Raiders

Five draft options for the Raiders at No. 10 overall

Five draft options for the Raiders at No. 10 overall

The NFL draft’s coming up quick. The Raiders will be on the clock before the sun sets on April 26, armed with the No. 10 overall pick.

That’s a valuable spot, with several quality options at multiple areas of need. It could also be a tradable asset should a quarterback-starved team want to trade up for a passer slipping down the chart.

Let’s assume, for a moment, the Raiders stand pat. A quarterback run at the top should shove some elite prospects down, even if some coveted talents get taken before the Raiders pick.

Let’s take a look at five good options that could be available at No. 10. There's enough quality atop the draft that the Raiders will have good choices even if some guys are gone. 

1. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The former Hokie is a do-it-all linebacker with amazing physical tools, viewed by many as an all-star at the professional ranks. He can play off the ball or rush the passer. He can stop the run and tackles well. Edmunds has ideal size at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, with long limbs to pair with great athleticism. He has all that, and he won’t turn 20 until May 2. There’s tremendous upside there, and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden won’t hold age against him.

“There’s a 19-year-old football player in this draft that’s a hell of a player,” Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings. “We’re not going to discriminate against him because he’s 19. You’re the best player and you fit what we’re looking for, we’ll take you.”

The Raiders could take Edmunds and help a lackluster linebacker corps. Analysts say some development is required to become a top-end pro, especially on the mental side of things, but Edmunds can be a disruptive three-down force in all aspects of a defense.

He can play any linebacker spot, and could help the Raiders right away on the outside opposite Tahir Whitehead or in the middle. Edmunds, however, can do several things well.

“Right now what I say is a starting-off-the-ball linebacker and a potential sub at edge rusher,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said after the NFL scouting combine. “He's got a skill set -- I don't use this word often, but he has a skill set that's unique.”

2. DT Vita Vea, Washington
The Milpitas native plays the position of the greatest Raiders need. They’re desperate for help on the inside, especially rushing the passer. Vea’s a run stopper first, but can still get after the quarterback. Washington used him across the defensive line to capitalize on freak athleticism for someone who stands 6-foot-4 and 347 pounds.

Vea could step right in an make an impact on run defense and keep offensive lines honest with Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin.

“He can really roll his hips and he's got tremendous power as a run defender,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in a conference call. “And I think he does have upside as a pass rusher.”

The Raiders need a complete defensive tackle in Paul Guenther’s defense, and they’re hard to find. Vea might be one, which makes him tough to pass up.

3. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
Inside linebackers are getting lighter, faster and more agile these days, a response to pass-happy NFL offenses throwing to varied targets. The Raiders need someone like Smith (6-1, 236), a true sideline-to-sideline presence in the second level. They have struggled covering tight ends and running backs for several seasons. Smith could help immediately in those areas. He’s also an effective run defender with tremendous instincts and a nose for the football. Smith is also known as a disciplined leader who the Raiders could plug into the middle and play. He and Tahir Whitehead would offer a significant upgrade to the Raiders linebacker corps, and improve a weak area right away.

“He's so easy to love when you look at everything he brings to the table,” Jeremiah said. “And I think interview wise and teams doing their background on him, I think that puts him way up there. To me you look at the Bay Area teams, 9 and 10, that makes a lot of sense for him there. And you look at Jon Gruden having been around Derrick Brooks (in a previous coaching stint with Tampa Bay), I would think he could see a little bit of Derrick Brooks in a guy like Roquan Smith, so that makes sense there.”

4. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Raiders drafted an Ohio State cornerback in last year’s first round. They might need another one, even with big things expected from 2017’s No. 24 overall pick Gareon Conley and recent veteran signing Rashaan Melvin. The Raiders are revolutionizing their secondary, and teams need three quality cover men these days. Ward is the draft’s stickiest cornerback, even with less-than-ideal size at 5-foot-10, 191 pounds.

He can play in the slot, and would make an excellent addition to his position group in Alameda considering his pro-ready technique, speed and agility.

5. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Fitzpatrick can do most everything well in the defensive backfield, and the Raiders might jump at the opportunity to select such a dynamic versatile talent. He probably wouldn’t be on the board at No. 10 without a quarterback rush, and could still go before the Raiders pick.

Derrick Ansley was Alabama’s secondary coach before assuming that position with the Raiders this winter, and knows firsthand how dominant Fitzpatrick can be. He can cover the slot, play nickel linebacker or deep safety. He has great range, plays physical and is completely committed to the game. He’s also a solid blitzer. Analysts say Fitzpatrick makes smart reads and fits well in any coverage.

He would be extremely difficult to pass up if available when the Raiders select.

Raiders must be ready for several first-round draft scenarios

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AP

Raiders must be ready for several first-round draft scenarios

Mock drafts can be silly. Mapping outcomes is inherently futile in an enterprise with so many variables. Case in point: It takes just one trade to outdate every mock draft out there.

Yet, we do them because they’re fun. They spark conversation about your favorite sport, even without a game set until September.

They do have some practical use. NFL teams typically do quite a few, in fact, as they prep for different scenarios when they’re on the clock.

NFL Network's Mike Silver said Thursday that the Raiders didn't do that heading into this NFL draft, with runs Thursday-Saturday. Per Silver, head coach Jon Gruden plans to conduct things in "real time." The Raiders have the No. 10 overall pick, and 10 more selections after that.

Thursday’s focus hones on the first round, where the Raiders need to find an impact player with a high draft slot. They would love an early quarterback run, with pushes top-end players toward them on the draft board. Having one of the top four passers on the board could increase their trade value.

They still have an idea of how much they’d want in return for a trade down the draft board. They certainly have a range for how much they’d sacrifice to trade up for edge rusher Bradley Chubb, which The Athletic reported as a possibility.

Here’s a few things we know, per sources, that could impact the Raiders first-round decisions:

They like Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. If he's available at No. 10, expect the Raiders to take him. Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick intrigues them, as well as some other quality defenders possibly available at No. 10.

“There’s going to be five or six defensive players available there that are big time, game-changing defensive players,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “So I don't care whether you're talking about one of the two safeties (Fitzpatrick or Florida State’s Derwin James), (Ohio State cornerback) Denzel Ward, one of the two inside linebackers, (Washington defensive tackle) Vita Vea. One or two or three of those guys is going to be there for them, and I think they can take that in any direction. And I think Jon Gruden’s a very aggressive guy, and he wants to get this thing fixed quickly in his mind. They have selections at 10, 41, and 75. Whatever they do at 10 will trigger the direction they head in the next two rounds.”

There’s significant focus on the Raiders shoring up their defense, but they’ve done research on offensive tackles. That includes Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, who could be a selection at No. 10 or just below should they trade out. Whether or not they get him, the offensive line should be a focus at some point in the draft.

A trade down would offer more picks for a team with serious needs, or provide assets to help trade up in later rounds. It could put McGlinchey in a more favorable draft spot. The Raiders have met with edge rusher Marcus Davenport, another intriguing prospect outside the typical cluster linked with the Raiders.

Several scenarios could play out in this Raiders draft, including one nobody has mentioned to this point. The NFL draft’s one certainty is its unpredictability. The Raiders have mapped out as many scenarios as possible, and have several contingency plans based on what goes down Thursday night with a pivotal selection in a pivotal draft.

Raiders draft dynamic changes with Gruden in the fray

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Raiders draft dynamic changes with Gruden in the fray

Reggie McKenzie has run the last six Raiders drafts. The general manager takes input from several, but was ultimately charged with making picks.

Things are different with Jon Gruden back in silver and black. He brings a new, louder voice in the room influencing roster construction.

That brings a different dynamic to the 2018 NFL draft, which starts Thursday evening and continues through Saturday. The Raiders have 11 picks. Gruden will have final say in who gets taken.

Gruden’s 10-year, $100 million contract suggested as much. Raiders owner Mark Davis made that plain in a conversation at the NFL owners meetings, saying that McKenzie’s role will be different moving forward.

“Now he has a head coach who’s going to be running this thing for the next 10 years,” Davis said. “His vision is going to be most important building what type of team we’ve got. That vision, and that direction is going to be helpful to Reggie more so than not. I think they’ll work together very well.”

McKenzie and Gruden’s working relationship has been a topic for months, and both parties have emphasized how well they vibe.

Believe them when they say roster construction is a collaborative effort. Believe them when they say have similar taste in players. Also know that, when/if there’s disagreement, Gruden’s going to have final say.

Gruden has immersed himself in draft prep (among so many other things on his plate), but is also reliant on the work McKenzie and his staff have done scouting this draft class over the last year.

“I’m really proud of the job he’s done, the coaches have done,” Gruden said. “The scouts and coaches have met together and collaborated. We’ll be prepared, and we’ll see how the board falls as Reggie always says.”

McKenzie says the draft board tells him where to go when on the clock. Will that change with Gruden’s influence in the room?

“The board will still be doing the talking,” McKenzie said. “It really will.”

Gruden has had influence on the draft board and the scenarios they’ve mapped leading into this crucial stretch of the NFL calendar. McKenzie has to help find players who fit new schemes. He’s listening to new people in the room, but says the transition has come without conflict.

“It’s going great,” he said. “I've got a feel for Coach Gruden. We like the same type of players. All this coaching staff and scouts, we’re just trying to get on the same page and get it together. That’s what we’re doing.”

McKenzie and Gruden have worked together well despite disparate personalities. The GM’s laid back, always easy going. Gruden’s got energy to spare. They both share a passion for the sport, and understand the importance getting this draft right.

“He’s a bowling ball of butcher knives. (laughter) He’s great,” McKenzie said. “I love the fire, I love the enthusiasm. We can talk football all day and watch film. I mean, it’s been really good. I’m excited to watch him on the grass and get out there and watch practice. It’s fun. That’s what I expected. He’s going to make it fun and not just for his players and coaches but it’s fun being around him and I like that.”