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.

Vontaze Burfict wants Antonio Brown beef behind him with both on Raiders now

burfictbrownap.jpg
AP

Vontaze Burfict wants Antonio Brown beef behind him with both on Raiders now

Things might get awkward at the start of Raiders OTAs in May.

That's when new teammates Vontaze Burfict and Antonio Brown will share a locker room for the first time.

Burfict (Cincinnati Bengals) and Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers) played on opposite sides of one of the AFC North's fiercest rivalries, and things came to a head in the 2015 postseason. That's when Burfict knocked Brown out of the playoffs with a dirty, illegal hit to the head, and received a three-game NFL suspension. 

But Burfict, who signed a one-year contract with the Raiders on Tuesday, told reporters in a conference call he isn't concerned about any lingering tension between himself and the talented wide receiver.

"We're on the same team, with one goal. It's all positive, man," Burfict said. "He's a great player, he's gonna be a Hall of Famer one day, and honestly I'm gonna approach him just like I do all my other teammates. I'll introduce myself, all that good stuff. ... There's nothing negative over here, man. We're on the same team, everything's [about] trying to win a championship over here."

The Raiders traded for Brown earlier this month, and he tweeted Tuesday that he had already reached out to Burfict.

That's a marked departure from the ex-Steelers star. When former Pittsburgh teammate Juju Smith-Schuster crushed Burfict with a vicious block, "no one enjoyed [it] more than Brown," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook wrote Tuesday. In the aftermath of Burfict's hit, Brown made his displeasure with the play clear to Cook.

“I feel like guys don’t want to stop me no more,” Brown told Cook in early 2016. “They want to take me out. They want to kill me. They want to steal my dreams. They want to ruin me. They want to end me.”

[RELATED: Why Quinnen Williams remains so humble before NFL draft]

Burfict, for his part, sounded more than ready to bury the hatchet Tuesday. He said he'll keep an open mind when he meets Brown, as well as the rest of his new teammates.

"Honestly, we might [end up being] the closest friends on the team, you know what I mean," Burfict said. "So, just gotta go along with it, and I can't wait to meet him."

If Brown's tweet is any indication, he feels the same way. 

Vontaze Burfict wastes no time reuniting with Raiders DC Paul Guenther

burfictguentherap.jpg
AP

Vontaze Burfict wastes no time reuniting with Raiders DC Paul Guenther

Vontaze Burfict was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, and immediately called his mother. The veteran linebacker explained the situation, ended the call and then made another one.

“The second person I called was Pauly G,” Burfict said. “He didn’t pick up. I think I called him like seven times straight.”

Those who know Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther best call him “Pauly G.” Count Burfict firmly in that class.

That’s why Burfict didn’t last long on the open market. The Raiders signed him Tuesday night to a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $5 million, less than 24 hours after he was released.

A Guenther-Burfict reunion seemed inevitable because of the veteran’s expertise running the coordinator's defensive scheme and a clear bond on and off the field.

Player and coach have a close relationship dating to Burfict’s rookie season in Cincinnati. Guenther was Burfict's position coach in 2012, and the two fostered a strong working relationship during a long-night cram session before a Sept. 23 game against Washington. Thomas Howard hurt his knee, Burfict recalled, and Guenther told him he would start and play out of position. Burfict was a middle linebacker by trade, but the Bengals needed him on the outside.

“It was like 8 p.m., and he took his time out to set the trash cans up and go through the whole playbook over like two hours with me,” Burfict said in a conference call after he signed with the Raiders. “I got like nine tackles that game, and I just looked at him and said, ‘I appreciate that. You took your time out when you could’ve just gone home.' Ever since then, it has been a close relationship to where I know his kids and his wife. We go out to dinner. It’s a good time to have a good relationship like that with a coach.”

That should help Guenther’s system run smoothly, an important factor with so much youth on defense. Burfict can be an on-field coordinator if he can stay healthy and out of trouble with the NFL.

Burfict said he’s fully fit after concussion problems last season and health issues in recent years. The NFL has disciplined him several times for vicious, illegal after-the-whistle hits that some consider dirty. That includes a nasty blow dropped on former Steelers receiver and new Raiders teammate Antonio Brown that generated plenty of negative press.

[RELATED: Watch AB's hype video that's sure to fire up Raiders fans]

Burfict doesn’t consider his style poor form.

“I’m not a dirty player,” Burfict said. “I play a physical position at middle linebacker. I can’t go in there playing patty-cake. If I do that, I’m going to get run over. I have 300-plus-pound linemen coming in trying to block me. If I play soft, I’m not doing my job. … I play a physical position where I have to put my jockstrap on right, put my cleats on right and be ready to play physical.”