Six weeks into the season, I'm not sure if there's another team in the league whose fate is more up in the air than the Oakland Raiders.
On one hand, these observers could be right.
The Black Hole, however, would be quick to point out that, aside from long-snapping issues in Week 1, the Raiders had a real chance at beating San Diego. Just this past week, Oakland traveled to Atlanta to face the undefeated Falcons, and if not for a late pick six and a 55-yard field goal as time expired, the perception of the Raiders around the league might be different.
In a sense, this group might also be right.
So, with all that said, we come to the idea of looking at the 2013 NFL draft.
If the first group is correct in its assessment, Oakland would be picking amongst the top five to seven slots come April, but if the second group is right about their team's prospects, the Raiders might not be picking until the middle of the first round.
The good news, however, is that regardless of where they're picking from, the target is going to be the exact same: cornerback and offensive line.
Without a doubt, the biggest problems for the Raiders this season have been their inability to open up running lanes for Darren McFadden and their inability to defend the pass. Shore up those two areas, and Oakland is suddenly a much different football team.
Because of the defensive-minded nature of Dennis Allen, I think that Oakland's top pick will be aimed at acquiring a quality corner.
At the moment, there are two corners widely believed to be of first-round caliber: Dee Milliner of Alabama and David Amerson of N.C. State. Milliner is ranked 15th on Mel Kiper's Big Board while Amerson is 20th.
Milliner, a junior, is listed at 6'1" and has five career interceptions in Tuscaloosa, two of which have come this season.
Amerson, also a junior, is two inches taller than Milliner and has 14 career interceptions, including three this season. Amerson also has the ability to play safety, another position of need in Oakland.
If Oakland was left to choose between either of these players in the middle of the first round, I think most Raider fans would be plenty happy.
If, however, Oakland free falls over the next 10 weeks and they're picking inside the top 10, offensive line might be the place to look.
At the moment, there are two guys on the roster whose spots are secure along the offensive line—Jared Veldheer and Stefan Wisniewski. While Veldheer can probably be penciled in at left tackle for years to come, Wisniewski can play center and both guard positions.
On Kiper's board, there are two lineman in his top 25 prospects, Chance Warmack (7th) and Luke Joeckel (8th). Warmack is a senior guard from Alabama, while Joeckel is a junior tackle from Texas A&M.
If Oakland ended up with any of these four players, it's safe to say their roster would immediately be improved, but it's still far from determined as to what spot they'll be drafting in.
One other very intriguing thing to keep an eye on is the quarterback position. While I'm sure this comment will draw the ire of the Terrelle Pryor Fan Club, I think QB is a position Oakland needs to seriously take a look at in the near future.
Personally, I think Carson Palmer can give Oakland a few more productive seasons, however, if you're hoping to be drafting late in the first round in years to come, now might be the time to be on the lookout.
Of course, at the top of the list is Matt Barkley, who has had an extremely disappointing season at USC after returning for his senior year. If Oakland could get him with its first pick, however, it might be too much to pass up on.
The second intriguing name is Geno Smith, and it only takes one glance at Robert Griffin III to realize why Smith is intriguing.
Ultimately, the draft is a long way off for the Raiders, and between now and then they could do anything from fall into the bottom five or climb into the division hunt. Regardless of where they end up, however, the conclusion is still the same: Help is needed.
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