Raiders Draft Stock Watch: 6 Players Rising and Falling on Oakland's Board
While a given player’s draft stock likely sees little movement in the months leading up to the draft, the same cannot be said for individual teams as they fill needs in free agency beforehand.
The prospects are the same prospects they have been all offseason, but based on some key acquisitions so far, the Raiders’ interest in many of them will rise and fall accordingly.
Here is a look at six players who are rising up or falling down the Raiders’ draft board after free agency.
Rising: WR Sammy Watkins
Heading into this offseason, wide receiver was going to be one of several positions the Raiders would need to upgrade on offense.
Adding veteran free agent James Jones was a good start, but they likely won’t be done at the position.
Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins is the draft’s top talent at the position and could be on the board when the Raiders select at fifth overall.
The recent Matt Schaub acquisition at quarterback allows the Raiders greater flexibility in the first round, not forcing them to take a chance on a quarterback they don't covet.
Selecting Watkins with the fifth pick now becomes all the more likely, as long as the team is comfortable with Schaub starting at quarterback for the next few years. Oakland will then look to surround him with as many playmakers as possible.
With young talent in Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, the Raiders’ wide receiver group would become one of the deeper positions on the roster, should they come away from this offseason with both Jones and Watkins.
Falling: OT Jake Matthews
When free agency got under way, Jared Veldheer chose to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. So addressing offensive line seemed like a realistic option for the Raiders in the first round.
The team has added veteran Donald Penn to take over the left tackle spot and two guards in Kevin Boothe and Austin Howard. Oakland also plans for second-year player Menelik Watson to start at right tackle.
Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews will be widely seen as one of the safer picks in this year’s draft, and for good reason. He put together a highly productive collegiate career and has both the size and strength to make an instant impact at the NFL level.
At the same time, as much as the “best player available” draft strategy should and will be in play, given their recent additions up front, it would make little sense for the Raiders to add an offensive lineman in the first round as high as they are selecting.
For a team that needs to show immediate improvement, it is far more likely that a pressing need is the pick here instead. As good as Matthews may be at the NFL level, offensive tackle isn't much of an option for the Raiders in the first round.
Rising: DE/LB Khalil Mack
While some important additions have been made on the defensive line already, continuing to address this early in the draft remains an option.
While free-agent signings Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley should hold the starting spots at left and right end, respectively, a team can never have too many pass-rushers.
Buffalo defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack is one of the draft’s top talents at the position and could be available when the Raiders are on the clock.
His skill set would allow the Raiders to utilize him in a number of ways, be it exclusively as a defensive end or as a stand-up linebacker who can move to end in nickel situations.
Either way, a defense’s pass rush is at its best when it has the depth to create a fluid rotation. Given that the Raiders were reportedly one of several teams in talks with free agent Jared Allen, per NFL.com, it is clear that establishing such a rotation will be their goal for the defensive front.
Despite the key additions of Tuck and Woodley, adding another pass-rusher early on in the draft remains a real possibility for the Raiders.
Falling: FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
At the beginning of free agency with so many questions yet to be answered, the Raiders could have chosen any number of directions with their first-round selection.
While that idea still holds true, certain signings and re-signings should all but rule out a few prospects who may have been earlier considerations.
With the versatility to excel both in run support and as a single-high safety in coverage, Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be one of the top defensive backs off the board. However, with the Raiders’ recent re-signings of both Charles Woodson and Usama Young, he is likely no longer an option.
Although Woodson may only have another year or two left before retirement, he has proved capable of still playing at a high level and could even see some improvement in his second season at what is still a new position for him.
Again, with so much pressure to turn the franchise around quickly, the Raiders are more likely to address positions of more immediate need than free safety in the first round.
Rising: QB David Fales
Having acquired Matt Schaub, the Raiders do have some flexibility in regard to which direction they go with their first-round selection. Taking a quarterback is no longer a given, and they could focus on more immediate needs instead.
That said, Schaub will turn 33 before the 2014 season gets under way. Even if he does play the way he has in the past, he is unlikely to be much of a long-term option.
Instead, expect Oakland to target a quarterback in the middle rounds of this draft and have him learn behind Schaub for a few seasons before getting a chance to start.
One of the more intriguing options—and one who could be available in the third or fourth round—is San Jose State’s David Fales.
He had a productive collegiate career. While his arm strength will be the main concern heading into the NFL, his accuracy and anticipation do a lot to make up for it.
Although the Schaub trade has somewhat decreased the chances of the Raiders going with a quarterback in the first round, picking one later on in the draft remains a significant possibility.
Fales is one of several options, and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was on hand to watch his impressive pro-day performance.
Falling: QB Johnny Manziel
Again, with the addition of Matt Schaub and so many needs elsewhere, it is unlikely that the Raiders will take a chance on a quarterback in the first round.
One such player who could have generated plenty of consideration from the Raiders was Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Whether or not he can be a successful pocket passer at the NFL level is the main question for many, but there is no doubting that he is a playmaker in a number of different ways.
Simply put, selecting him early on in the first round would be a risk, but it could pay off in a big way.
With Schaub now on the team, the Raiders are likely to bypass this risk at No. 5 overall. As a result, Manziel’s draft stock falls for them.