Raiders

NFL mock draft 2019: How Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock could use Raiders' picks

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USATSI

NFL mock draft 2019: How Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock could use Raiders' picks

The Raiders are moving ever closer to their most important NFL draft in recent memory. It will reset this Raiders roster thanks to four selections in the top 35 and three in the first round.

That’s where the Silver and Black will reap rewards for trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and, of course, earning the fourth overall pick by playing terrible football.

Mock drafts are continually updated these days, with some top analysts offering their first mock while others alter initial projections. Let’s take a look at four quality sources and see which guys they see the Raiders taking in the first round:

Will Brinson, CBS Sports
No. 4:
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
No. 24 (via Chicago): WR Kelvin Harmon, N.C. State
No. 27 (via Dallas): TE Noah Fant, Iowa

What was said about Gary: “The Raiders need to get defensive help with their first pick if they're not sold on a quarterback and Gary can give them a physical presence on the defensive line, where they badly need to reload after trading Khalil Mack.”

What was said about Harmon: “Trading away Amari Cooper and losing Martavis Bryant and leaning on Jordy Nelson is not sustainable to help Derek Carr. The Raiders need to get him a weapon and Harmon would be a great fit in Jon Gruden's offense; he's the type of receiver who can move the chains and also body up dudes down the field.”

What was said about Fant: “The Raiders walking out of the draft with a top tier defensive lineman, a top tier wideout and a top tier tight end? That would be a pretty incredible haul for Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. They'd land high on the grades list and on most "winners" list for the draft (having three first-round picks makes that easy but whatever).”

Chad Reuter, NFL.com
No. 4:
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
No. 24 (via Chicago): CB DeAndre Baker, Georgia
No. 27 (via Dallas): S Nasir Adderley, Delaware

What was said about Gary: “The Raiders have to address their pass rush -- they recorded a league-low 13 sacks in 2018 after trading Khalil Mack.”

What was said about Baker: “Free agency could leave the cupboard pretty bare for Oakland at cornerback, so Baker lands here to fill the void.”

What was said about Adderley: “Adderley's toughness and coverage skills are earning him first-round grades.”

Michael Renner, Pro Football Focus
No. 4: 
DE/OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky
No. 24 (via Chicago): DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
No. 27 (via Dallas): CB Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

What was said about Allen: “Everyone and their mother knows the Raiders need an edge and Allen led all college edge defenders in overall grade this past season.”

What was said about Williams: “Wilkins had far and away the best season of his career in 2018, but he’ll turn 24 already as a rookie. The Raiders at the moment can use all the NFL-ready talent they can get.”

What was said about Oruwariye: “Oruwariye had the best week of any corner at the Senior Bowl earning the highest win rate during the 1-on-1s. He’s an incredibly smooth athlete for being 6-foot-1 with 32-inch arms that likely moved up some boards.”

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports
No. 4: 
DL Quinnen Williams, Alabama
No. 24 (via Chicago): DE Jachai Polite, Florida
No. 27 (via Dallas): LB Mack Wilson, Alabama

What was said about Williams: “Quinnen Williams could end up being the best player in this draft class. He was dominant last season for Alabama after sitting behind Da'Ron Payne (a Redskins first-rounder last spring) in 2017. The Raiders desperately need an edge rusher but Williams' ability to regularly bring pressure up the middle makes him hard to pass up here.”

What was said about Polite: “Polite, who had a breakout season at Florida, has an explosive first step and off-the-chart physical abilities. His knack for getting in the backfield was unrivaled at times this fall, and he'll give Jon Gruden a much-needed legit pass-rushing threat off the edge.”

[RELATED: Breaking down early Raiders seven-round forecast]

What was said about Wilson: “The Raiders defense needs help everywhere and Wilson is coming off a great season with the Crimson Tide and possesses the skills NFL teams look for in their linebackers these days: Sideline-to-sideline speed, ability to cover athletic tight ends, and a high IQ. Wilson stands out in all these areas.”

How Raiders' bolstered secondary depth can help defense vs. Packers

How Raiders' bolstered secondary depth can help defense vs. Packers

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have some serious cornerback depth right now. They’re healthy at that spot and have activated Nevin Lawson after a four-game suspension and a week’s practice as a roster exemption.

The veteran’s primed and ready to contribute right now, if he’s worthy of an active roster spot over some others. Isaiah Johnson is set to come off injured reserved after next week’s game at Houston, further fortifying the deepest defensive position group.

Those numbers will also allow Daryl Worley to move around the defensive backfield in what Jon Gruden called a hybrid role.

Coaches aren’t spelling out exactly what that will look like, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Worley’s comfortable playing several different spots in the defensive backfield, from cornerback to safety to down low in the box.

“Daryl is a smart guy, he can be like having an extra corner cover guy on the field,” Guenther said. “He understands the run fits, the blitzes, the leverages in coverage, whether it’s inside or outside. So, to have a guy with that knowledge and that ability and the physicalness to play inside versus the run on some early down and distances, that’s something that we utilize him for, and he can do it. That’s kind of what we are talking about there, it’s having an extra corner on the field.”

That means Lawson or rookie Trayvon Mullen would slide into Worley’s regular cornerback spot opposite Gareon Conley to fill a gap. That allows the Raiders to use more of their secondary strength while countering some deficiencies at linebacker with Vontaze Burfict suspended the rest of the year. They got creative to keep Lamarcus Joyner on the field when he was largely schemed out of Week 3’s loss to Minnesota, and are coming up with creative ways to enhance coverage against tight ends and in bigger packages.

“You have to give credit to our coaches credit,” Lawson said. “They are doing a great job of getting people involved. We have some talent across the board in the secondary, and we have depth there as well. The defensive backs have to rise to the occasion, no matter who is out there or where guys are playing. We look forward to the challenge of playing well."

While we don’t know who will be among the 46 active players on Sunday at Green Bay, Lawson is excited for a return after missing the season’s start due to a PED violation. The anticipation’s certainly high for the veteran hoping to make his season debut.

“I’m more than excited to be out there,” Lawson said. “I got really tired of watching. This is a good team and we’re getting better every day. I just want to contribute to the group and help us win.”

The Raiders know they can’t survive forever playing just two linebackers on defense, even with Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow operating well as a pairing.

[RELATED: Raiders must pounce with Mahomes out]

“Well you got to have linebackers,” Gruden said. “Anytime someone comes out and wants to play old-fashioned, big boy football you got to have linebackers. Losing Burfict is big, I’m still not happy about it. I’m just not happy about it. … I’m not happy about that but it is what it is, and we’ll get Dakota Allen and whoever the next man up is, we’ll get him ready to go.”

Allen and Justin Phillips are linebackers in reserve, though the Raiders won’t just put them out there because it says “LB” on their football card. Secondary depth will play a role in the defensive scheme, which is forced to adjust to some setbacks in the front seven.

Raiders need help from new receivers Trevor Davis, Zay Jones vs. Packers

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Raiders need help from new receivers Trevor Davis, Zay Jones vs. Packers

ALAMEDA -- Trevor Davis hasn’t been a Raider long. The fourth-year veteran was traded from Green Bay during Week 3, immediately getting a crash course in Raiders football.

It wasn’t realistic for him to play Minnesota just days after the trade, but he integrated quickly and has played both games since. Honestly, he had no choice. Ryan Grant got cut and J.J. Nelson couldn’t get right enough to play in Week 4 or 5, making the Raiders reliant on the lightning-quick Cal alum right away.

He introduced himself to Raider Nation with a 60-yard touchdown run against Indianapolis, and then caught four passes for 42 yards on as many targets against Chicago in London. He made a major mistake in that one, getting the ball punched out at the goal line in the second half of a tight Bears game.

It was at that moment, oddly enough, his lowest as a Raider, that he truly felt accepted on his new team.

“It’s a tight-knit group. It was clear when I got here, especially when I made a bad play in the Chicago game,” Davis said Friday. “They all rallied around me even though some of the guys barely even know who I am. They backed me up, and that was big for me and my confidence here.”

The Raiders picked him up that day, knowing full well that they’d need him to produce all season long. That’s especially true heading into Sunday’s game against his old team.

Tyrell Williams has been ruled out against the Packers with plantar fasciitis. Nelson’s on the street, leaving Davis as the receiver corps’ primary target. As crazy as it sounds, Hunter Renfrow’s the only receiver to have played every game this season.

Davis is finally comfortable working with quarterback Derek Carr and within Jon Gruden’s offensive system heading into this important showdown at Lambeau Field.

“I have most of the offense down at this point, which is a good place to be after coming to a team during the season,” Davis said. “Your head can spin coming in from a different offense. There are similar concepts with completely different names. You have to have trigger something in your mind to the concept is associated with something different. The transition is hard, but you have to have to delete everything you knew and focus on what you’re learning now.”

Davis certainly empathizes with Jones, who is in the in-season integration process’ early stages. Jones was added in a trade from Buffalo nearly two weeks ago now and admits his head is spinning a bit trying to get everything down. He spent the bye week in the classroom with Gruden and extra time with receivers and offensive coordinator Greg Olson after each practice.

“He’s a very quick study, quick learner,” Olson said. “We had him in last week early in the week. Very intelligent football player and that jumped out at us right away and then we got a chance to see him on the practice field here early in the week running full speed. He’s got tremendous speed and quickness. It’s early right now, but we like what we see.”

Jones obviously doesn’t know the entire offense, and it seems unlikely he even all the plays in Sunday’s game plan down. There will be ways for him to contribute right away and to get the talented young receiver involved quickly.

The Raiders will need Davis and Jones to step up and help diversify a passing game that’s more focused on tight ends and running backs in recent weeks.

“Can’t say enough about the job Trevor [Davis] has done, as our returner, as our flanker,” Gruden said. “And to get Zay for what we feel like we gave up is a risk worth taking and we’ll see if it pays any dividends, but he’s a good young player. He’s got some size and speed and was a very, very productive receiver, so we’re happy to have him.”

Davis was in Green Bay for three-plus seasons and tried to help the defense out with some Packers' offensive tendencies. Grant is a Packer now and is certainly doing the same thing with his Raiders experience.

[RELATED: Raiders must take advantage with Patrick Mahomes out]

Davis knows a return trip to Green Bay will be meaningful, but he’s trying to tone down the emotions and treat this like any other game. While getting traded away from the team that employed him so long is difficult, he appreciates learning from some excellent veterans while there that gave him a step up heading into this new venture.

“I learned a lot there,” Davis said. “Playing with Aaron and with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, those guys taught me a lot about the game. I’ve learned a lot that I’m able to apply here with the Raiders. It was nice to come in and feel like I knew nuances of the position joining this offense, and that came thanks to the veterans I have played with.”