It’s NFL Draft week. Wrap your brain around that.
We’ve been talking about college football prospects set to go pro for months now, projecting (likely in vain) where each talent is slotted and properly matched with teams and schemes. It’ll play out starting with Thursday’s first round and progress deep into Saturday until teams take the rough shape they’ll use whenever the 2020 NFL season plays out.
We’ve got one more weekly mailbag in store before the picks are made, so let’s see what’s on your mind. It’s no shock that most questions revolve around Raiders' first-round picks at Nos. 12 and 19, as fans ponder how Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will fill needs with premium picks. Let’s get to them:
Question: I see Panthers, Jags and Jets dipping in the wide receiver pool in the 1st round before the Raiders. If so where does this leave the Raiders at as far as drafting a receiver? – Danny Trujillo on Facebook
Answer: That’s not ideal, but it’s far from the end of the world if that happens. You could try and trade down for volume -- trading to No. 12 would be costly -- and pick up selections in the second round and/or later in the first. If there’s no good deal, take the best damn defensive player on the board. That should be a good one.
If there’s an early receiver run and we know quarterbacks and offensive tackles are still going early, that means an elite defender has fallen through the cracks. Derrick Brown might take a small tumble. I can’t envision a world where Isaiah Simmons makes it to 12, nor Jeffrey Okudah, but you never know if teams go nuts on receivers.
Honestly, I don’t see that happening because of the depth at receiver. Why pass up an elite defensive talent when you can grab a quality wideout later? I think the Raiders will have at least two receiver options when they pick at No. 12.
Q: Is there some truth to the talk that Mayock and Gruden are targeting a receiver in later rounds instead of the 1st? How likely is the defensive overhaul of the offseason going to continue in the 1st round of the draft? I would be fine with defense at 12 & 19. – Thomas Davis on Facebook
A: I would not say “instead of.” I would say “in addition to.” I think it’s possible the Raiders take more than one receiver in the draft, maybe two in the first three rounds. There is a real swing-and-miss risk to first-round receivers, but they offer the best possibility of making an instant impact.
I think the talk you’re referring to stems from Mayock saying a No. 1 receiver could be found as late as the third round. He was speaking in generalities about the class’ amazing depth.
Given the depth at receiver and the drop off after the first few cornerbacks, the Raiders could wait a bit to take a receiver. I wouldn’t go past the No. 19 asset, either used as slotted or for a trade later into the first round and possibly the second, to get one. The Raiders have a pressing receiver need that must be addressed with quality and quantity. And don’t forget that Gruden makes the final decisions. He gave Paul Guenther tons of toys in free agency.
It’s his turn with at least one early pick.
Q: All the descriptions used to describe Jeudy make him sound like Amari Cooper 2.0. Should that be a concern? – Brian Dale on Facebook
A: I don’t think so, and I’m not sure why Amari Cooper should be considered a negative. He’s the best first-round receiver taken since 2014. He has 5,097 yards in five seasons and has averaged 14.3 yards per catch with the Raiders and Cowboys. He’s a damn good receiver, just one who didn’t get along great with Gruden.
If the Raiders get a more personable, more firey version of Cooper, the Raiders should take that and run.
Gil Brandt compared Jeudy’s on-field play to Antonio Brown recently. Fans have reason to despise AB, but wouldn’t a talent like Brown? Of course, you would.
Q: If you are a betting man, what two positions are be taken 12th and 19th? -- @oakland627 on Twitter
A: I think it falls according to pressing need: Cornerback and receiver, with trades down if the value doesn’t present itself at those spots. I think we can use Clelin Ferrell as an example of needs as vital to chief decision-maker Jon Gruden. The Raiders tried mightily to trade down from No. 4 and still take Ferrell, but no deal materialized to their liking and they took the guy they wanted at the biggest need.
That said, if all three receivers and C.J. Henderson are gone and the Raiders stay put at No. 12 they won’t just take the next best WR/CB on their board. Then I think the interior defensive line comes into play.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk of drafting multiple WRs in this draft. What about multiple CBs? Who would be good value picks at CB in the later rounds? – Justin Zellman on Twitter
A: Good question. I could absolutely see that, even with the Raiders high on 2019 fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson. They’re looking hard for a top-tier cornerback, just as they were in free agency, in this draft. They should also be looking for a slot cornerback of the future. High-priced veteran Lamarcus Joyner occupies that spot, but the team can cut bait after 2020.
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Clemson’s K’Von Wallace is a safety/slot hybrid, like Joyner, and is a favorite of this website. UCLA’s Darnay Holmes is another quality option that should be available for pickup in the third round.
The Raiders could and maybe should look for a top outside guy and someone who can work inside. That might be just as important as completing the receiver corps.