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2019 NFL mock draft: How Mel Kiper would use Raiders' first four picks

2019 NFL mock draft: How Mel Kiper would use Raiders' first four picks

The 2019 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and it will be a big day for Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the Raiders.

By virtue of the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades, the Silver and Black find themselves with three first-round picks in a draft that is loaded with talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

It's that time of year when ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is working overtime, and last week he released what he believes would be the perfect three-round draft for each of the 32 NFL franchises.

The Raiders don't have a third-round pick, as they sent it to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Antonio Brown trade, but with four picks in the top 35, Oakland will have the ability to restock its talent pool in a hurry if the draft goes according to plan.

Here's who Kiper believes the Raiders should draft with their first four selections in order to get a "Grade A" draft:

No. 4 -- Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

What Kiper is saying: "Williams is a game-wrecker, a defensive playmaker whom Gruden will love."

Analysis: Williams might be the best prospect in the entire draft. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound defensive tackle was a star in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this past season, dismantling opposing offenses at the point of attack. Williams has elite athleticism and has the potential to be a Pro Bowler for years to come. Williams has already met the Raiders while on his Bay Area tour, and all signs point to Williams donning the Silver and Black if he's still on the board.

No. 24 -- Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

What Kiper is saying: "Ya-Sin, one of college football's best lockdown corners in 2018, is still raw -- he played just one season at FBS level -- but he has a high ceiling."

Analysis:  The Raiders certainly will be looking for their No. 1 cornerback of the future, as Gareon Conley has had trouble staying healthy and Daryl Worley is only signed to a one-year deal. Ya-Sin is a physical specimen with raw talent. While he had the physical tools to lock down opposing wide receivers during his one year at Temple, he will need coaching on his technique across the board. The Raiders might be better served by drafting Georgia's Deandre Baker or Washington's Byron Murphy if they are available.

No. 27 -- Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

What Kiper is saying: "Smith would fill the void left by Jared Cook. If there's one qualm with my own picks here, it's that there are no edge rushers left on my board at No. 24. There is going to be a run on them in the Top 20, which means Oakland could miss out on a big need area."

Analysis: With the addition of Brown and Tyrell Williams, the Raiders' passing attack is looking up for 2019. The addition of Smith, an athletic tight end with field-stretching potential, would give quarterback Derek Carr another deadly weapon to throw to when defenses are focused on shutting Brown down. Smith still is green in terms of football experience, so he'll need coaching when it comes to blocking and route running, but his physical tools and pass-catching ability would be hard to pass up.

[RELATED: How Raiders' need for edge rushers impacts draft strategy]

No. 35 -- Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

What Kiper is saying: "Jacobs might not make it to Round 2, but Gruden and Mayock shouldn't pass on him if he's there at No. 35. Get the best back in the class and help out Derek Carr."

Analysis: If the draft goes the way Kiper suggests, you might as well call them the Oakland Crimson Tide. Jacobs is a powerful runner who also is a dynamic weapon in the passing game. Surrounding Carr with Brown, Williams, Smith and Jacobs would make the Raiders' offense a difficult force to stop.

NFL draft: Five players Raiders can target if they trade down from No. 4

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NFL draft: Five players Raiders can target if they trade down from No. 4

The Raiders could certainly trade down from one of their three first-round picks to pick up extra selections later in the 2019 NFL Draft.

An early trade would net a strong return that could add Day 2 picks to their cache, something general manager Mike Mayock discussed a few weeks back.

There’s a window where this would work best however, considering the Raiders own selections at Nos. 4, 24 and 27 in the first round. Sliding down from the fourth pick would reap the most return, though it only makes sense to trade down into the teens with two selections waiting on deck in the 20s.

We also covered some early Day 2 options, some of which would likely be available with a pick gleaned by a slide down from 24 or 27. Let’s focus our efforts on options after trading out of No. 4, and still landing a top defensive lineman the Raiders so obviously need:

DE Rashan Gary, Michigan

Say what you want about his stat line. Rashan Gary can create chaos when he’s heathly and going strong. He’s an athletic freak, with crazy speed and agility for someone his size. He regularly wins one-on-one reps, and could be a dynamic playmaker if coaches can help him find the football faster.

And, it can’t be ignored that Gary’s a perfect Raiders scheme fit.

He has the size and strength to play defensive end for Paul Guenther. He can set an edge, do some dirty work and also get after the quarterback. He has all the raw tools, just like last year’s first-round pick, Kolton Miller. Jon Gruden took a high-ceiling athlete who nailed the combine last year following a trade down. He could do the same here with Gary.

One issue: The Raiders might not want to trade too far back if Gary’s the target. He could go at No. 6 to the Giants or several other teams right after that. It might require a small trade down or (gasp!) to just take him at No. 4 if a run on defensive linemen starts when the draft begins.

DL Ed Oliver, Houston

We talk about Oliver as a trade target, but reports out of New York suggest the Jets could take him at No. 3. The Raiders should proceed with caution if Oliver’s a trade-down target, lest he be gone quickly.

There are lots of Aaron Donald comparison’s floating out there, and even if that standard’s unfair, it also suggests there’s high esteem for a tenacious interior lineman with enough athleticism and versatility to play anywhere up front. He could even play end in the base defense, and Guenther could find imaginative ways to use this premier talent.

He’s one to keep an eye on for the Raiders if they move down a bit, or if Quinnen Williams is gone and they just write Oliver’s name on the card at No. 4.

DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

Ferrell enters the NFL already a pro’s pro. He works hard, has a wide range of pass-rush moves and knows how to play a prototypical 4-3 defensive end spot against the run and pass. He doesn’t rock the athleticism of the prospects above him here, but he brings great effort and can get off blocks.

He was an efficient producer in college. Many scoffed at a previous suggestion at his bust potential, but I’ll reiterate here what I said there, he could have a solid pro career, but will NFL production match worthiness of a mid-first-round pick? That’s a question mark, though I don’t think he has a super low floor.

That said, Ferrell is someone the Raiders could get trading into the teens with a team like Washington or Miami on a quarterback hunt and pick up significant capital in return. It’s certainly an option to consider with Ferrell and the bounty coming back.

DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson

The interior lineman’s name hasn’t been associated with the Raiders much, but we’ll try and think outside the box a bit and suggest the Raiders could go after this big, imposing presence should they trade into the middle of the first round. He had 16 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss in college, so he can make plays inside.

Wilkins offers a strong interior presence if the Raiders want and miss out on Quinnen Williams or trade out of the opportunity to select him or Oliver.

T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

Let’s throw an offensive player in here as well, despite a belief the Raiders are looking for defense from their top pick. A frontline tight end is also on the priority list, and Hockenson is expected to be the first skill player off the board.

[RELATED: Raiders have 'some sort of surprise' with No. 4 pick in draft]

He’s pro ready and can excel as a receiver and a blocker, meaning Gruden could move him all over the formation as a wild card capable of doing anything. He would pair well with Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams and make the Raiders offense tough to stop.

This is another case where the Raiders couldn’t trade down far and expect to secure someone expected to be a top 10 pick.

NFL rumors: Raiders have 'some sort of surprise' with No. 4 pick in draft

NFL rumors: Raiders have 'some sort of surprise' with No. 4 pick in draft

Welcome to Year 2 of the Jon Gruden Experience with the Raiders. Anything can happen, and it's sure to be interesting. 

That certainly won't change with the 2019 NFL Draft starting this Thursday. 

On Thursday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported the Raiders sent home scouts due to a lack of trust on draft notes. General manager Mike Mayock is so protective of his draft binder, he even hid it from his own daughter

But that's just the beginning to this story. 

Rapoport on Monday further detailed the Raiders' reasons for sending home scouts, and it indicates a wild first round of the draft. 

"From what I understand, what the Raiders are looking at is some sort of surprise pick at No. 4 that would necessitate absolute secrecy," he said on the NFL Network. 

Now what exactly would a surprise pick be? Could it be doing whatever it takes to add quarterback Kyler Murray? Maybe they have their eyes on another QB like Missouri's Drew Lock, who a recent mock draft had the Raiders taking via a trade with the 49ers.

If the surprise will be in fact a signal-caller, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins could be an option, as the Raiders reportedly are "super impressed" with the former Buckeye.

Mayock said in January he wants to create an open building with transparency between coaches and scouts, with everyone pulling in the same direction. Perhaps that means more employees of his and Gruden's liking than anyone else's. 

The Raiders' draft room will be busy come Thursday night, though it might be a little more empty than usual. The scouts who were sent home could soon be looking for new jobs. 

"For a lot of them there isn't a reason to come back because they're going to have significant turnover if the draft room," Rapoport said. "And a lot of those guys who left, probably are not returning." 

[RELATED: What Mayock's past draft rankings can tell us]

Hold onto your seats, Thursday can't come soon enough.