The Raiders desperately need a top wide receiver.
That’s a shocking revelation to be sure. Probably should add “BREAKING:” before that first sentence, or maybe “This just in.”
Or, sarcasm aside, it’s as big and obvious a need as there is heading into the NFL draft. Raiders fans and NFL followers at large know this to be true, and it would be a surprising development if the Silver and Black didn’t take a receiver at either No. 12 or No. 19 overall.
It’s possible the Raiders could take a receiver high and again with one of three third-round picks as they flesh out a position decimated by Antonio Brown’s implosion last summer and a series of unsuccessful receiver trades and free-agent signings.
While they really need a cornerback and could use defensive line help and an extra running back, receiver should reign supreme on the Raiders' checklist. Lucky for general manager Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden, this is as deep a receiver class as you’ll see. There’s quality deep into the middle rounds, with three elite prospects and several first-round talents after that.
Let’s take a look at options the Raiders could have available with their first-round picks.
As a note, there’s obviously no guarantee of how the NFL draft will go, and most expert mock drafts blow up after a few picks or a blockbuster trades, so this is an estimate for who might be around at a particular pick.
No. 12 overall
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (6-foot-2, 198 pounds): The former Sooner typically is ranked atop this receiver class, with a debate about who’s best between him and Jerry Jeudy. Throw Henry Ruggs in there as well, with his freak athletic gifts possibly making him the first receiver taken.
Lamb, however, is my favorite. He’s a dynamic outside threat who can make plays at every level. His yards after the catch are unreal, though college coverage played into that, and that’s a trait vital to Jon Gruden’s offense. The Raiders offensive mastermind loves it when a quarterback makes a safe and smart pass leading a receiver into space, and Lamb can take full advantage of that. He has good hands and can create separation while running routes. There’s some concern about him handling physical NFL corners and he was often schemed open, but coaches can work on techniques and pro-style route refinement. He might be gone before the Raiders pick at No. 12, but he’d be hard to pass up if available.
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, Alabama (6-foot-1, 193 pounds): Picking between Jeudy and Lamb is like choosing between steak and lobster. Both guys are elite prospects expected to make an instant impact. Jeudy is considered an excellent route runner, with sharp and precise movements to create separation within a pro-style offense. He knows how to work cornerbacks and create leverage and space. Some analysts believe he’ll be best in the slot, a spot Hunter Renfrow occupies with the Raiders. He can work all three levels and seems as ready as any receiver to make an instant impact.
Henry Ruggs, Alabama (5-foot-11, 188 pounds): Ruggs is offensive rocket fuel, an athletic freak with a track star’s speed. He ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, the quicks required to blow past college stars and pros alike. He isn’t just a straight runner, with more route savvy than one might expect. Analysts believe he’ll have to work on his releases dealing with press coverage, but he’s got Tyreek Hill speed. Gruden wants a Tyreek Hill-type of player in his pattern. While he doesn’t possess some of the traits Lamb or Jeudy have, he still could be the first receiver taken and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be around for the Raiders’ second pick in the first round.
No. 19 overall
Justin Jefferson, LSU (6-foot-1, 202 pounds): The former Tiger has great hands, ball skills and could be a solid possession receiver. He can move inside and out, though his big season came primarily working from the slot. He could use more precise route running, but those are things coaches can work on considering his solid build and savvy finding the football. Can he create separation from the outside at the next level? That’s something Raiders scouts will have to ponder before making a Jefferson pick.
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State (5-foot-11, 205 pounds): News broke from NFL Network on Tuesday that Aiyuk had surgery on a core muscle injury, though the delayed/eliminated offseason work due to the coronavirus pandemic may make this a non-factor in terms of missing on-field time. Teams still will factor that into their decision, especially with an inability to bring him in for a late pre-draft visit. There are upsides that make him worth the 19th pick or an option in a trade down. He’s solid after the catch and tracks the ball well, especially on deep routes. He can move around the field, something Gruden would like, in addition to a knack for making big plays out of nothing.
Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado (6 feet, 227 pounds): The former Buffalo has the biggest frame on this list, with the power to separate and act like a running back after the catch. He can create leverage and explosive plays, and is the willing run blocker Gruden loves. He doesn’t have the raw speed of others on this list and has battled injury issues for the last two years. This is another player possibly available at a slight trade back from 19, allowing the Raiders to pick up a quality receiver and another pick.
Other names to consider: Tee Higgins, Clemson; Denzel Mims, Baylor; Jalen Reagor, TCU