Expect Raiders-to-Vegas to hit snags, not roadblocks


Expect Raiders-to-Vegas to hit snags, not roadblocks

There have been whispers at the edges of the Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas deal that kinks are beginning to show in the ongoing negotiations between the team and the city and state.
Kinks, though. Not insurmountable problems.
Rumors in both Oakland and Las Vegas that the Raiders have been examining the possibility of extending their temporary lease with the Coliseum to include the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 have picked up steam in the last several days, but the issues that have caused this impetus are described by sources at both ends of the deal as “not yet large enough to cause a real problem.”
As one source said, “The casinos want this (Raider deal to get done), and the casinos get what they want.”
The main sticking point is negotiations between team, the city, the state and the University of Nevada Las Vegas, which just hired a new athletic director, Desiree Reed-Francois, who is an expert on facilities use and once worked for the Raiders and the NFL Management Council as a legal assistant. She has been adamant about issues of stadium use (the Raiders and Rebels are to share the stadium), and the Raiders apparently have been playing standard NFL hardball on their part.
One source said that may not be the only issue involved, but that it is a considerable one – considerable that is, if you list the issues at hand. “Everyone wants the deal done, but they don’t want UNLV to get muscled too badly,” he said.
But the issue is enough that the Raisders have inquired about 2020-2, and Scott McKibben, the executive director of the Oakland stadium authority, told the Las Vegas Sun last week that he would be willing to negotiate a lease extension “for 2019 and beyond, if necessary.”
McKibben told the newspaper that the city currently loses money when the Raiders play at home, and would want changes in the current lease provisions for negotiations on an extension to proceed. Talks have not yet progressed because construction on the Las Vegas site have not yet begun.
The reason given by most experts as to why the stadium has not yet begun its construction phase is that any work done before there is an agreement would happen on the Raiders’ dime, not the city’s or state’s, and any potential liability would be the team’s to assume as well.

Thus, according to sources, the Raiders are talking about a lease extension in Oakland as a leverage play against Las Vegas.
Thus, we have your standard game of multi-headed chicken being played out in two states by two cities and two athletic organizations that have stalled the team’s expected relocation, at least a bit.
But, as that source said at the top of this piece, “The casinos want this,” and in Las Vegas, the house always wins. It’s just one more Raideresque complication in a litany of them.

Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks


Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks


NFL draft picks create a butterfly effect. One move will impact many others in unpredictable ways. That’s why mock drafts are often a fool’s errand, even if their focused on the first round.

A trade or unexpected pick or run on a certain position changes the dynamic of the entire round, making the prediction business extremely difficult. We were only talking about the first round, here.

The Raiders have 11 picks over the course of this three-day NFL draft. Trying to get all of them right (or even some) is an impossibility. We’re gonna do one anyway. It’s for fun. Let’s treat it that way and see what a good Raiders draft might look like, one that addresses several needs over the course of seven rounds.

First round (No. 10): DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
-- Fitzpatrick’s a popular player, a versatile and dynamic defensive back capable of doing so much so well. He’s a coveted talent, but I feel like a quarterback run and early inside linebacker selections will send Fitzpatrick tumbling to the 10th pick. The Raiders will snatch him up without hesitation, led by former Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley, who now occupies that position with the Raiders. Fitzpatrick can do so many things well, and could shore up several problem spots for this Raiders defense.

Second round (No. 41): DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
-- There was some talk of Hurst sliding way down the NFL draft due to a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine. He was cleared to perform at his pro day, but health questions keep popping up. I haven’t seen his medical chart and couldn’t understand it if I did (not a doctor), but let’s assume the Raiders think he’s okay to play. If that’s the case, Hurst’s a near-perfect fit, and it’s maybe too much of a risk to wait and see if he lasts until in the third round. The Raiders desperately need an interior pass rusher, and Hurst’s the best in this draft. His slide stops here.

Third round (No. 75): WR Dante Pettis, Washington
-- Jon Gruden loves precise route runners. Pettis is an excellent one, who can operate outside or in the slot. He has sure hands, is reliable and has a strong work ethic. Gruden likes thost traits, too. Good fit for this new offense.

Fourth round (No. 110): EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
-- The Raiders need depth rushing off the edge behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. He has solid size (6-3, 258), explosiveness and sure tackling ability. He needs some technical seasoning and more moves in the arsenal, but could spell the top guys right away and take over for Irvin in the long run.

Fifth round (No. 159): CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane
-- The Raiders are looking for a steady slot cornerback. Nickerson could compete to fill that role now or in time. He might be gone by this point in the draft – Nickerson has a 4-6 round projection -- but they should pounce if he’s available. He’s more physical than you’d think for someone his size and never quits on a play. Nickerson visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process.

Fifth round (No. 173): ILB/SLB Tegray Scales, Indiana
-- Fans certainly wanted linebacker help before the fifth round – where GM Reggie McKenzie typically takes his linebackers -- but this mock draft didn’t fall that way. Scales is a quick player and sure tackler with coverage ability. He has strong leadership, and could play on the strongside, another spot where the Raiders need help. He should step right in and help on special teams as well.

Sixth round (No. 185) P JK Scott, Alabama
-- The Raiders didn’t let Marquette King walk without a plan to replace him. They worked out several punters in this draft, and snag an excellent one here. Scott is used to the big stage. He’ll be able to step in and produce right away. They might be pushing their luck waiting this long. A trade up could be in order to secure the draft’s second-best punter.

Sixth round (No. 212) RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern
The Raiders add another running back to the mix, an extremely productive one at that. Jackson was durable despite taking so many carries for the Wildcats, thanks in part to his elusiveness. He’s a solid receiver out of the backfield and could be an asset running behind a effective offensive line.

Sixth round (No. 216) DT R.J. McIntosh, Miami
The former Hurricane was given to the Raiders in an mock draft, and he seems to be a good fit in Oakland. McInthosh is a versatile defensive lineman who can be a productive interior rusher if he continues to develop. He could be a rotational piece behind Hurst, Mario Edwards and Treyvon Hester if he earns such a role. He could also spend a year on the practice squad if he’s not ready.

Sixth round (No. 217) DL/OG Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee
-- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie wasn’t against drafting his son when asked about the prospect. Kahlil McKenzie has all the physical tools to be a productive pro, and nobody knows that better than his dad. He could fit in on defense or on the offensive interior, a place he worked out at during the pre-draft process.

Seventh round (No. 228) TE Jordan Thomas, Mississippi St.
-- Thomas is a lump of clay at this stage, someone with great athleticism and size at 6-4, 265 pounds. He has the tools to succeed as a pro, but analysts say there isn’t much tape to back it up. If he can be taught well and developed into a proper football player, the former basketball player could become a productive NFL receiving tight end. He’s worth a flier in the seventh, maybe a bit earlier than that.

Raiders would buck a trend by drafting ILB early


Raiders would buck a trend by drafting ILB early

The Raiders are, once again, searching for help at middle linebacker. That position’s been a black hole, lacking stability or talent save a few brief periods.

Perry Riley anchored that spot well most of the 2016 season, and NaVorro Bowman did the same last year after the 49ers cut him. The Raiders want Bowman back, but the veteran didn’t like contract offers and consequently remains a free agent.

The Raiders would still like him back, at the right price. That might not hold true after the draft, if they ignore tradition and select an inside linebacker early.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t taken one above the fourth round since becoming Raiders general manager in 2012. The Bengals never took one high when Paul Guenther was Cincinnati defensive coordinator.

First-round premiums generally fall to other positions. This year might be an exception.

The Raiders are in desperate need of linebacker help -- Tahir Whitehead’s the only established starter, and is expected to play the weak side – and there are two elite prospects worthy of a top 10 pick.

The Raiders have 2017 fifth-rounder Marquel Lee and sub-package coverage linebacker Nicholas Morrow in the mix right now. It could be time to alter strategy and select a three-down linebacker who can anchor the middle of Guenther’s defense.

The Raiders should have options at No. 10 overall, if they trade down in the first round and again at No. 41. If they take a linebacker early, Bowman likely won’t come back. If linebacker remains a need as rounds go by, it might be time to get Bowman signed or stick with a Lee and Morrow platoon.

Here’s a look at their prospects in this year’s draft.

Roquan Smith, Georgia
-- The former Bulldog’s a true sideline-to-sideline playmaker, a picture of the modern-day NFL linebacker. He’s only 6 feet, 236 pounds, but packs a punch while playing smart, aggressive football. He has great speed and pursuit, and is a smart on-field leader of a defense. Smith’s a plug-and-play prospect at this point, seemingly ideal for what the Raiders need at inside linebacker. It’s possible, however, Smith doesn’t make it to No. 10 overall. He could be gone before the Raiders pick, which might constitute a bummer for Silver and Black.
Projected round (per 1

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
-- Edmunds has prototypical linebacker size (6-5, 253) and can play all three spots. He could function as a pass-rusher in certain alignments, with the speed and smarts to cover well in space. Analysts say Edmunds has All-Pro potential, but a lower floor than Smith. The former Hokie has some development work to do, expected considering the kid’s only 19 years old. He, like Smith, may be gone before the Raiders pick. If he’s there and some other top talents are gone, Edmunds could well end up a Raider.
Projected round (per 1

Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
-- The former Bronco is another inside linebacker with the speed and sure tackling to play from sideline to sideline, with huge range against the run and in coverage. He was a team captain at Boise State and committed to his craft. He is capable of making an early impact the Raiders need at the position. Vander Esch, however, might only be available as a trade-down candidate. The same goes for Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, another inside linebacker (with versatility to play anywhere) set to go late in the first-round.
Projected round (per 1

Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
-- Leonard is considered one of this draft’s best coverage linebackers, with a chance to be a quality NFL starter inside. He’s 6-2, 234, a bit smaller than ideal for a 4-3 middle linebacker, but he processes information quickly and has great closing speed as a tackler and in coverage. He needs to increase play strength, but could be an asset on a team needing agility inside.
Projected rounds (per 2-3

Malik Jefferson, Texas
-- Jefferson was a top high-school recruit who plays significant time during his Texas career. He has tremendous athleticism and coverage ability on the inside, though analysts believe he might be a 4-3 WILL linebacker. That would move Whitehead to the middle, a spot he’s capable of playing. He might need to be taught more about mental aspects of the game, and doing so would unlock great physical ability. He may go higher than his projected rounds suggest.
Projected rounds (per 3-4