The Raiders have clearly set out to get faster, more versatile and more dynamic on both sides of the ball this offseason. That was crystal clear in free agency with additions like sideline-to-sideline linebacker Cory Littleton, and again during the first two days of this NFL draft.
They added cheetah Henry Ruggs at No. 12 overall. They drafted running back and all-around skill player Lynn Bowden at No. 80 and bigger receiver Bryan Edwards at No. 81. Clemson linebacker/defensive back Tanner Muse came aboard at No. 100. First-round cornerback Damon Arnette isn’t lightning quick but his physicality in press-man coverage can negate speed.
All this was done with an idea in mind: Catch the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders’ longtime rival won the Super Bowl with an all-world quarterback and dynamic playmakers all over the field. They’ve also owned the AFC West for years and competing within it is the first step toward sustained success for the Raiders.
“Let’s be honest, the entire world is chasing the Kansas City Chiefs, but we’re in the same division,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said Friday after the draft’s second day came to an end. “They just keep getting faster and more dynamic, so other teams have to do the same. We’re trying to do that from both sides of the line of scrimmage. We feel like Ruggs is a real difference maker. We’re excited about what Bowden brings to the table. Those guys can return as well. We’re trying to draft guys who do more than one thing. Versatility is important thing, but Jon [Gruden] look at each other and say, ‘Is he a Raider?’”
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Gruden and Mayock are looking for a specific character type and commitment to the game, someone who intimately understands football from an Xs and Os standpoint and can execute.
That will continue on Saturday on the NFL draft’s final day. The Raiders currently have three more selections, with two in the fourth round and another in the fifth. Trades down for higher volume are possible, especially after they landed so many Day 3 draft steals in 2019.
The Raiders made four straight selections on schedule, two in the first round and two in the third, before trading back to No. 100 from No. 91 with New England for an extra pick. Mayock said he was tempted to move into the second round where they didn’t have a pick but ultimately chose to stand pat.
“There were guys sliding that I had graded higher so I was kind of tempted, but Jon and I talked about being patient,” Mayock said. “We wanted to let the board come to us and I was hoping for a trade down opportunity we were able to work out with the Patriots to get another pick.”
The Raiders did enough in free agency to cover most holes save receiver, change-of-pace running back and cornerback, all needs that have now been addressed. They can focus on depth signings, players with an elite trait and search for the next Maxx Crosby on Saturday morning and afternoon. Those efforts will attempt to fortify the roster and build the depth, speed and ability to compete within a talent division.
“We were happy with how today went,” Mayock said. “I think we’re getting faster on the both sides of the ball and we’ve added a bunch of competitive kids to the roster. That’s what I think we’re most excited about.”