Who Are Experts Predicting to the Raiders in the First Round of the NFL Draft?
Now with just one month to go until the 2014 NFL draft, prospect projections and mock drafts are once again taking over the internet.
The Raiders are one team that will be hard to read heading in this year, as there are several different directions they could choose to go with their pick at fifth overall.
Although they have made a number of key additions in a busy free agency period, quarterback, receiver, offensive line and defensive line all remain realistic options in the first round.
As these varying expert predictions show, arguments can be made for either of which as the Raiders look to add an impact player early on.
WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Dane Brugler, Rob Rang (CBSSports.com)
In their most recent mock drafts, both Dane Brugler and Rob Rang have the Raiders taking Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins in the first round.
The Raiders need upgrades at several positions, most importantly quarterback. But they might be left in a spot in which their primary targets are no longer on the board. If that's the case, Watkins would be a very nice consolation prize. – Dane Brugler
Although receiver may not be the biggest need on the roster, the opportunity to add a playmaker of Watkins’ caliber would be tough for the Silver and Black to pass up, especially so if their top-ranked quarterback is off the board.
Watkins would likely become the No. 1 target in the passing game early on, and with James Jones, Rod Streater and Denarius Moore already in the mix, the position group could become relatively deep overall.
Of course, it is no guarantee a talent like Watkins will still be available when the Raiders select at fifth overall, but the top quarterbacks and pass-rushers potentially coming off the board early makes it a realistic chance.
DE/OLB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
Matt Miller (Bleacher Report)
In Matt Miller’s most recent mock draft, he has the Raiders selecting Buffalo defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
A player who could help is Khalil Mack. Pairing the explosive edge defender with last year's pick, Sio Moore, would give the Raiders a formidable young duo at outside linebacker. Behind a defensive line featuring Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Pat Sims, both Mack and Moore could excel.
Although the Raiders’ starting front seven seems somewhat set after several key offseason additions, you can never have enough pass-rushers.
With Mack, the Raiders would be getting a versatile player that would fit both as a stand-up linebacker, as well as a nickel pass-rusher from defensive end.
Most importantly, the Raiders would suddenly have a strong and deep pass-rush rotation just one year removed from it being arguably the most problematic area of the team overall.
Again, while pass-rusher is no longer the biggest nor most immediate need in the starting lineup, it would be tough to argue against adding a potentially elite player at a spot that requires so much rotational depth.
QB Blake Bortles (UCF)
Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com)
In Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent mock draft, he projects the first quarterback coming off the board at fifth overall with the Raiders selecting UCF’s Blake Bortles.
The Raiders quietly filled some holes in free agency, but they still need a long-term solution at the quarterback position.
While the Raiders do now have a solid short-term veteran option in Matt Schaub, that should do little to prevent them from drafting a quarterback this year.
Some will argue that the first-round selection should be used to address a more immediate need, but addressing the future of the quarterback spot should be considered an immediate need itself.
Bortles is a player that has quite a high ceiling as a prospect, but may require some time to develop. With Schaub in the fold, that development process would be more than acceptable to the Raiders, and especially so if they see him as the quarterback of this class most likely to have the best career.
Either way, whether it’s Bortles or any of the other top passers in this year’s class, a first-round quarterback remains a very realistic possibility for the Raiders.
OT Greg Robinson (Auburn)
Charles Davis, Bucky Brooks (NFL.com)
NFL.com’s Charles Davis and Bucky Brooks are both in agreement, projecting Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson to the Raiders in the first round.
The OT with the most upside gets the nod over a QB, which is a huge need for the Raiders. – Charles Davis
After a controversial start to their offseason, losing Jared Veldheer to free agency and having the Rodger Saffold signing voided by a failed physical, addressing the offensive line seemed to be a significant need.
However, having since added Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe and Austin Howard, the unit seems relatively set, with Stefen Wisniewski remaining the starting center and 2013 second-round pick Menelik Watson having every opportunity to start at right tackle.
Considering which, despite Robinson’s potential as an elite prospect, it is tough to envision the Raiders spending the fifth overall pick on the offensive front.
However, if the Raiders truly are following a “best player available” strategy, it is entirely possible Robinson’s talent makes him the best player on their board and has them make the pick, reshuffling the offensive line accordingly.
DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)
Doug Farrar (SI.com)
While many others have Jadeveon Clowney coming off the board several picks earlier, SI.com’s Doug Farrar projects him to the Raiders in his latest mock draft.
What the Raiders have at this point is a bunch of older players they signed in the recent free agency period, and a need to make a serious splash in the draft. It’s entirely possible that Oakland would overlook the alleged effort concerns with Clowney (which I believe to be more related to technique; Clowney frequently gives great effort but doesn’t have the array of hand and foot moves needed to bring more consistent pressure) and pull the trigger on a player that could help their defense a great deal from multiple gaps.
If enough quarterbacks are selected early on, pushing Clowney further down the board, it would be tough to argue against the Raiders making him their pick at fifth overall.
Clowney could very well turn out as the best player from this class overall, and he is certainly one of the better defensive prospects to enter the NFL in the past decade. Similar to the argument for Mack, a good defense can never have enough pass-rushers.
Playing in a defensive end rotation with established veterans like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley could help Clowney to become everything his physical skill set gives him the potential to be, and the Raiders would suddenly have quite the pass rush to work with up front.