Analysts and fans will agree that a significant trade down is the best-case scenario for the silver and black. At this point, they have very few selections at their disposal to fill what is quite a large number of glaring holes.
Whether the Raiders’ first pick comes in their current slot at third overall or later on the round, it is essential for them to find a player who can make an immediate impact in a position of need.
As such, here are the top four candidates for the Raiders’ selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
DT Star Lotulelei (Utah)
The Raiders have signed several free-agent defensive tackles thus far, but the position could still stand to be upgraded.
Before his health scare at the NFL Scouting Combine, which has since been cleared, Star Lotulelei was the most talked about interior defensive lineman in this draft class and may just be the best fit for the Raiders at third overall.
Physically, at 6’2”, 311 pounds, Star can do it all. His combination of size, strength and quickness allows him to get off the line as fast as anyone else, winning battles at the point of attack more often than not. He can be an anchor in the running game, and depending on how teams choose to use him, he has the pass-rushing skills to get to the quarterback as well.
That very physical ability gives Lotulelei the versatility to play either of the interior line positions in a base 4-3 front and virtually any of the down lineman positions in 3-4 looks as well. This scheme and positional flexibility is no doubt something that would stand out for Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and benefit the multiple defensive looks that he wishes to employ moving forward.
Now that he has checked out healthy, it is more than likely that Star Lotulelei will come off the board within the first five picks. As a result, of course provided that he gets by the Chiefs and Jaguars, he is one of the top candidates as an impact player for the Raiders to select at third overall.
DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida)
The Raiders’ need for interior defensive linemen has been well documented. While the aforementioned Star Lotulelei would be a fit, he is not the only one.
He may not have as much positional versatility at the next level, but Florida DT Sharrif Floyd’s potential to be a dominant three-technique pass rusher can be just as significant.
When a pass rush was as invisible as the Raiders’ of 2012, the immediate reaction is to stockpile edge rushers at defensive end. Those players can no doubt have a huge impact and should also be a target for the Raiders in this draft. However, we often forget that they do not provide the only way to get to the quarterback.
Sharrif Floyd, and the combination of strength and quickness that he brings to the interior defensive line, has the ability most comparable to the Bengals’ Geno Atkins to disrupt the pocket in the passing game. As dominant as an edge rusher can be, collapsing the pocket right up the middle is the fastest way to throw a quarterback out of rhythm, if not, bring him down for the sack.
Of course, as with any prospect, it is no guarantee that Sharrif Floyd’s ability will translate exactly to the players in which he is compared to. At the same time, the athletic ability and potential for production cannot go unnoticed.
In addressing the interior defensive line position, Sharrif Floyd is another candidate for the Raiders to select at third overall.
CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)
The Raiders have already signed several cornerbacks this offseason, but the contracts for Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and Joselio Hanson are all just one-year deals.
As such, they are all brought in to compete and essentially “prove it.” These kinds of low-cost/low-risk signings will not necessarily deter the Raiders from selecting a cornerback in this draft, thus Alabama’s Dee Milliner becomes a possibility in the first round.
Milliner is the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the 2013 class and is coming off of a stellar junior season that saw him haul in two interceptions with an impressive 22 passes defensed.
At 6’0”, 201 pounds, he possesses the necessary size to compete with the bigger receivers of today’s NFL, and any lingering questions about his speed were answered with a 40-time of 4.37 seconds at the combine.
It is rare that a cornerback is selected as high as third overall, so Milliner may be a more likely target were the Raiders to trade down inside of the top 10 with any of the teams looking to move up for a quarterback or left tackle.
Either way, Dee Milliner’s potential to become a shutdown corner at the next level instantly makes him a candidate for the Raiders in the first round. If he proves to be GM Reggie McKenzie’s best player available at what is a position of significant need, it will be a good fit no matter where they take him.
DE Tank Carradine (Florida State)
One pass-rushing prospect that may not have been discussed for the Raiders so far, likely because of their high draft position at third overall, is FSU DE Tank Carradine.
There may still be a ways to go for Carradine to become a well-balanced defensive end, but based off of pure talent and athletic ability, he may just be the draft’s most dominant pass rusher. While the majority of his college experience came at the JUCO level before transferring to Florida State, he totaled 11 sacks in 11 games throughout his senior season with the Seminoles.
The lone reason that Carradine is not yet seen as a consensus top-10 selection heading in is due to the torn ACL that he suffered in November. While that is certainly a situation to monitor, he plans on putting any questions of his health to rest in his workout for NFL evaluators on April 20.
If Carradine can show teams that he is, at the very least, on a road to recovery that would project him to be fully healthy by the time training camp rolls around, his name can easily start to be considered in the top 10.
As it stands right now, Carradine is for the most part being projected as a mid-late first round pick. Should that remain the case, he would be an ideal candidate for the Raiders to target after a possible trade down.
Having said that, don’t rule out the possibility of him flying up draft boards after a solid workout in mid-April. If all health and recovery concerns are settled, Tank Carradine could be the dominant pass rusher that the Raiders are looking to select even as early as third overall.
Overall, these four players represent the draft’s top talent at some positions of significant need for the Oakland Raiders.
All of which are likely to be available at third overall, but Dee Milliner and Tank Carradine represent some interesting options that could still be on the board in a situation where the Raiders are able to trade down instead.
Either way, all four players should be considered no matter where it is that the Raiders select in the first round, as they can each make an instant and valuable impact at their respective positions on the field.