General manager Reggie McKenzie will need to put together a team that sees significant improvement over that of the past two seasons, and he finally has the resources at his disposal to make it happen.
While the influx in salary cap space to be spent in free agency will get the majority of the attention, it is how McKenzie will fair in this year’s draft that will set the foundation for the roster for years to come.
The Raiders hold a high selection at fifth overall and could very well come away with an instant impact star player because of this.
However, if there is one trade that McKenzie and the Raiders should be looking to make on draft weekend, it would be to trade down in the first round, and possibly even more than once.
Sure, it remains a possibility that the draft’s two best prospects, Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater fall to fifth overall, and each would fill a glaring need on the Raiders’ roster.
Even so, such a scenario playing out on draft day remains unlikely at best, and with the amount of needs to fill throughout the roster, they just cannot afford to sacrifice additional current and/or future selections to move up for either player.
As a result, doing just the opposite would be the team’s best course of action.
Many will disagree with the notion, but if both Clowney and Bridgewater are off the board, and possibly even if they weren’t, the Raiders would simply receive far better value overall by adding additional mid-round picks in exchange for a trade down.
In the eyes of well-respected NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, per Curtis Crabtree of NBCSports.com, this is one of the deepest draft classes of the past decade, and that sentiment has been reinforced by his discussions with different scouts and general managers around the league.
If the Raiders were able to move from No. 5 to somewhere down around the 10th pick, closer to the 20th, or even further, the drop-off in talent is just not as significant as it may have been in years prior.
Of course, it would come down to the team’s prospect evaluations and the construction of their draft board to determine that difference in talent level. But much like last year, the potential to get a player they covet later on in the round would be intriguing.
No, the Raiders have not yet had the trade down of the 2013 draft pay off on the field, but that can be attributed to some injury issues for both D.J. Hayden and Menelik Watson throughout their rookie seasons.
As much as many will claim that the Raiders could have and/or should have gotten more in trading down from the third to the 12th overall selection, getting the player they wanted all along in Hayden, as well as adding a second rounder they didn’t previously have, which should be considered a win on all accounts.
Trading down at all, let alone to the 15-25 range, is not always the exciting move fans hope for on draft day. But for a team essentially beginning the rebuild process and needing to add talent in bunches, it can be the right one.
Take the St. Louis Rams in the 2012 draft as the prime example: Sitting with the draft’s second pick, and Andrew Luck almost certain to go No. 1 overall, the Rams were fielding trade offers for a team looking to select Robert Griffin III.
Of course, that team ended up being the Washington Redskins, who would send their first-round selections in 2012-14, as well as their 2012 second rounder the other way.
The Rams have already turned those picks into several productive players to build their team around, with the last pick of the deal still to come this year in the form of the draft’s second overall selection.
While the Raiders are highly unlikely to get that kind of return from another team wanting to trade into their No. 5 slot, the potential value both for the present and the future is still evident.
All it takes is one team to fall in love with a prospect still on the board when the Raiders are on the clock for them to present the necessary value and compensation to negotiate a trade.
What should the Raiders do with their first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Overall, the Raiders don’t need just one player to make the difference in this rebuild, but rather a core foundation to build upon moving forward.
If one of the draft’s two best players happens to fall to them at No. 5, the argument can be made that they should make the pick right then and there.
However, the Raiders’ best value comes with a trade down in the first, and possibly even more than one if McKenzie could make it happen.
The prospect of adding six or seven players in the first four rounds of this deep class, rather than just four, is something by which the Raiders would most certainly be intrigued.
Again, finding the necessary value in such trades is much easier said than done, but that’s what makes draft day what it is.
Just like the rest of the offseason, what Reggie McKenzie is able to do in the 2014 NFL Draft will go a long way toward determining the success of the Raiders’ rebuilding process that starts right now.
Dan Wilkins is an Oakland Raiders Featured Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter here.