Oakland Raiders 2014 NFL Draft Day 1 Primer
The Oakland Raiders' 2014 rookie class will face a lot of pressure coming into their first year. Reggie McKenzie has yet to see significant production from the majority of his draft picks since he was hired as the GM. If the Raiders don't get immediate production from multiple rookies out of this draft, it could be the end of the road for McKenzie or head coach Dennis Allen.
The Raiders added several veterans this offseason, but nobody is signed for the long term. That means the Raiders have the majority of their key positions unsecured for the future. There is no position that is out of the question for the Raiders to draft as this roster has many needs.
This is one of the most intriguing and important drafts the Raiders have had in recent years. They are merely a couple of hours away from adding their first player. How important is this draft for Oakland? Let's take a look at the state of the Raiders heading into the draft.
Additions and Departures
The Raiders lost some important players as well as gained some important ones this off season. Oakland was very busy during the free-agency period, but did the team do enough to improve the roster? In free agency the Raiders lost their sack leader, leading rusher, both starting cornerbacks, their best offensive lineman and a quarterback who started and won the most games for them in 2013.
Despite losing key contributors, Oakland also added several veteran players at key positions. While Oakland may have lost some key pieces, the overall quality of the roster was improved this offseason. If the majority of the new players work out, we could be talking about the Raiders in the playoff heading into the final weeks of the season.
Oakland traded for Matt Schaub this offseason, making him the fifth quarterback who will start for Oakland in the last three years. The Raiders restructured his contract to make it easier for them to move on from him after 2014 if he suffers another bad year.
The only other quarterback on the roster signed beyond 2014 is back up Matt McGloin. The new regime of McKenzie and Allen need to identify their quarterback, and they'll have several opportunities to do it in this draft.
The Raiders added some key players to their defensive line, but they still need to add some youth to the group. Defensive tackle is the position that concerns me the most. Antonio Smith, Pat Sims and Stacy McGee look to be the main rotation at defensive tackle. Justin Tuck will likely play it as well on some passing downs.
A player like Aaron Donald could help solidify the rotation and would add some pass rush up the middle. The Raiders need both lines to be their strengths, and I imagine they'll draft a couple of young defensive linemen to add to the mix.
Last year the Raiders drafted D.J. Hayden with the 12th overall pick and they signed Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers in the offseason. Behind them are Taiwan Jones and Chimdi Chekwa.
Oakland needs to add some depth to this position and to find a possible starter. Only Jones is signed beyond 2014, so it would not surprise me to see the Raiders take a cornerback early in this draft. If they trade out of the fifth pick into the mid-rounds, a cornerback could be their pick.
The Raiders need a true No. 1 receiver. At this point they don't have one. They have improved their receiving group by adding James Jones, while the evolution of Rod Streater has been fun to watch. Andre Holmes and Denarius Moore are young and have big-play capability.
However, Oakland is missing a true playmaker at this position. As a group they are stronger, but don't count out the possibility of the Raiders taking a receiver at No. 5.
The Raiders lost offensive tackle Jared Veldheer this offseason. They picked up veteran left tackle Donald Penn, but like many of their other signings, it is a short-term deal. In most cases it takes a left tackle a couple of years to develop. Menelik Watson and Matt McCants are the only young tackles on this team who have had significant playing time.
Oakland could choose a tackle in any round of this draft, including the first. If Greg Robinson is available, and he is the best player on their board, the Raiders will pull the trigger and add the young offensive tackle.
1. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Raiders need playmakers on defense and Mack can provide that as a linebacker or even as a pass-rushing defensive end. Pairing Mack with Sio Moore for the next five years would be a great move for McKenzie. Some view Mack as the most complete defensive player in this draft. If he is still available when the Raiders pick, Mack will most likely be the pick.
2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders and McKenzie have stated they will always take the best player available. If Watkins is there at No. 5, he could be the pick. Watkins is a dynamic playmaker who reminds me a little bit of Denarius Moore, but more consistent and explosive as a wide receiver. Adding Watkins could be viewed as a luxury to some, but there is no doubt he would make the team better on offense.
3. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
There are a few things you can't teach and a few things some defenses can't really scheme against. One of those things is size. Evans has the size to be a nightmare matchup for most defenses. He has impressive speed and great hands. Some think Evans will be a better pro than Watkins based on his size and ability. This is very possible as teams are starting to get bigger at cornerback and that could pose a problem for smaller wide receivers. Evans will be a touchdown machine in the NFL and Oakland could use one of those on its roster.
4. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
A player who is starting to pick up some momentum as the draft gets closer is defensive tackle Aaron Donald. This is probably the first pick I would make with the fifth pick if I were to be drafting based on need only. A defensive tackle is a big need for the Raiders and Donald would be a great fit in the Raiders 4-3 defense. His name could be called early in this draft.
5. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The Raiders don't have a tight end on their roster that can do everything well. Mychal Rivera led the tight ends in receptions and touchdowns last season, but he plays the joker role for Oakland. The Raiders need a big-bodied tight end that can block and catch the ball. Seferian-Jenkins has the ability to be the best tight end in the league. He is big, athletic and has good hands. If he improves his blocking and catching skills, he could be an All-Pro by his second year in the NFL.
What the Experts Are Saying
The experts are mostly thinking Sammy Watkins as the pick, but here are some different views from some of the expert's mock drafts.
CBS Sports Dane Brugler: WR Sammy Watkins
Watkins is the popular pick among the experts. I think Oakland would pass on a wide receiver or try to trade out of the pick if Watkins is the best player available. I don't know if McKenzie values the receiver position enough to take one at No. 5.
CBS Sports Pete Prisco: QB Johnny Manziel
I don't see this as being the pick. According to Vic Tafur, the Raiders will pass on Johnny Manziel. I see Derek Carr being a better fit for this team and offense than I do Manziel.
NFL.com Charles Davis: OT Greg Robinson
Left tackle is a position that I see as a need for the Raiders. Robinson is rated as the top offensive tackle in this draft. If the Raiders stick to their best player available philosophy, then Robinson could be their pick if he is still there.
NFL.com Bucky Brooks: QB Blake Bortles
Bortles is another player that I believe the Raiders would pass on. If they take a quarterback in the first round, I believe it will be Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater.
Draft Rumors Leading Up to the Draft
There are several rumors flying around, but nothing that really has any substance. Aside from Vic Tafur and Jay Glazer saying the Raiders won't draft Johnny Manziel, there really isn't much. Below is Glazer answering a tweet about Manziel to the Raiders.
And Oakland doesn't take him at 5 either. Me? Personally? I looooove what he does out there. But I don't make a pick.— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) May 7, 2014
McKenzie did meet with the media earlier this month and made a few comments about the draft. While he did talk about wanting a great player with the fifth pick, he also talked about drafting for the future and not the present. This left many to wonder if he meant he'll take a player like Sammy Watkins or if he'd take a quarterback and groom him behind Matt Schaub for a year.
Oakland Raiders' 7-Round Mock Draft (No Trades)
If the Raiders do not trade out of the fifth pick, this is how I see the draft falling.
Round 1, Pick No. 5: WR Sammy Watkins
The Raiders can't afford to reach for a player in this draft. If they draft the BPA when they pick, odds are they will take Watkins with the fifth pick. Oakland has focused a lot on its offensive and defensive lines this offseason. Adding a weapon like Watkins would make life easier for Matt Schaub in 2014.
Round No. 2, Pick No. 35: QB Derek Carr
If the quarterbacks start falling like many are predicting, then Oakland can find its guy in the second round. Taking Carr in the second would be an ideal situation for the Raiders. I have a strong feeling that Carr is the Raiders' preferred quarterback in this draft and they would take him in the first round. However, I think it's very possible that Oakland waits to take him in the second or makes a move back into the first round to take Carr in the mid-20s.
Round No. 3, Pick No. 67: TE Troy Niklas
The Raiders offense needs to score points this year. Adding another offensive weapon in the third round is a good way to do it. Niklas fits exactly what the Raiders need. He is a solid blocker in the run and pass game and has the size and ability to be a threat on offense as a pass-catcher as well. He does need to improve on his route running and getting open, but there is no doubt he would come in and start as the tight end on day one. Pairing Niklas with Mychal Rivera at the tight end position would be great for the Raiders.
Round No. 4, Pick No. 107: CB Rashaad Reynolds
The Raiders take their first defender in the fourth round with Reynolds. Oakland's secondary struggled to tackle last year and Reynolds, while small, uses his frame well and is tough. He's not afraid to get his jersey dirty and can help in the run game as well. He would most likely find his playing time on special teams while he improves his coverage skills in 2014.
Round No. 7, Pick No. 219: S Lonnie Ballentine
Ballentine is a big safety who may be worth taking in the seventh round if he is still there. He is projected to go anywhere from the fifth round and on. The Raiders need to add some depth to their secondary, and adding a big-bodied safety in the seventh round would give the Raiders more competition in the secondary.
Round No. 7, Pick No. 235: DT Ryan Carrethers
Carrethers is 6'1" and weighs 337 pounds. Anytime you can pick up a guy with his size in the seventh round it's worth the pick. Giving him some time with the strength coaches and with the veterans the Raiders brought in could prove valuable for a player with the size needed to succeed. He needs to improve in various areas, but what seventh-rounder doesn't?
Round No. 7, Pick No. 247: Kevin Graf
Graf played for Southern California, so you know there was some ability there. He played offensive tackle and McKenzie likes drafting players who played offensive tackle in college because he can move them to guard if needed. Graf could be added to to fight for a spot on the offensive line and give Oakland more depth. The Raiders currently have 10 offensive linemen on the roster, so it would be tough for him to find a spot on the roster in 2014.