Raiders

Raiders

The Raiders knocked the NFL draft out of the park last year.

General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden navigated the board and snapped up six prospects who contributed immediately. It would have been seven, but first-round pick Johnathan Abram missed all but one game with a shoulder injury.

The 2020 draft, which begins Thursday, will provide different challenges and new pitfalls for the Raiders' brass to avoid. The Silver and Black's needs are clear. They need a No. 1 wide receiver, a lockdown corner, a space-eating defensive tackle, a Josh Jacobs backup and another receiver who can play a minor role early and then take over for Tyrell Williams.

We know the prospects many have earmarked for the Raiders. We know about CeeDee Lamb's YAC ability, Henry Rugg's speed, Jerry Jeudy's route-running; CJ Henderson's cover skills, A.J. Terrell's length and Kristian Fulton's nastiness factor. The Raiders' preferred path is clear, but the draft never is that cut and dry.

Raiders insider Scott Bair and I have dissected it from every angle. We've analyzed the prospects and he offered his Raiders-centric mock, which I gave a B-plus. It was good. It could have been better.

But now let's look at the other side of the coin. A draft haul that might have fans slamming their head into TV trays and wondering why they even decided to turn on the virtual draft. (What else is there to watch?)

 

Here's a worst-case scenario for the Raiders on draft night(s).

First Round

Things are looking good for the Raiders after the first six picks. Henderson, Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs all remain on the board. Then, the Philadelphia Eagles send a haul to the Carolina Panthers to move up and draft Lamb. Henderson goes at No. 9 and the Denver Broncos trade up to No. 10 to grab Jeudy. The New York Jets have their choice of three tackles or Ruggs, and they add the speedster from Alabama, throwing a lurch in the Raiders' plans.

Derrick Brown remains on the board, but the Raiders elect to trade back with the Atlanta Falcons, picking up a No. 16 pick and No. 47 overall. Passing on Brown has defensive coordinator Paul Guenther ready to offer his resignation, but his internet tanked because his wife was binge-watching Grey's Anatomy.

With two picks in no-man's land, the Raiders pass on Justin Jefferson and reach for Denzel Mims at No. 16. The big-body receiver who killed the combine is too good pass up and the Raiders hope he can help immediately on the outside.

Back on the clock at No. 19, the Raiders ignore their cornerback need and Gruden does what he's never done before: Drafts a quarterback in the first round. Gruden falls in love with Jordan Love, the big-armed quarterback from Utah State and now things are all out of whack.

Second round

The Raiders did add a second-round pick so it's not all bad.

Back on the clock at No. 47, the Raiders again go with potential instead of the sure thing.

With Damon Arnette and Jaylon Johnson still on the board, as well as Chase Claypool, the Raiders select Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, an electric athlete with raw coverage skills. He could develop into a lockdown corner but it will take time the Raiders don't have.

If the Raiders have a chance at Claypool on Day 2 and pass on him, they better be getting a sure thing at a position of need.

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Third round

Three picks in the third round is where the Raiders can make their money. The draft is off to a rough start, but they can earn it back.

At No. 80, the Raiders select Jordan Elliott a defensive tackle out of Missouri. At 6-foot, 300 pounds, Elliott has imposing size, but he has average burst and is lacking as an athlete. With Raekwon Davis and Davon Hamilton both still on the board, the Raiders again make the wrong choice. 

Back on the clock at No. 81, the Raiders get Jacobs' backup in Boston College's A.J. Dillon. A big, bruising, between the tackles throwback who was projected to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick. At No. 91, the Raiders play it smart and draft Clemson safety K'Von Wallace, a guy from a winning program who likely will be a slot corner at the NFL level.

 

See, it's not all bad.

Fourth round

With their fourth-round pick, the Raiders look to address the receiver position again and draft Tennessee's Jauan Jennings.

Jennings, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, has good size and hands but lacks elite athleticism and struggles to separate at the top of routes.

In a loaded receiver class, coming away with Mims and Jennings is a nightmare scenario.

Fifth round

By this point, Mayock's internet connection has died and Gruden is running on 72 hours without sleep while grinding tape.

After watching LSU throttle Clemson in his title game re-watch, Gruden decides he needs more Tigers on his team. So, he selects LSU linebacker Michael Divinity with the Raiders' final pick. Divinity had some maturity issues/red flags at LSU, where he spent some time away from the team, and has trouble processing plays. He's got length and is versatile -- can play linebacker or come off the edge -- but the character concerns and lack of elite athleticism are troubling.

The dust settles and the Raiders' no good, very bad, turn your head and throw your computer out the window draft has finished.

Here's where we landed:
First Round (No. 16 after trade with Falcons): Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Passed on: Derrick Brown (at No. 12), Javon Kinlaw and Justin Jefferson
First Round: (No. 19): Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Passed on: Just about everyone
Second Round (No. 47 via Atlanta): Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Passed on: Chase Claypool, Damon Arnette, Jaylon Johnson
Third Round (No. 80): Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri
Passed on: Raekwon Davis, Davon Hamilton, Bryan Edwards
Third Round (No. 81):  A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College
Third Round (No. 91): K'Von Wallace, S, Clemson
(This is a good pick and I expect him to be high on the Raiders'  board)
Fourth Round (No. 121): Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee
Fifth Round (No. 159): Michael Divinity, LB, LSU

[RELATED: How Becton, Tua, Kinlaw dropping could impact Raiders]

The good news is: None of this is likely or even plausible. It's a fun exercise to imagine the wheels coming off.

Mayock and Gruden proved themselves to be a formidable draft duo a year ago, and as long as Gruden learns how to work Zoom and get the picks in, the Raiders are primed for another solid class.

Programming note: Don't miss NBC Sports Bay Area's coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft! Stream "NBC Sports On the Clock: NFL Mock Draft" on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com on Wednesday at 2 p.m. to get all of the latest information on the 49ers and Raiders.