Raiders

Raiders 2019 NFL draft order: Only 49ers stand in way of No. 1 pick

Raiders 2019 NFL draft order: Only 49ers stand in way of No. 1 pick

There are four games left in this lost Raiders season. There’s plenty to ponder about which members of this team could impact the 2019 version and how, down the stretch, the Raiders can win another game or two.

Head coach Jon Gruden’s remains on that, not the bounty of offseason moves he can make significant salary cap space and three first-round picks.

“We don’t look ahead right now. We are looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s all we are doing,” Gruden said Monday. “…We are not looking ahead to nothing except the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can assure you that, at least on our side of the building.”

[RELATED: Steelers RB James Connor out vs. Raiders]

The personnel staff is always looking ahead to the draft and possible free-agent options. That’s the job, to scout and survey and, in this current Raiders hierarchy, inform Gruden so he can properly select.

He’ll have three options in the first round, and one of those selections improved a bit with Chicago finally losing a game. Dallas remains hot and the Raiders are getting better, which could spell trouble for that top pick if the Silver and Black notch another win.

Let’s take a look at where the Raiders first-round picks sit after Week 13 action:

No. 2 overall (Last week: No. 2)

How it was earned: The pick earned with an awful record held steady, yet got stronger with Arizona falling off the pace after an unlikely victory at Green Bay.

Only the Raiders and 49ers are left with two wins, and the Santa Clarans will secure the top spot based on strength of schedule. A third victory would drop the Raiders significantly, below the Cardinals and Jets. This team wants wins down the stretch. Fans may not, considering Nick Bosa fills a need for the 49ers and Raiders.

No. 23 overall (Last week: No. 21)

How it was earned: The Cowboys are on a roll, making the first-round pick traded for Amari Cooper less valuable by the win. That defense is playing awesome, and Cooper is a threat with the ball in hand or as a decoy. This is a hue difference over a month or so ago, when this pick was hovering around the top 10.

No. 26 overall (Last week: No. 26)

How it was earned: This pick received as part of the Khalil Mack package is stuck near the bottom of the first-round a disastrous result considering the edge rusher’s worth. The Bears have two easier games against Green Bay and San Francisco and tougher sledding against the Rams and Vikings. Raiders fans should be losing their voices cheering for the 49ers in Week 16, when a win could vault the Silver and Black and send this pick up a peg.

Raiders' Jon Gruden optimistic Trent Brown will play in Week 8 vs. Texans

Raiders' Jon Gruden optimistic Trent Brown will play in Week 8 vs. Texans

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders didn’t have Trent Brown available Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. A calf strain took care of that.

Coach Jon Gruden hopes that was a one-game absence.

He admitted looking at a glass half full, but he believes the Raiders' star right tackle has a real shot to play Sunday against the Houston Texans.

“I think this week he has a better than 50/50 chance,” Gruden said. “That’s me being optimistic, but right now I’d say it’s questionable at best.”

Gruden praised David Sharpe’s effort while playing in Brown’s spot. Sharpe allowed four total pressures and was called for holding twice on drives where the Raiders still scored touchdowns.

The Raiders brought Brown to Green Bay after formally designating him doubtful, just in case the improbable happened and he was able to go.

“I didn’t think there was really a good chance that he could play, but I thought he could be my bodyguard if he didn’t,” Gruden said. “I like Trent, I like having him around. I just like being around the guy. I like him being around our team. But there was a chance, so we had to take him.”

The Raiders didn’t bring receiver Tyrell Williams on the trip. He was ruled out Sunday with plantar fasciitis.

“He ran today, showing some progress,” Gruden said. “All I can say is we’re crossing our fingers. We really are.”

The Raiders need Williams back to help the receiver corps. Zay Jones was inactive Sunday -- he simply not ready to absorb a heavy workload in an offense he joined two weeks prior -- and getting him involved and Williams back would help the offense significantly.

[RELATED: Conley trade might not be Raiders' last]

Defensive end Arden Key also is on the mend and, like Williams, could be ready to play the Texans.

“All I can say is they’re questionable now,” Gruden said. “We’re optimistic that they’ll be ready to go for Houston.”

Why Gareon Conley trade makes sense for Raiders, might not be last one

Why Gareon Conley trade makes sense for Raiders, might not be last one

ALAMEDA -- Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley had a game he’d rather forget on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. It was his last in silver and black.

He was traded to the Houston Texans for a 2020 third-round NFL draft pick, a source said Monday, ending a relationship that didn’t seem long-lasting.

Conley’s an excellent cover man with speed, ball skills and all the physical traits one finds in a top cornerback. There were some inside the Raiders complex who thought he was at times disinterested and disengaged, wondering whether he was a perfect match for what they do defensively and the level of physicality required of Raiders cornerbacks.

Actions suggested a possible breakup before Conley's contract expired. The Raiders added two cornerbacks in the first four rounds of this year’s NFL draft despite having entrenched starters in Conley and Daryl Worley, a player the staff likes a great deal.

Conley has struggled this year. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Conley has allowed 18 catches on 26 targets for 266 yards and four touchdowns. That included a 74-yard score on Sunday against the Packers, where he also provided some lackluster run defense.

The Raiders decided to move on now, taking the best deal on the table from Houston despite playing the Texans next week.

The added selection gives the Raiders three in the third round next year. They also have two in the first and none in the second. The Silver and Black have the capital to go get just about anyone they want or can use the picks to move around the draft board and back into the second round if they choose.

They’ll stomach some awkwardness for the added draft capital, which could be used to add a player before the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline.

“It’s tough. It’s difficult,” Gruden said in his Monday press conference. “But it does give us three third-round picks next year. Five picks really in the [top 96], and that’s an area that we wanted. We wanted to continue to add to our football team. We’re excited about the possibilities next year in the draft. It is hard, it’s hard trading anybody. We have some young guys that we want to have an opportunity and that’s the decision we made.”

The Raiders have options to help the team now and/or in the future by trading someone not firmly in their long-term plans. That’s what makes this a good move by Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock.

Conley’s not a perfect fit? Ship him for a pick that can help acquire someone who is. The roster turnover under Gruden has been significant, but he has the 10-year contract and owner Mark Davis’ unconditional support, so why not build a roster as he sees fit? It’s his decade. He can do what he wants with it.

We’ll know in time if it was a good move or not, once we see the tangible return from this selection.

We know for sure the Raiders are still in the midst of a rebuild, even if they’re far more competitive than last year. They’re in the playoff picture as we near the halfway point of the season, with a tough Texans team ahead and a schedule that gets far easier after that.

The Raiders need some help at several spots, including pass rusher, linebacker and maybe even receiver despite two trades already to fortify the position. The trade market could be an avenue for assistance, and this Conley deal could be the latest -- but not the last -- domino to fall in a busy year for Raiders trades.

[RELATED: Raiders turning to rookie to fill Conley's spot at corner]

There could be another deal (or two) before this trading period is done. Time will tell on that front, but Gruden and Mayock will keep a close eye on possible deals and will certainly discuss them with teams as we head toward Oct. 29.

“We’re going to try. We’re going to do what we feel like we can to improve,” Gruden said. “Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into making trades. We’re excited about having three third-round picks, two first-round picks in next year’s draft.”