Raiders must be ready for several first-round draft scenarios


Raiders must be ready for several first-round draft scenarios

Mock drafts can be silly. Mapping outcomes is inherently futile in an enterprise with so many variables. Case in point: It takes just one trade to outdate every mock draft out there.

Yet, we do them because they’re fun. They spark conversation about your favorite sport, even without a game set until September.

They do have some practical use. NFL teams typically do quite a few, in fact, as they prep for different scenarios when they’re on the clock.

NFL Network's Mike Silver said Thursday that the Raiders didn't do that heading into this NFL draft, with runs Thursday-Saturday. Per Silver, head coach Jon Gruden plans to conduct things in "real time." The Raiders have the No. 10 overall pick, and 10 more selections after that.

Thursday’s focus hones on the first round, where the Raiders need to find an impact player with a high draft slot. They would love an early quarterback run, with pushes top-end players toward them on the draft board. Having one of the top four passers on the board could increase their trade value.

They still have an idea of how much they’d want in return for a trade down the draft board. They certainly have a range for how much they’d sacrifice to trade up for edge rusher Bradley Chubb, which The Athletic reported as a possibility.

Here’s a few things we know, per sources, that could impact the Raiders first-round decisions:

They like Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. If he's available at No. 10, expect the Raiders to take him. Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick intrigues them, as well as some other quality defenders possibly available at No. 10.

“There’s going to be five or six defensive players available there that are big time, game-changing defensive players,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “So I don't care whether you're talking about one of the two safeties (Fitzpatrick or Florida State’s Derwin James), (Ohio State cornerback) Denzel Ward, one of the two inside linebackers, (Washington defensive tackle) Vita Vea. One or two or three of those guys is going to be there for them, and I think they can take that in any direction. And I think Jon Gruden’s a very aggressive guy, and he wants to get this thing fixed quickly in his mind. They have selections at 10, 41, and 75. Whatever they do at 10 will trigger the direction they head in the next two rounds.”

There’s significant focus on the Raiders shoring up their defense, but they’ve done research on offensive tackles. That includes Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, who could be a selection at No. 10 or just below should they trade out. Whether or not they get him, the offensive line should be a focus at some point in the draft.

A trade down would offer more picks for a team with serious needs, or provide assets to help trade up in later rounds. It could put McGlinchey in a more favorable draft spot. The Raiders have met with edge rusher Marcus Davenport, another intriguing prospect outside the typical cluster linked with the Raiders.

Several scenarios could play out in this Raiders draft, including one nobody has mentioned to this point. The NFL draft’s one certainty is its unpredictability. The Raiders have mapped out as many scenarios as possible, and have several contingency plans based on what goes down Thursday night with a pivotal selection in a pivotal draft.

Michigan coach calls star pupil perfect for Raiders, 'a disruptive, attacking force inside'


Michigan coach calls star pupil perfect for Raiders, 'a disruptive, attacking force inside'

The University of Michigan football team is in a quiet period between spring practice and fall camp, but Greg Mattison is hot on the recruiting trail. The University of Michigan’s defensive line coach is crisscrossing the country trying to secure quality Wolverines, without much time for anything else.

Squeezing in an interview request during a brief stretch home in Ann Arbor, Mich., wasn’t easy. Mattison, I was told, would get to it during a free moment over a few days.

The respected defensive coach called within the hour.

“I am pretty busy these days, but after I saw (the interview request), I wanted be sure and talk to you,” Mattison said. “Anything for Mo.”

‘Mo’ is defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Mattison’s star pupil and a Raiders fifth-round pick. The bond is strong between player and position coach. Mattison recruited Hurst out of Xaverian Brothers High in Westwood, Mass., and spent five subsequent years developing him into an NFL-caliber player.

Mattison gave a glowing review of his time working with Hurst during an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, as you’d expect from a college coach talking about a former player.

College coaches don’t publicly criticize their guys. But, if they don’t have anything nice to say, they don’t say anything at all.

Mattison called back in a snap.

“I recruited him and coached him for five years, so I probably know Mo Hurst as well as anybody around,” said Mattison, a longtime college coach who was Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator from 2009-10. “He comes from a tremendous family, and his mother is as good a person as you’ll meet and did a tremendous job raising him. Mo has all the work habits and character you want in a player. He’s one of those guys, where I’ve never seen him do something that wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Mattison has great affection for Hurst, which is why the NFL Draft was so tough to watch. Hurst is a first-round talent, arguably the draft’s best interior pass rusher, yet fell to the fifth due to concerns about an irregular EKG.

The University of Michigan cleared him to play despite a heart condition. The Raiders didn’t have a problem with it either, and drafted Hurst with the No. 140 overall selection. The draft slide was a disappointment for all involved.

“He has a lot of pride,” Mattison said. “You watch the draft and so many times I said, ‘Mo’s way better that the kid they just took.’ You know why it was happening, because of this test or whatever. The thing we all knew was that he was fine. It was the same thing when he came to Michigan. He was fine.”

The Raiders believe he is fine to play in 2018, and will have annual checkups to ensure that remains the case each season. Head coach Jon Gruden wants Hurst to be judged on the field -- he won’t discuss Hurst’s health any farther – and the Wolverine has a real chance to make an immediate impact as a three-technique in Paul Guenther’s defensive system.

“He fits perfectly in a scheme like that,” Mattison said. “The Raiders got the greatest steal in the world. He’s a perfect fit, and to get Mo when they did is quite something. What you always want in that type of defense is a disruptive, attacking force inside. I’ll put Mo up against anybody in his ability to do that.”

Hurst is an excellent pass rusher and solid run defender, perfectly capable of being a three-down standout. A lot of that is due to an explosive first step that’s as fast and impactful as any.

“He’s born with that,” Mattison said. “We certainly tried to improve it, but he has always had that great first step. Him doing that and playing low and strong, that’s what makes him special.”

Mattison also lauded Hurst’s football IQ and his willingness to study offensive tendencies, saying “he was really good identifying things on the field and using them to his advantage.”

Mattison believes the five years spent at Michigan gave him the maturity and toughness to excel at the NFL level. It allowed Hurst to earn his bachelor’s degree and start work on his master’s degree. Seeing Hurst move on after accomplishing so much gives Mattison a great sense of gratification.

“That’s why you coach, and that’s why I left the NFL to come back to college football,” Mattison said. “The pride you take in getting a young man to come to your school and watching him develop is immense. I have two goals with my guys. I want them to get a degree, and to play in the NFL. If they do that, then I’ve done my job and I’m the happiest guy in the world. Mo’s a perfect example of that.”

Raiders lock up first-round draft pick

Raiders lock up first-round draft pick

The NFL rookie wage scale makes signing draft picks much easier. Long gone are days of protracted holdouts, especially among first-round selections. Each pick is paid within a tight range based on his draft slot, leaving little room to haggle.

That’s why there was no shock seeing Kolton Miller put pen to paper on Friday morning, when the No. 15 overall selection signed his rookie deal. The Raiders formally announced the four-year deal, which includes a fifth-year team option included in all deals with first-round picks.

Sports salary site estimates that Miller’s deal will be worth $13.583 million over four years, with an $8.074 million signing bonus and a $2.498 million 2018 salary cap hit.

If the Raiders choose to exercise Miller’s fifth-year option for the 2022 season, his base salary will be based on the average of the No. 3-25 highest salaries at his position.

Miller played both left tackle and right tackle at UCLA, but the Raiders see him as a long-term solution on the blind side. He’s training there during the offseason program – that could change – and working with respected offensive line coach Tom Cable, who had say in his draft selection.

“We think he’s a prototype left tackle,” Raiders head coach Jon Grduen said earlier this month. “He can bend, he’s got the length that you’re looking for and he’s a sharp kid. He’s still young though.”

Miller is a quality athlete at 6-foot-9, 309 pounds, someone who needs seasoning but could prove a quality NFL lineman. The Roseville native was the first of two offensive tackles taken in this draft. Brandon Parker was a third-round selection and could play right tackle right away.

Miller becomes the sixth member of the 2018 Raiders draft class to sign his rookie contract.