Well Raiders fans 2013 is behind us. Take a long, deep, breathe and smile. It is over. Much like the saying used in baseball, “there is always next year.” The 2014 draft will be upon Raider Nation in a few short months. The Raiders have a much better offseason situation than the previous year and opportunities to improve the roster are numerous. Free agency will be interesting and the Raiders have money to spend but the draft is where consistency and longevity can be built.
The Raiders have the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft and five subsequent picks. There are glaring needs on both sides of the ball and here is what Mark Davis and company should do with their prized picks this year.
1st Round 5th Pick
The Raiders are known for taking skill positions with their first picks. They are also known for picking busts like Darrius Heyward-Bey and the never forgotten JaMarcus Russell. Reggie McKenzie has stated he wants to draft based on the best talent on the board and not position. With that said he must take one of two linemen that should be available at the fifth spot.
Jake Matthews, the senior offensive tackle out of Texas A&M is the smart choice for the Raiders. They desperately need a tackle and this guy is ready to play pro ball today. If by chance the Jacksonville Jaguars or St. Louis Rams snag Matthews first the freak of nature Jadeveon Clowney would be the next best thing for the Silver and Black. Both one of these guys is very NFL ready and has small downside risk associated with them. With that said the need for an offensive lineman is greater for the Raiders so if they are both available Matthews is the pick.
2nd Round 4th Pick
With their second pick the Raiders will still have big question marks at the offensive line and if available they should jump at picking up Cryil Richardson from Baylor. The massive senior offensive guard has played multiple spots on the line and protected a mobile quarterback in Robert Griffin III. He has a giant frame but has good quickness. He is absolutely ready to start in the NFL and would fit the Raiders offense well.
If by chance the Raiders wish to wait on lineman in what is a deep big boy talent pool a receiver like Allen Robinson from Penn State would be a good fit. The junior had a wonderful season for the Nittany Lions and received first-team All-America honors. His 6-3, 210-pound frame is just what the Raiders need to solidify their receiver core.
3rd Round 3rd Pick
For the Third round the Raiders will have to address their secondary issues. They were torched the second half of the season and a lot of weaknesses were exposed. There should be talent left to find a good safety or a cornerback to fill some needs. Safeties like Craig Loston of LSU or Anthony Harris of Virginia would come into camp ready to fight for a starting spot. The Raiders safety position graded out terribly in 2013 and the need will have to be addressed in the draft or free agency. There is no way they can enter the 2014 season will the same guys on the current roster.
Final three picks
The Raiders will have some other glaring needs to fill with their remaining three picks. Each will be early in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. Their main needs will be to fill voids and encourage competition at the cornerback, quarterback and offensive line positions.
At quarterback going into the fourth round reliable, experienced guys should still be available. AJ McCarron would be a steal in the fourth round. He will have to adjust to the speed of the NFL but nobody wins as many games as he did without some real talent. Also the Raiders could take a chance on Aaron Murray in the sixth or seventh round. Murray set several Southeastern Conference records while playing in a pro-style offense at Georgia. He has a great arm and good accuracy. The risks that a team would take would be his Drew Brees like height and his recent ACL tear.
There are going to be some free agent quarterbacks out there for the Raiders to inquire about so if nobody in the draft catches their eye cornerbacks could be where they use their final draft picks. If Aaron Colvin of Oklahoma or the now infamous Chris Davis of Auburn is around in the fourth round the Raiders could get a steal of a cornerback. Both players have a lot of experience and could compete for a job immediately.
Overall the Raiders should be looking forward to the draft and welcoming some talent onto a disappointing roster. Many Raider fans will be shouting for a quarterback in the early rounds but the talent in this year’s draft at quarterback simply doesn’t call for a fifth overall pick. The offensive line talent is deep and the Raiders have a huge need for that.
The Raiders should not hesitate to take one or even two linemen with their first two picks and proceed from there. The days of drafting pure speed or the guy who can throw the ball the farthest should be over. McKenzie should stick with what he claims to do. Draft talent first. The talent isn’t at quarterback in the 2014 draft.