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NO. 1 TEAM NEED: Quarterback
There really isn't a position group at which Oakland should feel comfortable entering 2014. Coach Dennis Allen's staff deserves credit for dragging the least talented roster in football to four wins last season. Looking every bit washed up, 33-year-old (in June) starter Matt Schaub has posted a 6.68 YPA and 13:19 TD-to-INT ratio with five pick-sixes over his last 16 games. Matt McGloin might be a serviceable long-term backup. Terrelle Pryor will be off the roster shortly.
First day option: Derek Carr, Fresno State - It would not be totally surprising to see the Raiders select Carr at No. 5. However, the team did show last year that they understand “value,” in terms of trading back in the first-round while targeting a specific player. Teams will likely be trading back into the first-round for quarterbacks, if a few are available in the 20s, thanks to the fifth year option involved in rookie contracts. Carr threw plenty of short, rock step and release passes last season and frequently passes from an unbalanced base, but some teams could see a starter. The Raiders likely believe they don’t need an immediate one.
Second day possibility: Tom Savage, Pitt - Savage has created the most buzz of any prospect in recent weeks. Some might be calling for smoke, but the amount of outlets and different sources repeating the same news would make that very surprising. Savage has a huge arm and worked in a pro-style offense; the two traits that traditional thinkers tend to cling to for pocket passers. I am not a fan of Savage’s tendency to fall away from pressure, no matter how bad his offensive line was.
Third day flier: David Fales, San Jose State - Raiders QB coach, John DeFilippo, has worked with Fales at San Jose State, so an obvious connection can be made. Fales is a better version of Matt McGloin, in terms of displaying pocket movement, willingness to work through progressions, and accuracy in the short and intermediate game. I also think Fales’ willingness to fire in tight situations and downfield throws are a bit undervalued.
NO. 2 TEAM NEED: Offensive Line
GM Reggie McKenzie patched together both lines in free agency with over-the-hill veterans in pursuit of late-career money grabs. Donald Penn (two years, $9.6 million) isn't a long-term fix, while 32-year-old LG Khalif Barnes (one year, $1.1 million) is a replacement-level blocker at best. Stefen Wisniewski and Austin Howard are entrenched at center and right guard, respectively, but right tackle is up in the air as McKenzie & Co. cross their fingers that 2013 second-round pick Menelik Watson makes a big sophomore leap. A rookie capable of starting at left guard and eventually taking over at left tackle would be a big plus for position coach Tony Sparano's group.
First day option: Greg Robinson, Auburn - Evan called for a prospect who could play left guard early and eventually move to left tackle. Robinson might be the best fit in this class. Last year, we saw many early left tackle picks start on the right side. Growing pains ensued, and the reasons make sense. Consider the footwork, in terms of pressure, weight, etc. are flipped on one side and the other. Left guard would allow Robinson to continue to work on footwork that translates to the edge. He still needs work as a pass protector, since there were a limited amount of exposures last season in Gus Malzahn’s non-traditional passing game. Guard could ultimately be Robinson’s best position.
Second day possibility: Billy Turner, North Dakota State - Turner’s game just screams old school Raiders. The FCS product is very powerful and has great functional strength, which helps him somewhat compensate for poor technique. Still, those issues hurt him in pass protection, and he needs to eliminate overextension and waist bending. Turner might be best suited on the inside, and could end up there if he does not hold when individually blocking on the edge.
Third day flier: Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State - Lucas has a future as a pass protecting left tackle, if he can build a stronger anchor to absorb first contact. He is tremendously long and has footwork to mirror. However, Lucas tends to bend at the waist thanks to his high posture.
NO. 3 TEAM NEED: Pass Catcher
I lumped together tight end and wideout as "pass catcher" here because the Raiders need help throughout Schaub's receiving corps. Mychal Rivera is an undersized, ultimately underwhelming role player. The coaching staff has soured on Denarius Moore, and I can envision him being traded on the second or third day of the draft. Rod Streater is best suited as a No. 3 wide receiver, and free-agent acquisition James Jones as a No. 2. The Raiders don't have any true go-to guys.
First day option: Sammy Watkins, Clemson - This is likely Watkins’ floor on draft day. I could be wrong, but it seems many of the same criticisms Watkins is facing were brought up for Cordarrelle Patterson. I’m not sure if Watkins is as good with the ball in his hands, but he is much more developed in terms of receiving skills. He is explosive at every level of the field. There really is not a true comparison for his skills in the NFL right now. That is not to say he will be the best at his position in the league, but he possesses some of the best qualities from a variety of receivers of all sizes.
Second day possibility: Allen Robinson, Penn State - I am not as high on Robinson as some, but last year he flashed skills at every level of the field, including averaging over 7.5 yards after the catch. Almost 50 percent of Robinson’s catches in 2013 saw him working back towards his quarterback, which is a very veteran trait. I do not think he can be a team’s top receiver, but there are skills to like.
Third day flier: Jeremy Gallon, Michigan - There are some Golden Tate-like qualities in Gallon’s game. He is very short, but Gallon fights at the catch point better than most, playing much bigger than his size. Many will project him directly to the slot. I absolutely believe Gallon is worth a fifth-round pick, but the Raiders currently have a gap between the fourth- and seventh-rounds.
Raiders 2014 Draft Picks (6)
First Round (No. 5)
Second Round (No. 36)
Third Round (No. 67)
Fourth Round (No. 107)
Seventh Round (No. 219)
Seventh Round (No. 235)
Raiders Current First-Team Offense
QB: Matt Schaub
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew
FB: Marcel Reece
WR: James Jones
WR: Rod Streater
TE: Mychal Rivera
LT: Donald Penn
LG: Khalif Barnes
C: Stefen Wisniewski
RG: Austin Howard
RT: Menelik Watson
Raiders Current First-Team Defense
LE: Justin Tuck
RE: LaMarr Woodley
DT: Antonio Smith
NT: Pat Sims
MLB: Nick Roach
WLB: Kevin Burnett
SLB: Sio Moore
LCB: Carlos Rogers
RCB: Tarell Brown
FS: Charles Woodson
SS: Tyvon Branch