Raiders general manager Mike Mayock wants four foundational players from this NFL draft. Finding them is far easier near the top, where the Raiders have three first-round picks.
He and head coach Jon Gruden have to hit at an above average rate even with all that draft capital, which could increase with a trade down at either No. 4, 24, 27 or 35.
The defense needs serious help almost everywhere, and the offense has specific holes to plug as the 2019 season encroaches. Every upgrade-worthy position won’t get addressed in one draft, but they have to make the most of selections they do make.
Will the Raiders land some boom picks or busts in the first round? We’ll choose a few options at each first-round pick that could end up like Khalil Mack or, JaMar—well, the quarterback who shall not be named.
No. 4 overall
NOTE: We’re going to set some rules at No. 4 to think outside the box a bit: The Raiders love Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa as a producer and scheme fit, but we’ll assume he’s gone in the top three. We’ll take Quinnen Williams away as well to make things interesting, even though we think the interior defensive lineman is a sure thing and would be the pick if he’s sitting there at four.
Boom?: LB Devin White, LSU The do-it-all linebacker doesn’t fill a glaring need here, but the Raiders need to take the best player available wherever possible to strengthen this roster long term. If Bosa and Williams are gone – they have been eliminated as options for this story – and the Raiders don’t like options to trade down, White could be a dynamic, safe selection at No. 4.
He has great playing speed, hits hard, isn’t afraid to blitz and can cover tight ends. The Raiders haven’t had a player like that in the middle for years, and he could lead this Raiders defense for years. Sure, the Raiders have Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall, but those veterans aren’t long-term answers and shouldn’t stop the Raiders from taking someone who seems to be a surefire NFL standout at No. 4. While the team’s primary focus at No. 4 hones on a few prospects or trade down, White could offer great value and Jon Gruden-like tenacity at an important position.
Bust?: OLB/DE Josh Allen, Kentucky Before we all freak out at this selection and tag him with this link on social media, let’s make this clear: Josh Allen should be an excellent pro. He has the size, speed, and pass-rush ability and work ethic to succeed in this league. But…would that happen with the Raiders? Is he a perfect scheme fit? Probably not. Analysts say he’s better suited for a 3-4 defense as a standup outside linebacker, where he could rush, stop the run and cover. While coordinator Paul Guenther is an innovative mind who can make any talented player work, this might not be a perfect pairing. Again, and I can’t say this enough, we’re talking bust POTENTIAL, with players consider worthy of the No. 4 pick. Those guys are almost always elite talents.
No. 24 overall
Boom?: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama Taking runners in the first round can be a polarizing proposition, but Jacobs is a do-it-all player who would fit well as Jon Gruden’s feature back. He has power and acceleration to rush inside and out. He’s a solid receiver with some elusiveness in space. Analysts see potential in him as a pass protector. He also doesn’t have many carries to his credit, so he’s fresh and ready to assume a large workload. He’ll still get rest with Gruden’s preference of using several runners, but Jacobs could be an excellent lead back with plenty of touches in this scheme.
Bust?: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson The Raiders need edge rush help at some point early in the draft and would look to get one in the 20s if their top pick goes in a different direction. As with Allen, there’s a real possibility Ferrell develops into a solid, productive pro. After all, he was steadily productive at Clemson. But…if we’re playing devil’s advocate, he was playing on an awesome defensive line with intimidators everywhere. Also, Ferrell won’t wow you with athletic traits, creating some concern with how he’ll fare against the NFL’s best offensive tackles. He’s a 4-3 defensive end and would fit the scheme, but will great college production continue in the pros at a level worthy of a first-round pick?
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No. 27 overall
Boom?: CB Rock Ya Sin, Temple This aggressive cover man is tough, competitive as heck and has great ball skills. Does that sound like a Raiders cornerback, or what? The former wrestler can obviously mix it up at the line of scrimmage, and analysts say he’s good finding the ball in the air and making plays on it. He’ll play tough against the run and battle throughout a game. He could give the secondary some grit as the Raiders search for quality, depth and long-term solutions at an important position.
Bust?: Greedy Williams, LSU Williams has a lot of plus traits and an excellent first name for a cornerback. Analysts say he lacks play strength and has a thin frame. He’s could be a quality cover man, but there he’s not terribly physical. The Raiders like corners who tackle well and never give up.