Why the Oakland Raiders' Best Draft Strategy Is to Trade Down from No. 3
Four-letter words and the phrase "jaw dropping" are consistently used to describe the Oakland Raiders draft history. And good isn't one of those choice four-letter words.
So with the pressure of picking third overall staring down a franchise in transition, it's imperative that the front office finds a way to cash in on such a valuable asset.
And there's really only one way to fully reap the most benefits: trade down, regardless of the number of spots you have to drop.
This news shouldn't be shocking. Successful teams have been pulling such maneuvers for years. It's a big part of why franchises such as the New England Patriots remain relevant.
Therefore, just in case a scenario arises where Reggie McKenzie falls in love with a hot prospect and ignores the phone, here are the bullet points his staff will need to memorize in order to keep this pirate ship on course.
This Team Isn't Pulling Off A Worst To First
The Raiders do not have the makings of a playoff team as currently composed and won't be adding anything major through free agency. Their current cap number, according to Spotrac.com, sits at $121.3 million, which doesn't leave much wiggle room despite a higher-than-expected $123 million salary cap.
Side tangent: Maybe the government could grab a couple of the guys from the NFL offices because they certainly know how to print money. I just realized I subtly endorsed Roger Goodell for POTUS. That was definitely not intended. I shouldn't veer off topic. This is what happens when you veer off topic.
Anyways, when you find yourself trapped against the salary ceiling and you are carrying at least $20 million in dead money from players who won't help you win, the season is a lost cause. Can Oakland ride a miracle season to the playoffs? Sure, but I wouldn't bet on it and the Raiders shouldn't sacrifice any future flexibility to add an expensive piece at this point in the process.
So remember that each move needs to have long-term vision. Getting the best value for this pick is essential to building a foundation for future success.
JaMarcus Russell, JaMarcus Russell, JaMarcus Russell
Instead of grace, the front office needs to recount the history of the JaMarcus Russell debacle before every meal. It will serve as a constant reminder that reaching for a quarterback based on his physical attributes rarely works out.
Geno Smith may end up becoming a great quarterback. He proved in college that he can get it done when dialed in. However, his draft stock is the equivalent of an overconfident streak shooter in basketball (think Jamal Crawford circa 2008), meaning he's capable of both great and head-shaking moments.
That's not the mark of a quarterback who should be taken third overall. Just because Smith is the best rated signal-caller in a weak class doesn't mean that he should be selected in the top five.
If you really want to take a run on boom-or-bust prospect, go sign Russell. He's in the midst of a comeback attempt and the opportunity cost would be negligible.
Or try to get Smith a few picks later. Whatever satisfies this imprudent desire.
Think about it. The Philadelphia Eagles aren't likely to use the fourth pick on Smith and the Detroit Lions won't grab him at five. While trading back would open the door for another team to swoop in and steal him, it's a risk that needs to be taken.
Smith just isn't worth the third pick when another weak spot can be filled with the extra pick the Raiders get in a trade.
Plus, why not give Terrelle Pryor a shot to prove himself on a team with low expectations? The worst scenario is that he doesn't succeed, which will actually help whatever young passer you eventually bring in since the fans won't be calling for Pryor. Thus, you would prevent unnecessary pressure from influencing an already stressful situation (a young quarterback trying to mature).
Let someone else pull the trigger too early on Smith if that's their prerogative. You're a disciplined team now. It's time to move on from such risky behavior.
It Won't Be Easy, But Let Sharrif Floyd Play Elsewhere
The buzz surrounding Sharrif Floyd has morphed into a full-blown hype avalanche. And with good reason. He's a physical specimen with a valuable ability to penetrate the pocket from the interior.
And yes, defensive tackle is a position of need. In 2012, Tommy Kelly was too busy paying a costly homage to the Raiders of yesteryear with 10 penalties to be counted on going forward, and Desmond Bryant is a free agent.
But there is too much depth at the defensive line positions in his year's draft pool to allow Floyd to preempt adding another selection or two. Especially when the Raiders can walk away with a huge steal by grabbing the sliding Star Lotulelei much later than he should go.
Granted, the medical team will need to do its homework, but plenty of teams are bound to be scared off by his heart condition and the availability of other skilled defensive line options in the early first round.
However, this is a guy that some experts had going first overall until the combine. Heck, Todd McShay still does.
That's the definition of a steal.
Left Tackle Isn't A Need
Since the Kansas City Chiefs smacked (generously applied?) Branden Albert with the franchise tag, the near-lock-of-Luke-Joeckel-to-the-Chiefs-at-No.1 paradigm is on life support, opening a Pandora's box of speculation on who will go first.
Speculation is unreliable. But what we can rely on is that, barring a Kansas City trade, there will be a top tackle available at the No. 3 spot.
But, again, the Raiders should pass on adding an extremely talented player. At least it won't sting as much as skipping out on Floyd since offensive tackle isn't a position of need. Jared Veldheer was one of the few bright spots from last year's squad. Pro Football Focus confirms his dominance with a 22.4 seasonal grade (subscription required).
If the Raiders really want to improve their offensive line, they should look to Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper at a later slot. Either would be an improvement inside and fit the new power-blocking scheme.
What Should The Raiders Do With The Third Pick?
Oakland would certainly be able to grab one of these two if it backslid to seventh. The Arizona Cardinals may be willing to move up to ensure they get either Eric Fisher or Joeckel. As the trade sheet demonstrates, the Raiders would likely get the Cards' first-rounder, second-rounder (39th overall) and possibly a mid-round pick.
Don't panic. I can add and understand the points don't match up. But not all trades are going to equal out, especially since the true value would require the 80th pick, which is owned by the Atlanta Falcons. The actual compensation garnered by the third pick will depend on outside factors, such as the degree of interest from other suitors and who is taken with the first two picks.
In this scenario, Oakland would be gaining an extra pick or two and could still draft a player with an extremely high grade. How is that not a win all around?
There's Plenty Of Wide Receiver Value In This Draft
The combine proved that there's a lot to like with this year's wide receiving crop. There are No. 1 guys (Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen), guys with loads of potential who will be available later (DeAndre Hopkins, Quinton Patton), and incredible athletes (Ryan Swope, Marquise Goodwin, Denard Robinson). With so many options to choose from, there will be plenty of value in grabbing a wide receiver with a later pick.
Whether the pick received in return is in the middle or end of the first round will not make a difference. Thus, the door is open for the Raiders to get creative and possibly play franchises vying for Oakland's pick against each other since almost every franchise would be a possible trade partner.
The Case Against Taking Dee Milliner
Dee Milliner is the consensus top cornerback in this draft and would give the Raiders a huge boost in an area of concern. I'm not going to say that this would be a terrible decision if he were taken here.
He possesses a great combination of size, speed and skill. The only semi-legitimate concern is that he might be the product of Nick Saban's defensive scheme, which doesn't appear to hold much water. The kid is phenomenal.
But when you boil it all down, get down to the "nitty-gritty" or do whatever it is you do, the draft is—and always has been—about value. While Milliner certainly projects as a solid NFL cornerback, trading down will increase the overall value gained in terms of current and future picks. The Raiders can easily slide down and get an exciting impact player while adding more picks to their repertoire.
And on a team that is in a desperate talent-acquisition mode, adding that kind of value is too good to pass up. So stick to your guns, Raiders front office staff. Don't let McKenzie steer the ship astray.
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