If the Oakland Raiders are to right their sinking ship, then they desperately need to draft well in the coming days if they are to renew some of the hope and optimism of what was once a proud and prosperous NFL franchise.
Working in the Raiders favor are some of the most passionate and flamboyant fans around, but even the most optimistic of the team's followers have faltered somewhat from the repeated blows dealt them by the front office's poor decision-making.
When looking at the current state of the Raiders I see a team that resembles a struggling franchise that's very near and dear to my own heart.
The 2008 Detroit Lions.
Coming off an 0-16 season, the Lions were very much the laughingstock of the NFL, and much in need of change—which they luckily got when they decided to pair head coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew.
In what was probably the most important offseason in franchise history, the new regime was able to strip some of the fat by bringing in cheap competition and building through the draft—decisions that ultimately allowed the team to slowly rebuild and revamp a roster that was nearly completely void of any quality talent.
Detroit went to the playoffs in just three short seasons.
Now, certainly the situation of the 2008 Detroit Lions was even more dire than that which currently confronts Oakland, however it does make for an interesting case study and blue print for head coach Dennis Allen and general manger Reggie McKenzie to look into.
It is one in which they seem to have already studied, judging by the high-priced veteran contracts they dumped and low-impact free agent contract signings they made on players who can come in and compete right away so far this offseason.
Ultimately, however, this is a team that must be built through the draft, and with a limited number of picks, the Raiders are very much up against it.
Nevertheless, what the Raiders must realize is that they don’t necessarily have to hit the big home run, especially with that No. 3 overall pick.
What the Raiders must focus on is really quite simple.
Draft well. Draft often. Draft smart.
Do these three things and the Raiders could very well be on their way to rewriting history in the 2013 NFL draft.
As it currently stands the Raiders have just seven total selections to make between this Thursday and Saturday. However, over half of those picks come just on Day 3 with four coming in the final two rounds.
In fact, the Raiders currently have just as many picks in Round 6 as they do in the first five rounds combined (three).
Surely the Raiders would like to change this, but the question then becomes, which team(s) can afford to trade up, and, more importantly, for whom would they be willing to sacrifice the multiple draft picks to move in the draft order?
According to a recent report from NFL.com, the Raiders would ideally like to trade down to recover the second-round pick the team sacrificed in acquiring Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals back in 2011—however this will be much easier said than done.
After all, this draft isn't necessarily known as one budding with elite talent towards the top of the draft.
It's the exact opposite in fact.
No Andrew Lucks or RG3s are coming around to save the Raiders anytime soon, and the difference in talent between the No. 3 overall player and the No. 33 overall player is much smaller than it has been in year's past.
It's well understood throughout the league that the strength of this draft lies largely on Day 2, where the difference in talent from one round to the next is marginal at best.
Which is why the Raiders would be wise to move down, even if that means missing out on Sharrif Floyd—who seems to be the player mentioned most often when it comes to that No. 3 overall selection.
Clearly this team is not in a position to win now—and even if they were—Floyd is not a transcending talent, nor does he play a position that deeply impacts the game.
After all, trading down with a team like the Miami Dolphins at No. 12 could be just what the Raiders need. Allowing them to secure extra picks in Rounds 2 and 3, while also still affording them the opportunity to land a similar, and possibly even better, player in Star Lotulelei.
The Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have been big spenders this offseason and with a total of five picks in the top 100, they are a team with the type of resources to go up and get they guy they covet.
Which, by all accounts, would seem to be one of the top three offensive tackle prospects.
We know the Dolphins have long been rumored to have interest in trading for Kansas City's Branden Albert. But, according to The Miami Herald, Lane Johnson is also a possibility if the team does in fact decide to trade up.
Such a move would most certainly involve multiple draft picks, and the Raiders likely would gain an additional second- and likely a third- or fourth-round pick to move back a mere nine spots overall.
Obviously this is a best-case scenario for the Raiders, however with the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions picking next, Miami very well may have to move up ahead of these two teams to secure one of the two or three remaining tackles they covet the most.
It's a move that would likely leave the Raiders with at least five picks in the top 100 overall, while giving them much greater flexibility to select the best player available at each one of their picks.
Below I have included a sample of what I believe the Raiders could then do with those five initial selections if it were in fact to work out that way.
1 (12): DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
2 (10): CB Darius Slay, Mississippi State
3 (4): TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
3 (20): WR Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
4 (3): OG Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
History in the Making
Certainly, the scenario outlined above is the most desirable. And, while such a situation is possible, it hardly means it's likely to occur.
Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers and even New York Jets could be just as likely to swap places, assuming the Raiders even want to part ways with the No. 3 overall pick in the first place.
At the end of the day the right offer will have to come across the table, and if it doesn't, the Raiders should indeed stay put.
However, in a draft weak on star power and strong in overall depth, I am of the opinion that the Raiders should do everything in their power to move around as much as they possibly can.
Whether that is in the first round or even the third round, McKenzie and Co. need to be working the phones constantly and seeking out any and all opportunities available to them.
After all, can you really expect to rewrite history with just three picks in the top 100 overall?
Clearly, the Raiders need to move down if they truly want to make the most out of what is likely one of the most important drafts in Oakland's storied history.
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