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Oakland Raiders Must Find Offensive Playmaker with No. 4 Pick in NFL Draft

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystFebruary 6, 2015

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs the ball in the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders have many needs, but none is more glaring than their need for an offensive playmaker. Helping quarterback Derek Carr is the most important thing on general manager Reggie McKenzie’s list this offseason.

Save a dream scenario playing out in free agency, there’s simply no way that an offensive playmaker won’t be high atop the Raiders’ draft board come April 30 in Chicago. Given their struggles attracting top free agents, the draft is probably going to be the Raiders’ best bet to find the playmaker they so desperately need.  

At No. 4 overall, the Raiders could also be in perfect position. The top two or three defenders will be off the board, but at least one of the top quarterbacks should be available as well as all the top receivers assuming there isn’t a catastrophic shift between now and the draft.

A half a dozen teams drafting behind the Raiders could be in the market for a quarterback, so the Raiders may be in prime position to move down and still get their playmaker. Moving down is preferable because this year’s class is not on the same level as last year’s.

Why a Playmaker?

The Raiders have so many needs that it’s worth wondering why they should hone in on an offensive playmaker as opposed to just drafting the absolute best player they can regardless of position. The simple answer is that very little may separate players after the first couple are off the board, so the need for big plays trumps any minuscule difference between players.

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Over the last three years, the Raiders finished 30th, 22nd and 32nd in big-play percentage. Big plays are defined as runs for 10 yards and passes over 25 yards.

Last year, they had a league-low 51 big plays, and a league-worst 5.13 percent of their offensive plays were big plays. That’s horrendous.

Big Play Percentages vs. Turnovers
YearBig PlaysBig Play %Turnover Differential
201251 (32)5.13% (32)-15 (32)
201368 (22)6.8% (22)-9 (27)
201459 (28)5.75% (30)-7 (23)
SportingCharts.com

One of the reasons Hue Jackson’s offense was so good in Oakland was due to big plays. In 2011, the Raiders were sixth in big-play percentage. In 2010, they were fifth. Prior to his arrival, the Raiders were 30th in the league.

An efficient offense that doesn’t turn the ball over can also have success, but the Raiders were also the worst in the league in turnover differential and 28th in third-down conversion percentage in 2014. The Raiders also had the fewest first downs in the entire league.

Big plays are Oakland’s best chance to have a decent offense in 2015. Scheming around his playmakers is what new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave did best when he was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. As it turns out, Musgrave was the best at getting something out of wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Options Abound

Although Amari Cooper is widely considered a top-five pick and the best wide receiver in this class, almost no one puts him in the same class as last season’s crop of wide receivers. There aren’t many holes in Cooper’s game, but it’s worth wondering if he’ll be a playmaker from Day 1 in the NFL or just a consistent producer.

Kevin White is the No. 2 wide receiver on most draft boards. He’s a little bigger than Cooper but not nearly as quick or agile. White is definitely an option if the Raiders move down, but you can’t rule him out at No. 4, especially if he runs well at the combine.

White runs sharp routes, has great hands, good size and is a tenacious blocker that sometimes gets so involved he gets grabby and draws holding penalties.

"KW is a man," an NFC North scout told NFLDraftScout.com. "He's playing at a different level than most receivers in the college game. Speed. Size. Ball skills. He's making it look easy out there. He could help all 32 teams right now."

Beyond Cooper and White, there are a bunch of wide receivers with playmaking size, hands and leaping ability. These are players that the Raiders shouldn’t take at No. 4 in the draft but should consider if they move down. Jaelen Strong and DeVante Parker are raw in some areas, but their size alone makes them interesting.

Strong is faster than people think and Parker is more agile. Carr could certainly get into a habit of throwing Strong or Parker 50-50 balls and letting them pull down catches over shorter defensive backs.

That same principle applies to Dorial Green-Beckham. However, Green-Beckham has character concerns that should push him down the board. Anyone taking him in the first round would be taking a huge risk. The talent is there, but the Raiders can’t afford such a pick unless they have an extra first-round pick late in the first round to burn.

Other options toward the end of the first round could include Sammie Coates and Devin Funchess. Coates has a unique blend of size and speed. If it translates, the Raiders could use him as a gadget player right away. Funchess would be yet another dangerous red zone and third-down target that needs a lot of work to be anything more as a rookie.

Whether they trade down or take one at No. 4 overall, the Raiders have a few things to consider. The bottom line is that the Raiders must find a playmaker at wide receiver.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via sportingcharts.com.

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