Josh Allen

Ranking top five Raiders needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Ranking top five Raiders needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft

The Raiders' roster needs a lot of help. That’s no secret, a fact Mike Mayock has acknowledged since becoming Raiders general manager.

That is common at this stage of a roster reset where the Raiders have exchanged top talent for draft capital and let several veterans walk during last season or right after.

Free agency has quelled some concerns, importing major upgrades to positions on the Raiders' needs list a few months ago. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown, Lamarcus Joyner have changed things some. Linebackers Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict and running back Isaiah Crowell and backup quarterbacks Mike Glennon and Landry Jones have removed urgency from their respective spots, though they don’t eliminate draft selections within those position groups.

In fact, some still remain high on the priority list. Let’s break down the top five Raiders needs heading into this NFL draft. That doesn’t mean they’ll address these positions in order and could deviate from Gruden’s list by adding the best possible player available. With eight draft picks and four in the top 35 to Raiders need to improve the roster because, more than any particular spot, the Raiders need upgrades almost everywhere.

We all know, however, which position belongs in the No. 1 slot:

1. Edge rusher

The Raiders can at least fill out a two-deep after late free-agency signings, but they won’t head into the regular season with Arden Key, Benson Mayowa, Alex Barrett and Josh Mauro. That crew won’t intimidate many. Adding one of the early draft picks could add a fear factor, especially if one comes at No. 4, in a small trade down from there or trade up from two picks in the 20s. Let’s be honest here -- the Raiders could use two edge rushers ready to contribute right away. That’s how big an issue this is right now.

Montez Sweat becomes one to watch on draft day, with news some teams are scared off by a heart condition that didn’t prohibit participation at the NFL Scouting Combine or halt his excellent 2018 season at Mississippi State. NFL Network reports he has an enlarged heart that has taken him off some draft boards. He would offer great value in the 20s if he falls on draft day, assuming the Raiders are comfortable with his medical evaluation.

Josh Allen, Brian Burns, Clelin Ferrell, and Rashan Gary – the Michigan man’s an excellent scheme fit – are first-round options. Jaylon Ferguson, L.J. Collier and Chase Winovich could be options at No. 35 overall.

2. Cornerback

The Raiders have a solid corps on the roster, but Gareon Conley’s the only true cornerback under contract beyond next season. Daryl Worley and Nevin Lawson are also in the mix, but another cornerback should join the group in the draft as the Raiders figure out long-term solutions at this premium position. The Raiders could well look for a cover man late in the first round, which could be a solid spot to select one from a class that shouldn’t thin out during the draft’s early picks. Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, Georgia’s Deandre Baker and Washington’s Byron Murphy could fit there, and the Raiders might go for Michigan State’s Justin Layne as a Day 2 pick.

3. Tight end

The Raiders have some quality depth here, with receiving tight end Darren Waller, blocker Lee Smith and versatile tight ends Luke Willson and Derek Carrier. Gruden’s still on the hunt for a front-line tight end who could contribute heavily in the passing game. That could come early in the draft, especially if Iowa’s Noah Fant lasts into the mid-20s. There are other options to be had later as well to upgrade the tight end group and create some serious position battles this summer.

4. Running back

Here’s another case of the Raiders having plenty at the position but still looking for a featured player. That’s why an early selection is possible here to join Crowell, Jalen Richard, Chris Warren III and DeAndre Washington in the mix. Position coach Kirby Wilson was at Alabama’s Pro Day, checking out do-everything backs Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris. Those guys should be the first two runners off the board, with other quality options behind them.

[RELATED: Why Raiders could be looking to move up and draft Kyler Murray]

5. Guard

The Raiders traded Kelechi Osemele and his eight-figure cap number to the New York Jets, leaving some uncertainty at one of two guard spots. Gabe Jackson will fill one and Denzelle Good is an option on the other. Gruden has mentioned the prospect of getting a guard in the draft to further solidify all positions of the offensive line. A good line makes everything else easier, and the Raiders are pretty close to being pretty darn good up front.

NFL draft 2019: Why defensive line depth keeps Raiders' options open

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AP

NFL draft 2019: Why defensive line depth keeps Raiders' options open

The Raiders have a compelling case to trade down in the 2019 NFL Draft.

NBC Sports California's Scott Bair noted Friday that the Silver and Black have far too many positional needs to wait 70 turns between their fourth pick (second round, No. 35 overall) and their fifth (fourth round, No. 106 overall) in this month's draft.

Those needs, however, just might work in their favor. This year's draft is loaded with talent along the defensive line, and the Raiders, who finished last season with just 13 sacks, wouldn't necessarily need to address that area right away. 

“What I would say about the defensive line in general is that in the last 10 years I’d say it is the best defensive line group we’ve seen, both edge rushers and inside guys," Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said at this year's NFL Scouting Combine. "I think when you start talking about the first round of the draft, I think it’s going to be dominated by defensive lineman.”

[RELATED: Carr still Raiders' QB, but Mayock leaves the door open]

Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen -- in some order -- are expected to be the first defensive lineman off the board later this month. That still leaves plenty of talent in the interior and on the edge, as players such as Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary and Ed Oliver figure to be available after the Raiders' first selection at No. 4 overall. 

Depending on how the draft shakes out ahead of them, the Raiders could be in a position to have their cake and eat it, too. They'll find out their serving size in just under two weeks, when the NFL draft begins April 25 in Nashville, Tenn.

2019 NFL Draft: How Peter King would use Raiders' three first-round picks

2019 NFL Draft: How Peter King would use Raiders' three first-round picks

With a plethora of picks, the Raiders are facing a franchise-altering draft this year.

In less than three weeks, Oakland will be on the clock with three picks in the first round alone. NBC Sports' Peter King took a crack at how he would treat the trio of selections.

No. 4: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky

The Raiders ranked last in the NFL with only 13 sacks in 16 games. That is bad. Really, really bad. And yes, trading some guy named Khalil Mack had who had 12.5 sacks by himself for the Bears certainly didn't help. 

In the draft, King believes they can get a player with Mack's potential at a much cheaper price. 

"Jon Gruden picks Khalil Mack II, he hopes, and pays 30 cents on the Mack dollar for him," King wrote.

Allen, 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, recorded 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss as a senior this past season. He ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at NFL Scouting Combine.

Scott Bair and Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area confirmed Allen visited the Raiders here in the Bay Area.

No. 24: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Bringing back Marshawn Lynch for the Raiders' final season in Oakland would be a great story. But the 33-year-old is an enigma, and it seems the team still doesn't know what his future plans are.

With so many question marks, the Raiders need an answer in their backfield. Josh Jacobs could be that answer. 

"Raiders need a stud back, and I hear they love Jacobs," King wrote. 

Jacobs, 5-10 and 216 pounds, averaged 5.9 yards per carry over his three-year career at Alabama. He scored 11 touchdowns as a junior on the ground and added three more receiving. 

The Raiders had their eyes on Jacobs and fellow running back Damien Harris at Alabama's Pro Day.

No. 27: Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware or Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Adderley impressed the Raiders' coaching staff at the Senior Bowl, and perhaps enough to prompt a first-round grade.

“He can play safety, nickel and maybe even some cornerback out there,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said on Adderley. “He has good feet. He’s smart. He attacks the ball well. He has done a good job for us.”

[RELATED: Mel Kiper, Todd McShay predict Raiders' first four picks]

As a senior, Adderley totaled 48 tackles, nine passes defended and three interceptions. 

Tillery, 6-7 and 305 pounds, would add to a young defensive line. He had 28 tackles (8.5 for loss) and seven sacks in 12 games as a senior.