Raiders

Raiders

The Raiders will enter the 2020 NFL Draft with a clear plan. Their interests are defined and they've done their homework on the prospects who can best help them win now and in the future.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have an idea of how they will adjust to the curveballs annually thrown in the NFL draft. With picks No. 12 and No. 19, the Silver and Black are in position to take an elite talent at No. 12 and then perhaps trade back from No. 19 to acquire more draft capital.

Most don't expect the Raiders to go the opposite way and trade up for game-changing first-round talent. With multiple needs, it's normally unwise to mortgage future draft capital for a single player. However, there are few situations where the Raiders might be forced to make such a move.

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Give Guenther another toy

The Raiders spent free agency building up their defense. They added to all three levels to improve a unit that wore down at the end of last season.

They still have a need at cornerback and reportedly will look to upgrade at defensive tackle in the draft. Top prospects like Florida's CJ Henderson, South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw and Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray are expected to be available when the Raiders go on the clock at No. 12.

 

Two of the best defensive players in the class -- Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons -- are expected to be off the board by the time the draft hits double digits. Okudah is a projected top-four pick, with the Detroit Lions likely planning on taking him at No. 3 overall if they don't move out of the spot.

But with teams likely to climb up in order to take one of the top quarterbacks or tackles, there is a possibility that Okudah and Simmons could start to slide. If one or both still are available when the Carolina Panthers go on the clock at No. 7, could the Raiders really pass on making a move up perhaps packaging the No. 12 pick, a third-round pick and future a pick to take either Okudah -- a lockdown corner who reminds scouts of Jalen Ramsey -- or Simmons -- a mutant athlete who can play linebacker, rush off the edge, cover in the slot or play safety? Simmons is built to stop offenses in the modern NFL, and Okudah would give the Raiders two young, talented corners to shut down opposing passing attacks.

In order to win in today's NFL -- especially in the AFC West where the Kansas City Chiefs reign supreme -- you need the athletes and the talent on defense to slow down the high-octane attacks that are taking over the league.

Didn't even have to tank for Tua

Yes, in 99 out of 100 scenarios Tua Tagovailoa is off the board by pick No. 6 at the latest, and there's a high percentage chance a team moves up to take him even earlier than that.

But Tagovailoa has medical questions that could give teams pause, especially with the Alabama quarterback unable to visit teams due to the coronavirus pandemic. By all accounts, his hip has healed well and he looked solid at his visual pro day. But after suffering a dislocated hip and having surgeries on both ankles after suffering high ankle sprains.

Tagovailoa's talent is undeniable, but teams must be careful with how they use top picks. Swinging and missing on a top-five pick can set a franchise back years. If teams are spooked by the inability to examine Tagovailoa themselves, he could slide a touch, giving the Raiders the opportunity to pounce.

Once again, the Nos. 7 to No. 9 range is the trade sweet spot the Raiders want to live in here. Quarterback isn't the Raiders' most pressing need, but Tagovailoa was the presumed No. 1 pick before his hip injury and Joe Burrow's meteoric rise. The Raiders will have to think long and hard about trading up to grab an elite, franchise-altering quarterback if he slips.

[RELATED: Five bold Raiders NFL draft predictions that could happen]

 

Go West, Young man

Chase Young is the best player in this draft. Full stop.

The Ohio State edge rusher is a better prospect than both Nick and Joey Bosa were coming out of Ohio State. It's almost a guarantee that Washington will sprint to the virtual podium at No. 2 and select Young, unless they are overwhelmed with a trade offer.

Let's live in that world for a moment. Say, the Miami Dolphins trade up to No. 2 and draft Tagovailoa. The Lions, no doubt, would love to have Young be a part of their rebuild, but the Raiders could offer the farm to a Lions team that is bereft of talent -- Nos. 12, 19, 81 and a future first-round -- to go up and finally get the generational edge rusher they've been craving.

Admittedly, this is a reach. But Young can be a game-wrecker in the NFL, and those just don't come around that often.