How Tua Tagovailoa's decision to enter 2020 NFL Draft affects Raiders


How Tua Tagovailoa's decision to enter 2020 NFL Draft affects Raiders

On Monday morning, a little after 11 a.m. in Tuscaloosa, Ala., one of the greatest college careers officially ended.

Alabama star quarterback and presumptive top-five draft pick, Tua Tagovailoa, officially declared for the 2020 NFL Draft while sitting next to coach Nick Saban.

Tagovailoa is recovering from a serious hip injury he suffered in a win over Mississippi State on Nov. 16. With teammates and projected top picks Dylan Moses and Alex Leatherwood electing to return to Alabama for their senior season, there was speculation Tagovailoa would come back, rehab his hip with the Tide's medical staff and boost his draft stock.

Instead, he made the smart choice. Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery and said in his press conference he will be ready to play next season.

Tagovailoa throwing his name into the hat makes him likely to be the second quarterback taken, with LSU star Joe Burrow all but assured to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. 

After the Bengals, Washington, the Detroit Lions and New York Giants all are unlikely to draft a quarterback. The Miami Dolphins own the No. 5 pick and could elect to select Tua or could fill one of their other glaring needs and address the quarterback position later on. At this point, it feels like Tagovailoa won't slip past the No. 6 pick, as the Los Angeles Chargers are in need of a new franchise quarterback with Philip Rivers' future in powder blue uncertain.

The Raiders, meanwhile, own the No. 12 and No. 19 picks in the first round. Tagovailoa's decision to enter the draft could have an effect on what the Silver and Black choose to do in the first round.

While Jon Gruden's team has two major needs (wide receiver and linebacker), the Raiders also must decide what the future holds for quarterback Derek Carr. With whispers of a disconnect between the coach and quarterback growing, it feels like a possibility that the Raiders could draft their next QB in the first round.

Tagovailoa's entrance could see enticing quarterback prospect Justin Herbert, who the Dolphins and Chargers both are eyeing, to slide down a bit and be available for the Raiders to take at No. 12. 

Inserting Tagovailoa into the top six of the draft also could mean a non-quarterback prospect the Raiders should covet (i.e. CeeDee Lamb, Isaiah Simmons) slides right into their grasp, which would have Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock doing cartwheels. It feels unlikely Lamb gets past the Arizona Cardinals at No. 8, and Simmons should be gone by the time the draft hits No. 10, but Tua's entrance could throw a wrench into a number of team's plans.

Of course, if Gruden loves Tagovailoa, there's a chance Gruden could try to package his two picks to move up and select the left-handed star. It's a move that might seem unwise given the gluttony of needs the Raiders have. it's also one they have to consider given Carr's struggles and supposed disconnect with the man tasked to bring the Silver and Black back to prominence.

[RELATED: Raiders want to strengthen receivers after 2019 collapse]

Tagovailoa leaves Alabama as one of the most transcendent college quarterbacks in history. He burst onto the scene at halftime of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, leading the Crimson Tide back from a 13-0 deficit to stun the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime on a game-winning, 41-yard strike to DeVonta Smith. 

His generational ability forced Saban, long stuck in the ground-and-pound offensive mindset, to change his philosophy and open up the passing game for Tagovailoa and the most impressive stable of wide receivers the college game has ever known.

He finished his career as the all-time leader in career passing efficiency by a wide margin, threw 87 touchdown passes, was repsonsible for 96 total touchdowns and posted a 93.4 quarterback rating -- the highest since the number was introduced in 2004. His impact on college football forever will be engrained on the sport's marquee program.

Now, he enters the NFL. His health will be the topic of conversation for the next nine months. Whoever selects him will be getting a franchise-changing player.

The Raiders are in need of one of those as they move to Las Vegas. If a trade can be made, Gruden has to consider it.

Even if they don't, Tua's decision will have ripples that impact the Raiders' draft plans when they go on the clock at No. 12 in four months.

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

So, you want to compete with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Well, you're going to need a lot more firepower.

Jon Gruden knows that.

In what was Year 1 of a true rebuild for the Raiders following the teardown in 2018, the Silver and Black showed a lot of promise, with a historic draft class leading them to a 7-9 record. The building blocks are being put in place for the Raiders to march up the AFC West pecking order. While another draft-day haul is needed, Gruden knows he doesn't yet have the offensive weapons to contend with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City. 

Yes, the Raiders have a big question mark at quarterback, but this is about a different area of need -- the team's biggest area of need -- other than the black hole at linebacker. The Raiders need wide receivers. Many of them. They need dynamic playmakers who can stretch the field, make people miss and rack up explosive plays. Players who can answer a lightning strike from Mahomes that left the Raiders stunned and wobbling last season.

They'll likely select one early in the 2020 NFL Draft and maybe another in the third round. But that won't be enough. With $54 million in projected cap space, expect the Raiders to look to the free-agent market to add a veteran receiver to help Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller shoulder the load. 

The Raiders don't seem like a home for A.J. Green and we can cross former Raider Amari Cooper off the list. Robby Anderson might be a fit, and the Raiders reportedly had interest in him at the deadline, but his price tag might be a tad high for a guy that isn't a true No. 1.

Gruden needs only look to the Raiders' now-former Bay Area neighbor for a free agent worth their while. 

Emmanuel Sanders came over to the 49ers in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos and immediately paid dividends. He was able to lead a young receiver group while being successful running every type of route for coach Kyle Shanahan.

Sanders is most effective in a West Coast type of offense such as the one Gruden runs. The 32-year-old completely transformed his game after tearing his Achilles, reinventing himself as a savvy, veteran playmaker. He's a highly efficient route-runner and has some of the surest hands in the game, only dropping one pass last season.

His arrival in San Francisco took the 49ers' passing game from an attack with puppy teeth to one that could shred defenses in an instant. He played a key role in the development of Deebo Samuel, who became a lethal weapon as the season wore on. Sanders also is a good blocker on the outside, as he showcased during the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl.

Don't let Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrow in Super Bowl LIV taint your opinion of Sanders. With the title on the line, Sanders smoked his man, blew past the safety and was in line to be a Super Bowl hero had the pass been on target.

He's played in three Super Bowls and knows what it takes to get to, and win, the biggest game in sports. His leadership and experience would be as valuable as his on-field production.

Some will argue Sanders' age is a red flag or that the 49ers are destined to re-sign him. Due to the 49ers' cap situation, it seems more likely than not that they will let Sanders walk. At age 32, Sanders is exiting his prime, but he's the perfect veteran receiver to complement Tyrell Williams, mentor Renfrow and the incoming top prospect (s) (CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy) and provide a reliable target for Derek Carr, Tom Brady or whoever is under center for the Raiders in 2020.

[RELATED: Why Raiders would make sense in Darius Slay trade]

The Raiders need to take their offense to the next level. Their offensive line is stout, running back Josh Jacobs is a star and Renfrow and Waller will be long-term staples of the offensive attack. Gruden will expect more from Williams in Year 2 of his contract after the veteran receiver was hampered by injuries in 2019. 

But they need to get more explosive at receiver. No matter who the quarterback is, Renfrow and Waller can't be the only weapons. If that's the case again in 2020, the results will be the same.

A deep draft class at receiver will help the Raiders stock the arsenal, but they'll need another proven veteran as well.

Sanders, who PFF projects to make around $10 million per season, would give Gruden a do-it-all veteran who has ranked as one of the 25 most valuable receivers in each of the past two seasons. And it also would leave the Raiders with money to spend to improve a defense that needs a lot of work.

An offense with Sanders, Williams, Renfrow, Waller, Jacobs and at least one young star from the draft would give the Raiders' offense the pop Gruden has been missing.

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

The picture of Tom Brady talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis at a UFC fight was burned into Oakland Las Vegas Raiders fans' minds.

What would that mean for Derek Carr? Could he be headed to the Windy City to meet up with an old friend? 

There has been a lot of speculation about Carr getting traded this offseason. Carr had a less than memorable season during the Raiders' last year in Oakland, and a photo on his Instagram just adds to the swirling thoughts.

Carr added a picture of himself and Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, with no caption.

Naturally, the comments section flooded with speculation. 

The two are former Raiders teammates, and despite Carr's "meh" season, he would be an improvement over current Bears QB Mitch Trubisky -- who could also use a change of scenery. 

[RELATED: One NFL exec sees Raiders as Brady's fallback]

Carr's contract could make a trade hard, but this IG post on top of everything else makes us think.

The quarterback will blow out 29 candles on his birthday cake next month which could only help his cause.