way football is played in the East Bay, it begins with the players they select in this draft.
It is high time that measurables that say little about a player's football ability be de-emphasized and production on the field take greater emphasis. The players I chose have too much of the former and character flaws that take away from the latter.
This draft will be a good harbinger of which way the Raiders will go as they embark on this new direction.