Raiders

Let the Gruden show begin

gruden-ap-presser-ratto.jpg
AP

Let the Gruden show begin

Programming note: Coverage of Jon Gruden's introductory press conference from Alameda starts  today at 11:50 a.m. on NBCSportsBayArea.com  

Since we in our collective intellectual bankruptcy overvalue press conferences to an absurd degree, we will be disappointed by the form of the Jon Gruden presser today.

Not because of anything Gruden does or says -- he’ll go football with a bit of OTT (over-the-top) enthusiasm because that is the character he plays on television, Jim Harbaugh less 30 percent.

No, the Raiders must put on a show that reaches both their blue-collar Oakland audience and their glitter-on-rhinestones constituency in Las Vegas, and it is safe to say that no balance will be sufficient for either side.

But that is part of life in the neo-schizoid Planet Raider (we have retired Raider Nation as a concept until it gets United Nations clearance). It must be two things to two groups of people simultaneously, when for most of the last 20-plus years it has been not nearly enough to too many people.

Gruden doesn’t have to sell himself, to be sure. He spent the last nine years on ESPN doing nothing but that, and the resultant swelling of his reputation has made him the NFL’s first nine-figure coach and first of 27 $100 million employees. His job, you see, is the easiest.

As long as he gets them back into the playoffs in 2018, and wins a Super Bowl in 2019, that is. He is on at least one clock, after all.

But the rest of the organization looks like the two-headed eagle on the Albanian flag, looking in two directions at once, because as today will show, Gruden is their coach as well, and the branding agents and image consultants who have not yet done their Mark Davis makeover will have to make the rest of the franchise Vegas-ready while it is still doing its work in Oakland. It is not an enviable position.

But if you are of a mind to enjoy the agonies of the franchise that is abandoning you for a second consecutive generation, you will enjoy their desperate gyrations at the fringes of the Gruden Show. It is the sporting equivalent of moving a team from Appalachia to The Hamptons, and appeasing both fan bases at once. And no, it can’t be done.

So maybe what we’ll see is Gruden tapdancing around the move entirely, since it didn’t happen on his watch and has only a but to do with the job he has 10 years to complete -- making the Raiders a better representative to their new fan base than they did in their second go-round in Oakland.

And maybe that’s the part of the job that is worth $100 big.

An early quarterback run will help Raiders in this NFL Draft

An early quarterback run will help Raiders in this NFL Draft

This NFL Draft should be interesting at the top. Quarterbacks should dominate early proceedings, with teams ready to select as many as four passers in the top 10.

That would suit the Raiders just fine. Derek Carr’s their franchise quarterback. They don’t need another one.

Many other teams do, meaning Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen could all be taken quickly.

“That will really reshape the draft, particularly if there's a run on quarterbacks very, very early in the draft like many of us expect,” NFL Network analyst and former Raiders cornerback Bucky Brooks said in a conference call. “…I think the fascination for me will be what do teams do to put themselves in a position to get a quarterback, what blue chip players find themselves in a bit of a free-fall because these quarterbacks come off the board.”

The Raiders obviously aren’t considering a quarterback at the top. They’ll likely get one of, if not the best players at his position falling farther than they would in a normal year.

We’ve gone over possible selections at No. 10 overall. If you missed it, check it out here.

Quality abounds in that group, with top players at key positions of need. That includes linebacker, defensive tackle and defensive back (and maybe edge rusher) at that spot.

While having four quarterbacks go before the Raiders picks shoves top players down to No. 10, leaving one on the market would make that selection incredibly valuable.

The Raiders could offer that pick to a quarterback starved team willing to trade up to get their passer of the present and future. We’ve outlined candidates for the Raiders should they trade down in the first round, and carry on with extra selections.

The Raiders have 11 as it stands, with one pick in the first four rounds, two in the fifth, four in the sixth and another in the seventh. That’s plenty to package and trade up to land a coveted player in this draft.

The Raiders aim to get the most value from the No. 10 pick, either with an elite draft prospect or the bounty that comes from trading it. One catch: The 49ers could be thinking the same thing at No. 9, a spot earned with a tiebreaking coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine. They also have similar needs, though they aren’t exactly the same, but should deter the Raiders too much from getting the player or trade they covet.

That’s due to the top-flight quarterbacks they have no intention of drafting.

Five top targets if Raiders make first-round trade

mauricehurst-mikemcglinchy-usatsi-ap.jpg
USATSI/AP

Five top targets if Raiders make first-round trade

The NFL draft is all about maximizing value. Why use a higher pick on a coveted prospect if you can trade down, pick up another pick and still get your guy?

The Raiders have a valuable commodity in the No. 10 overall pick, especially if a top quarterback remains on the board at that spot. A team may want to trade up for a signal caller, or a position player the Raiders don’t hold in high regard.

There should be plenty of good prospects if the Raiders stand pat. We went over five excellent options worthy of the No. 10 spot. Now let’s examine five top prospects who could be available even if the Raiders trade down into latter portions of the first round. These guys might also be had if Reggie McKenzie goes against his track record – Jon Gruden will have influence here – and trades back into the first round after using the No. 10 pick. Here are five good options who would look good in Silver and Black:

DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
The Raiders are hell bent on improving their interior pass rush. It might be their biggest need after signing so many in free agency. The former Wolverine might be the best interior pass rusher in this draft, with power and creative moves disrupting the pocket from the inside. The Raiders have some level of interest, considering they brought him in for a draft visit. Hurst posted a photo on Instagram Monday night saying he was at the Raiders facility.

Hurst’s talent and college production is unquestioned, but health issues may drop him in this draft. He was sent home from the NFL combine after being diagnosed with a heart condition, though doctors cleared him to workout at Michigan’s pro day.

Hurst seems like a near-perfect football fit, even if he’s a smidge small and can stall against hulking linemen. He could be a mid-round target, and would fill an important need right away.

OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The Raiders could use an upgrade at right tackle, the one spot that has lacked consistency on an otherwise stout offensive line. They also need a left tackle of the future after Donald Penn calls it a career after 2019 at the latest. McGlinchey could fill both needs. McGlinchey’s considered the draft’s best offensive tackle, yet could be had in the middle or back end of the first round. He’s a solid leader with strong work ethic and sound technique. Analysts say he has inconsistency issues, and must fare better against power rushers. Even if some consider him unspectacular, he should be a steady NFL starter. That’s vital to a Raiders offensive line paying big money to three interior linemen. He could be a productive, cheaper option on the outside.

DT De’Ron Payne, Alabama
The Raiders need a defensive tackle. Payne doesn’t have Hurst’s skill set, and should be considered more of a prototypical defensive tackle. That isn’t a bad thing. Payne is an excellent run stopper, who analysts say has pass-rush skill that can be unlocked by the right coaching. He showed great improvement in that area last season. Payne would help the run defense right away. He has incredible strength, with surprising athleticism. He’s a football-first player and was known for leadership at Alabama. Payne seems like a safe solid pick in an area of need, and might be had in the late teens.

“The production hasn't always matched the ability but he is strong, he's athletic,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week in a conference call. “(He has) really quick hands. I think he's got a little bit of stiffness in his ankles. That's one of the only knocks I had on him. But he plays hard and he's a really intriguing player.”

EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
Landry is all over the map in recent mock drafts. He could be taken deep in the round or far, making it tough to predict exactly when he’ll be available. He could provide depth off the edge in the short term and become a long-term compliment to Khalil Mack off the opposite edge. Analysts say Landry has all the tools to be a solid NFL pass rusher, with burst and bend and raw speed. He’s adept creating turnovers, not just sacks, and shows a willingness to defend the run off the edge. Analysts say he must expand his technical repertoire, and do better converting speed to power.

CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Denzel Ward is considered this draft’s top cornerback, and there’s a group of quality cover men right behind him. Jackson’s an intriguing option, considering his size (6-foot-1, 192 pounds) and ball skills. The former Iowa Hawkeye made played on 25.7 percent of his targets, per NFL.com, and showed well in big games. He doesn’t have a long track record of success, which might push him down some in the draft. He has long arms and can play physical at the line of scrimmage, though his 40-yard dash didn’t wow. Either Jackson, or one of the other highly regarded cornerbacks (listed below) could help a Raiders secondary going through yet another renovation.

Other trade-down targets to consider: CB Jaire Alexander (Louisville), LB Rashaan Evans (Alabama), OT Kolton Miller (UCLA), Edge Marcus Davenport (UT-San Antonio), CB Mike Hughes (Central Florida)