Editor’s note: Scott Bair will provide daily content previewing the NFL Draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects at receiver, and whether the Raiders should select one.
The Raiders have invested heavily in offensive linemen. They’ve used dollars and draft picks, loading up on talent to form one of the NFL’s best fronts. They paid center Rodney Hudson, guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Austin Howard big bucks the past three offseasons. They re-signed Donald Penn last month. They drafted guards Gabe Jackson and Jon Feliciano.
Those transactions have worked. The offensive line is talented, nasty and deep. Most players are young. Penn, however, is an exception.
The left tackle is 32, and recently signed a two-year contract that is likely his last. That will leave the Raiders searching for a long-term replacement in the near future.
The line is well stocked outside that, with depth at all spots and a position battle set between Austin Howard and Menelik Watson at right tackle.
Who’s here: OT Donald Penn, OG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, OG Gabe Jackson, OT Austin Howard, OT Menelik Watson, OG/C Jon Feliciano, OL Matt McCants, OG Mitch Bell
Draft needs: General manager Reggie McKenzie is in a great spot regarding offensive linemen. He can take a player he’s passionate about, but doesn’t absolutely need a body.
Left tackles must be trustworthy above all else, meaning it’s better to go after an elite talent. The Raiders do have time to draft and develop, but a top-flight skill set is required to keep Derek Carr playing well.
Penn is a solid leader with a self-proclaimed end date, so he could tutor an eventual replacement without animosity.
Good fits: Michigan State’s Jack Conklin is an excellent fit for the Raiders offensive line, a gritty grinder who enjoys mixing it up in the trenches. He has the strength and savvy to survive at the NFL level. Analysts say he works well with others, an essential trait in Oakland’s scheme. The Raiders would have to use their first pick on Conklin. It’s hard to see him slipping out of the first round. Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley and Ohio State’s Taylor Decker might be could be options at No. 14 as well.
That spot seems likely to be used on defense, or another position, leaving other options farther down the draft board.
Indiana’s Jason Spriggs might be a good value if he makes it to No. 44 overall.
Western Michigan’s Willie Beavers is considered an underrated prospect by NFL.com’s Gil Brandt and could be available in the later rounds. So could Nebraska’s Alex Lewis, considered a sleeper in this draft. This crop of offensive tackles is said to be top heavy, meaning the Raiders could wait if they don’t love one of the top players. They need a future starter, not another backup on a team deep at tackle.