Raiders

Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks

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AP

Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks

 

NFL draft picks create a butterfly effect. One move will impact many others in unpredictable ways. That’s why mock drafts are often a fool’s errand, even if their focused on the first round.

A trade or unexpected pick or run on a certain position changes the dynamic of the entire round, making the prediction business extremely difficult. We were only talking about the first round, here.

The Raiders have 11 picks over the course of this three-day NFL draft. Trying to get all of them right (or even some) is an impossibility. We’re gonna do one anyway. It’s for fun. Let’s treat it that way and see what a good Raiders draft might look like, one that addresses several needs over the course of seven rounds.

First round (No. 10): DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
-- Fitzpatrick’s a popular player, a versatile and dynamic defensive back capable of doing so much so well. He’s a coveted talent, but I feel like a quarterback run and early inside linebacker selections will send Fitzpatrick tumbling to the 10th pick. The Raiders will snatch him up without hesitation, led by former Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley, who now occupies that position with the Raiders. Fitzpatrick can do so many things well, and could shore up several problem spots for this Raiders defense.

Second round (No. 41): DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
-- There was some talk of Hurst sliding way down the NFL draft due to a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine. He was cleared to perform at his pro day, but health questions keep popping up. I haven’t seen his medical chart and couldn’t understand it if I did (not a doctor), but let’s assume the Raiders think he’s okay to play. If that’s the case, Hurst’s a near-perfect fit, and it’s maybe too much of a risk to wait and see if he lasts until in the third round. The Raiders desperately need an interior pass rusher, and Hurst’s the best in this draft. His slide stops here.

Third round (No. 75): WR Dante Pettis, Washington
-- Jon Gruden loves precise route runners. Pettis is an excellent one, who can operate outside or in the slot. He has sure hands, is reliable and has a strong work ethic. Gruden likes thost traits, too. Good fit for this new offense.

Fourth round (No. 110): EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
-- The Raiders need depth rushing off the edge behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. He has solid size (6-3, 258), explosiveness and sure tackling ability. He needs some technical seasoning and more moves in the arsenal, but could spell the top guys right away and take over for Irvin in the long run.

Fifth round (No. 159): CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane
-- The Raiders are looking for a steady slot cornerback. Nickerson could compete to fill that role now or in time. He might be gone by this point in the draft – Nickerson has a 4-6 round projection -- but they should pounce if he’s available. He’s more physical than you’d think for someone his size and never quits on a play. Nickerson visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process.

Fifth round (No. 173): ILB/SLB Tegray Scales, Indiana
-- Fans certainly wanted linebacker help before the fifth round – where GM Reggie McKenzie typically takes his linebackers -- but this mock draft didn’t fall that way. Scales is a quick player and sure tackler with coverage ability. He has strong leadership, and could play on the strongside, another spot where the Raiders need help. He should step right in and help on special teams as well.

Sixth round (No. 185) P JK Scott, Alabama
-- The Raiders didn’t let Marquette King walk without a plan to replace him. They worked out several punters in this draft, and snag an excellent one here. Scott is used to the big stage. He’ll be able to step in and produce right away. They might be pushing their luck waiting this long. A trade up could be in order to secure the draft’s second-best punter.

Sixth round (No. 212) RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern
The Raiders add another running back to the mix, an extremely productive one at that. Jackson was durable despite taking so many carries for the Wildcats, thanks in part to his elusiveness. He’s a solid receiver out of the backfield and could be an asset running behind a effective offensive line.

Sixth round (No. 216) DT R.J. McIntosh, Miami
The former Hurricane was given to the Raiders in an NFL.com mock draft, and he seems to be a good fit in Oakland. McInthosh is a versatile defensive lineman who can be a productive interior rusher if he continues to develop. He could be a rotational piece behind Hurst, Mario Edwards and Treyvon Hester if he earns such a role. He could also spend a year on the practice squad if he’s not ready.

Sixth round (No. 217) DL/OG Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee
-- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie wasn’t against drafting his son when asked about the prospect. Kahlil McKenzie has all the physical tools to be a productive pro, and nobody knows that better than his dad. He could fit in on defense or on the offensive interior, a place he worked out at during the pre-draft process.

Seventh round (No. 228) TE Jordan Thomas, Mississippi St.
-- Thomas is a lump of clay at this stage, someone with great athleticism and size at 6-4, 265 pounds. He has the tools to succeed as a pro, but analysts say there isn’t much tape to back it up. If he can be taught well and developed into a proper football player, the former basketball player could become a productive NFL receiving tight end. He’s worth a flier in the seventh, maybe a bit earlier than that.

Why Raiders will play five straight games away from home in 2019 season

Why Raiders will play five straight games away from home in 2019 season

The Raiders got screwed.

That’s the easiest conclusion to make following Wednesday evening’s NFL schedule release, where Oakland was granted a brutal start to their season.

The sentiment is rooted in reality, considering the Raiders play their first two games at Oakland Coliseum but don’t return home until Nov. 3.

They play five straight games away from home over a stretch that plays out this way:

Week 3: at Minnesota
Week 4: at Indianapolis
Week 5: vs. Chicago (in London)
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: at Green Bay
Week 8: at Houston

That daunting stretch is what the Raiders are up against early next season. Here are some reasons why it played out this way, after talking to those with knowledge of a situation that has some Raiders -- and their fans -- a bit perturbed.

“On schedule release day, everybody’s reaction is emotional,” said Mike North, NFL vice president of broadcast planning, who is on the scheduling committee. “After you digest it and understand a little bit about the math and factors that may have contributed to it, you don’t feel that much better but at least you understand it.

“All 32 teams get equal consideration. There have been some times where (the Raiders) got a favorable schedule and things didn’t work out well for them, and others where they were upset about their schedule and had great success.”

Let’s start with this: The Raiders’ delay in securing an approved stadium lease for 2019 didn’t factor into the schedule or its release date because the league started scheduling under the assumption the Silver and Black would be playing in Oakland.

If the Raiders decided to play at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara or University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. -- venues considered that already house NFL teams -- then that would have created headaches.

The team staying put did not complicate things further, though sharing Oakland Coliseum with the A's creates a tighter framework than schedulers have with other teams.

The A's are on the road from Sept. 9-15, giving schedule makers a window to have the Raiders play a Monday night opener -- West Coast teams are almost always featured in the second portion of the opening night doubleheader -- and a Sunday afternoon game in Week 2.

The Raiders had to go on the road in Week 3 with the A’s playing at home and were consequently shipped to Minnesota against the Vikings. The A’s are away in the NFL’s Week 4, but the Raiders requested a game farther east before heading to London to battle Chicago in Week 5 (as a side note, international dates are generally decided in advance of the regular schedule).

They ended up in Indianapolis in Week 4, one of just two Raiders road opponents from the Eastern Time Zone.

The bye always comes after a game in the U.K., so the off week was locked into Week 6.

There were no direct conflicts against coming home for Week 7 or Week 8 -- the Raiders play at Green Bay and Houston, respectively -- but the A’s made the playoffs last year and so there's a chance of a postseason conflict again this season.

The Raiders experienced one such conflict in 2013, when their game against the Chargers had to be postponed into the night due to an A’s playoff game and the subsequent time required to rearrange the stadium for football. The odds of that happening again are slim, but schedulers had to be cognizant of that when fitting the Raiders slate together.

Even still, Weeks 7 and 8 are a spot where the NFL could have worked a home game into the mix and kept their fingers crossed to avoid an A's conflict. 

Coaches, players, and fans can find further gripes with the slate, including the tough competition that is featured in their brutal start and seven kickoffs at 10 a.m. PT.

[RELATED: The Choice -- There's Rashan Gary the brand, and Rashan Gary the man]

Prolonged road trips are an issue the NFL hopes to avoid. Along with the Raiders, Tampa Bay also plays five straight away from home. Additionally, Oakland's AFC West-rival Chargers play four straight away from Carson.

It’s no coincidence that all three have international home games, undoubtedly a complicating factor when trying to create a schedule. Even so, the NFL doesn't like teams playing more than three straight away from home and it's something they'll work to avoid in the future, where possible. 

NFL rumors: Raiders are 'super impressed' with QB Dwayne Haskins

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USATSI

NFL rumors: Raiders are 'super impressed' with QB Dwayne Haskins

The Raiders will have some decisions to make next week during the NFL draft.

With four picks in the top 35, the Silver and Black have the ability to restock their franchise with top-tier talent should they make the right decisions. Most experts expect the Raiders to draft a defensive cornerstone like Quinnen Williams with the No. 4 overall pick, but after that things could get interesting.

If the Raiders stand pat, they could add a cornerback at No. 24, perhaps running back Josh Jacobs at No. 27 and a wide receiver or a tight end at No. 35. But with sufficient ammunition to move around in the draft, don't count out the idea of Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden electing to try and select a quarterback early on. 

And we aren't talking about Kyler Murray, although he reportedly also could be an option.

Before Murray spurned baseball for football, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins was seen as the top quarterback in the class, and the Raiders reportedly have been "super impressed" with the Heisman finalist, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.

In his latest insider notes column, La Canfora reported he has heard the Raiders like Haskins a lot and he could see them passing on him at No. 4, but packaging the Nos. 24 and 27 picks to move back into the top 15 to take the former Buckeye.

Derek Carr currently is expected to be the Raiders' quarterback when the season begins, but Mayock has left the door open for the Silver and Black to make a change if he sees fit. 

[RELATED: Brutal road stretch could define Raiders' 2019 season]

Whether or not the Raiders elect to move up in the draft likely will be tied to how the draft shakes out after they pick at No. 4.

If a few players they like appear to be slipping into the 20s, don't be surprised if the Raiders hang on to their picks and try to restock a defense that needs help at all three levels.

Quarterback can always wait, right?