Oakland Raiders Mock Draft: Instant Contributors Raiders Can Find in Every Round
Undoubtedly, the first pick will be intriguing. Will it be a wide receiver? Which wide receiver? Or will a defensive player become the first selection for the third straight year in Oakland?
Drafts are measured on player impact. Organizations draft for the present and the future with the present emphasized in the earlier rounds.
For the purposes of this particular mock draft, we’ll focus on prospects who can contribute significantly right away with less focus on later potential.
The Raiders have immediate needs and an NFL season will certainly yield injuries. Who are the most polished prospects to step in as highly productive rookies?
Round 1 Pick—Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver—Alabama)
Who will have a better NFL career between Amari Cooper and Kevin White? There are circumstances, facts and opinions to go either way.
Clearly, Cooper is the more NFL-ready WR. Throw out the measurements and stats for a minute and focus on what each receiver brings to the table right now instead of what each receiver could be in years to come.
Cooper has three years at a top-tier program in the toughest college football conference. NFL scouts have already designated the Alabama receiver as the best route-runner with a variety of fundamental characteristics of a solid NFL receiver.
According to CBS Senior Draft Analyst Dane Brugler, he’s a competitive blocker down the field, has great field awareness and shows acceleration to gain separation from defenders.
Then you have White; he has one single year of exceptional production in a Division I setting. According to Brugler, White has to rely on his size to gain separation from defenders; he’s fast but more so in straight-line speed rather than fast-twitch quickness that creates separation. He’s a bigger receiver but still needs work on his blocking techniques.
NFL Media Analyst Charles Davis points out a poignant question that’ll be asked of White with concerns about his confidence level:
What he'll be asked: White came out of a junior college program in 2013 and there's talk that he lacked confidence initially. He exploded with a huge 2014 season, but teams will want to know if he gained confidence, and if so, how was it gained? They'll ask him why he won't lose confidence quickly in the NFL if things don't go well right away.
Cooper’s sustained production should make the Raiders feel confident in selecting him with the fourth overall pick. For White, there are questions on whether his one year of dominance will be enough to carry his psyche through another adjustment on the NFL level.
Round 2 Pick—Nate Orchard (DE—Utah)
Sure, Orchard didn’t knock some poor little running back’s helmet off like Clowney did in a constant social media loop, but there’s something to be said about his exceptional production.
Clowney has yet to leave his mark on the NFL level due to injuries, but he projects to make an impact when healthy. The same should be expected of Orchard when you look at the numbers.
Orchard is entering the league with this momentum, whereas Clowney had to stay another year to satisfy NFL eligibility standards. As a second-round pick the Raiders should select the NCAA sack leader to address the pass rush.
Brugler compares Orchard to New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich, a savvy, versatile edge-rusher who isn’t strong enough to challenge the run inside but creates matchup issues and makes plays with speed and optimal field awareness.
Round 3 Pick—Josue Matias (Guard—Florida State)
Josue Matias played in a pro-style offense at Florida State and started 41 straight games for the Seminoles, providing excellent protection for QB Jameis Winston.
According to a CSNBayarea.com report from Scott Bair, McKenzie made it clear he needs to add some solid linemen to protect his franchise QB in Derek Carr:
I would like add to that group,” general manager Reggie McKenzie told CSN Bay Area on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I want to add competition. Right now, I don’t have enough offensive linemen on the roster. I want to bring some good ones in.
Matias fits the mold of a lineman who can step in and contribute right away without feeling overwhelmed. Run-blocking isn’t his strong suit, but Carr will certainly have more than enough time in the pocket to deliver some crisp passes down the field to a sharp route-runner like Cooper and a big-play receiver in Rod Streater.
Round 4 Pick—Jesse James (Tight End—Penn State)
McKenzie’s pursuit and wait on Jermaine Gresham is an indication of imminent change at tight end.
The Raiders were in deep negotiations with Gresham, per NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling, but toned it down when they discovered he needed back surgery. Now, it seems Oakland is willing to wait and see how he recovers from the surgery before attempting to sign him, per Bair:
That problem has been fixed. Renowned Los Angeles-based back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins performed successful surgery repair a herniated disc in Gresham’s back.
That type of offseason surgery didn’t cross Gresham off the Raiders’ list. Nothing is certain, but talks could rekindle in the future.
He’s still on my board,” general manager Reggie McKenzie told CSN Bay Area at the NFL owners meetings. “We’ll see how he feels and how he rehabs and all that. Going forward, it will be more about how he wants to navigate through this.
In a less publicized free-agent move, blocking tight end Lee Smith was signed. Note, he’s described as a blocking tight end, which emphasizes his specialty and the need to offset Mychal Rivera’s below-average blocking skills.
Jesse James, a projected fourth-round draft pick, is a balanced TE Oakland could plug into the lineup right away. My personal feeling is he compares to Heath Miller but carries a bigger frame at 6’7”, 261 pounds and is more athletic.
He'd be able to remain on the field for all three downs as a solid receiver and decent blocker. If the Raiders remain skeptical over Gresham’s back issues, James should be a high-priority pick.
Round 5 Pick—Vince Mayle (Wide Receiver—Washington State)
White’s size and ability to make jump-ball catches isn’t exclusive to top-tier receivers. Vince Mayle is less athletic than White but has the production and the measurements to warrant a comparison.
Mayle is also a 6’3” receiver, weighing 10 pounds more than White and had numbers just as impressive as the highly touted WR out of West Virgina. White caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards with 10 touchdowns. Mayle caught 106 passes for 1,483 yards with nine touchdowns. Mayle’s hands are only a quarter inch smaller than White’s.
The point being, if battling for jump-balls and bringing in size to pose a threat in the red zone are qualities the Raiders seek in a WR, they can find that type of player in the fifth round—and still draft a polished WR in the first.
Mayle would complete the revitalization of Oakland's WR corps. A receiving trio of Cooper, Streater and Mayle would make Carr salivate when he drops back in the pocket.
Round 6 Pick—Craig Mager (Cornerback—Texas State)
The Raiders have a lot of maybes at cornerback.
Maybe D.J. Hayden stays healthy for the entire season. Maybe Travis Carrie can repeat a solid display at CB in a larger sample. And maybe Keith McGill is good enough to play in nickel packages.
But who knows?
Oakland will need reinforcements at CB if one of those maybes fails to develop into fruition. That allows an opportunity for a rookie to make a name for himself immediately.
Craig Mager is a four-year starter with plenty of experience. NFL.com draft scout analyst Lance Zierlein feels as though his skill set transfers well to the pro level. He has a good balance of speed, strength and leaping ability to challenge the ball at its highest point.
The 2015 season will be a “prove it” year for Hayden as a featured CB. An injury or lack of production leaves the door open for second-year players like Carrie and McGill. Nonetheless, polished collegiate prospects like Mager could make an immediate impact if called upon.
Round 7 Pick—Deion Barnes (Defensive End—Penn State)
Deion Barnes showed much promise as a freshman recording six sacks with Penn State, but a poor sophomore year hurt his draft stock tremendously.
He rebounded well in his junior year, recording six more sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss but his play wasn’t spectacular, which is why he’ll be available this late in the draft.
However, the Raiders are paper-thin in young talent off of the edge. Barnes started three years on the Nittany Lions’ defensive line and has shown flashes of a solid DE.
Justin Tuck isn’t a stranger to injury, and though the Raiders re-signed C.J. Wilson per ESPN’s Bill Williamson, he wasn’t much of a threat off of the edge with two sacks in seven starts in 2014. Barnes has the ability to step in on obvious passing downs for added QB pressure.
Don’t agree with this instant impact mock draft? Send your rational tweets to Maurice’s twitter about how you’d handle the Raiders’ draft picks. All opinions are welcome.