Raiders’ Top-5 “Needs” Entering the Draft

Head coach/general manager Jon Gruden was busy last year as the “new” head coach of the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders.

We don’t need to review and rehash all his transactions in both free agency and the draft as it relates to roster-building. There were plenty of them. Most were bad. But we’re on to 2019 and trying to get a little better. Ten years allows for some growing pains, my pals.

In order to “get better”, Gruden has hired first-time front office-anything Mike Mayock to help be the “voice of reason”. The idea is that the two will interact as often as possible and ideally collaborate (to be determined) in order to get things right. We know what Gruden’s rumored salary looks like so one can only imagine he still has final say — for better or worse. We’ll see if Mayock is anything more than just a title when we get to draft day.

The Raiders new general manager is respected in scouting circles and a vast majority of the commentary and reactions surrounding the hire for Gruden appeared positive, which is always a pleasant surprise.

Gruden and Mayock have their work cut out of them, obviously. One could argue that Oakland’s current roster is league-worst, with few-if-any star-bound talent and next-to-zero depth. The road ahead is long and the roster needs are many. You have to start somewhere though, so below are the five areas that I’d address immediately and as often as possible.

Edge Defender

You opened this article and knew what was going to appear at the top of the list. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This need is beyond-obvious. The Raiders (Mark Davis?) inexplicably let Khalil Mack walk. As it turns out, it’s better to pay those kinds of players. Bruce Irvin, who wasn’t necessarily a factor to begin with, was also given his walking papers. There are plenty of questions surrounding Arden Key and his ceiling whereas fellow rookie Mo Hurst was one of the Raiders’ (few) bright-spots in 2018. Oakland finished with 13 sacks last season. The “next worst team” more than doubled that number. If Gruden selected three pass rushers in the first round, nobody would be upset. Next.

Name to know in the draft: Josh Allen, Kentucky.

Wide Receiver

Jordy Nelson turns 34 in May and is currently penciled-in as the team’s WR1. That’s not great. Then first-year player Marcell Ateman was heavily involved toward the end of the season. I don’t believe that was by design, perhaps more so out of need. At the end of the day, he’s more WR3 or WR4 than opposite starting wide receiver. Seth Roberts managed to find a spot on the roster after there were plenty of rumors that the Raiders were effectively shopping him last offseason. Shocked that market never developed. Outside of those headliners, there are players like Brandon LaFell (remember him?) and Dwayne Harris (a special teams player) who are supporting up-and-down quarterback Derek Carr. In Carr’s defense, his game improved as the season went along and the hope is that him and Gruden continue to grow and fall into a groove together (assuming the signal-caller isn’t traded). In order to do so, it would be wise to invest in some top-tier talent to eliminate those inconsistencies.

Name to know in the draft: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Oklahoma.


Marquel Lee, Jason Cabinda, and Nicholas Morrow aren’t starting or seeing meaningful snaps on any other roster. Tahir Whitehead was a “big” signing in free agency for the Raiders but his same, ongoing issues in coverage plagued him throughout the season despite his game trending upward as the year came to a close. None of these players are long-term answers. The game has changed. More is being asked of these players in coverage as NFL offense continue to attack through the air. An early-round investment is not only justified, but should almost be expected at this point.

Name to know in the draft: Devin Bush, Michigan.

Defensive Back

Okay, this is cheating. I want to name both cornerback and safety here, and you’re going to have to deal with it if you’re keeping score at home. Former first-round pick Gareon Conely, somehow, started the season on the bench. Rashaan Melvin was another “big get” in free agency, coming off a strong year in Indianapolis. His play didn’t follow, he was on and off the field as the staff tried to figure things out. He tweeted out his disapproval at one point, and that chapter was closed shortly thereafter. Daryl Worley can play, but you can do better than him at CB2. Leon Hall is a non-factor. Nick Nelson had a rough go during his rookie season and will work as a depth piece going forward, I imagine. Safety isn’t very different. Karl Joseph has had an interesting start to his career to say the least. I’m not sure the coaching staff knows how to feel about him. There’s no reason why Reggie Nelson should be back next year. I typed that same sentence last year.

Name to know in the draft: Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt.

Offensive Tackle

Offensive line coach Tom Cable not only found another coaching job after his run in Seattle, but also managed to heavily influence the Raiders’ draft room last year. He came away with Kolton Miller, the raw-but-athletic left tackle, and small school project Brandon Parker at right tackle. While neither player should’ve been selected at their respective draft slot, the bigger story is how the other starters (with the exception of the Raiders’ best player in center Rodney Hudson) were notably ineffective. It’s almost like coaching matters, and the current position coach isn’t very good at his job. Unfortunately, we know about Carr’s woes under pressure. Rolling out a stout offensive line is a benefit to any quarterback, but it’s almost a necessity for someone like Carr. While upgrades at each end are required, it’s unlikely, given the early investments last year.

Name to know in the draft: Jawaan Taylor, Florida.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive


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