Once again, the Oakland Raiders hold a top-five selection in the NFL draft, with which, they will look to find an instant-impact player that can help fast-forward the rebuilding process of the franchise.
There are plenty of needs the Raiders will address this offseason, so they, as the draft approaches, will be linked to a number of this year’s most talented prospects.
Sure, they could look to finally add a franchise quarterback at fifth overall, but if impact players they covet at other positions are available, they could certainly wait until the second round to do so as well.
Here are five prospects guaranteed to interest the Oakland Raiders early on in the 2014 NFL draft.
Jadeveon Clowney will get his share of criticism for a bit of a down year in comparison to his sophomore campaign, but there is no denying his elite talent.
While not exactly a speed-rusher, Clowney has long had NFL size and possesses the elite strength necessary to be a consistent force on the edge both against the run and pass.
He would step in as an every-down end in the Raiders’ 4-3 scheme and could single-handedly solve the team’s pass-rush issues if he reaches his true potential as a player.
Clowney could very well be the best overall prospect in this year's draft class, but with the number of quarterbacks expected to come off the board early on, he just may be available for the Raiders to select at fifth overall.
It’s not too often that a wide receiver is taken in the top five selections of the draft, but the talent of Clemson’s Sammy Watkins can easily justify that this year.
Watkins possesses the size, speed and ability after the catch that will make him an elite weapon at the next level, and his ball skills continue to improve at an impressive rate.
Receiver isn’t the Raiders’ biggest need—it really isn’t much of one at all in comparison to some other spots on the roster—however, should the team address other needs in free agency, a player of Watkins’ potential impact would have to be considered.
Watkins would give the Raiders a true No. 1 target around which to build the offense, as he would open up the passing game for the other young talented receivers already on the roster.
Without question, Johnny Manziel will be the most polarizing player at the top of the 2013 NFL draft, but should come off the board within the top 10 selections at the very least.
Manziel will be criticized because of his reliance on his legs to make plays, but it shouldn’t be forgotten just how many he has made with his arm as well.
Whether he could be the Raiders’ franchise quarterback or not will be left up to the evaluations of the front office and scouting department, but he should certainly be considered if still available at fifth overall.
Finding that franchise quarterback is quite possibly the biggest step in the Raiders’ rebuilding process, and polarizing or not, Manziel could very well be it.
Khalil Mack may not have gotten the attention over the past two seasons that Jadeveon Clowney has, but he is not far behind him in pure pass-rush ability.
His size may make him more of a fit for the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 front, but that could very well be the direction the Raiders will lean as they continue to add talent in the front seven this offseason.
In such a situation, a linebacker group featuring Mack and Sio Moore rushing the passer on the outside, as well as Kevin Burnett and Nick Roach on the inside, could prove to be an impressive unit.
Either way, the Raiders should be fairly scheme-flexible based on their current personnel, so we can expect them to be quite interested in a player like Mack with their first-round selection.
Should they go in a different direction in the first round—since there are not many realistic options for starting quarterbacks in free agency—the Raiders will likely look to draft one in the middle rounds.
Many will favor the strategy of drafting a quarterback high in the first round over that of the second or third, but as league trends show, franchise-caliber passers can be found in either.
One of the better quarterbacks expected to be available early in the second round is San Jose State’s David Fales. In 2013, Fales led the Spartans to the 6th-ranked passing attack in the nation, throwing for 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns.
While he may not have the strongest arm of the class, he displays the kind of accuracy and anticipation to succeed at the NFL level. With an offense that now favors more of a West Coast passing game than that of a vertical attack, Fales could be a great fit for the Raiders moving forward.