With the NFL draft a mere nine days away, the Oakland Raiders are sitting at the number ten slot with decisions to make. Will they trade back from the number ten slot to accumulate more picks, or will they stand pat at ten and wait until rounds two and/or three to package their multitude of later round draft picks?
Conventional wisdom dictates if you have an opportunity to draft one of the elite top ten players in the draft you take them at all costs. I, myself, am a student of this particular philosophy, however, there are a few players of need who are worthy of being drafted at the ten slot.
Tremaine Edmunds is a defensive coordinator’s wet dream, standing at six-foot-five-inches tall weighing 253 pounds while running a 4.54 40-yard dash. Even more stunning is that at the tender age of 19 he isn’t finished developing physically and hasn’t had time to develop “uncoachable” bad habits. More to the point, he got an indirect shout out from coach Jon Gruden for being “one hell of a player.” Drawing comparisons to the freakish abilities of Brian Urlacher make him one of my must-drafts if available at ten
Roquan Smith, the 2017 Dick Butkus Award winner, an award given to the top linebacker in college football, is sensational.
A polished, ferocious hitter and a true three-down linebacker, Smith is as good as it gets in this year’s draft. My only concern is how Smith will handle the run game at this level. Being a smaller and faster type of inside linebacker, he will have to work on disengaging larger blockers. Another must-draft, he is the more pro ready between him and Edmunds, but I like Edmunds’ upside a tick more.
Bradley Chubb, because why the hell not? Chubb is the creme de la creme in this year’s draft at the position of defensive end by a country mile. A devastating force against the run and a monster pass rusher barely scratching the surface of his potential. Von Miller called him a cross between himself and the Raiders’ own Khalil Mack. Chubb is that man, and while edge defender isn’t necessarily a position of need currently, it would behoove the Raiders to run to the podium if he is available.
Quenton Nelson is the embodiment of a “Gruden Grinder.” Guard isn’t a particular area of need for the Raiders but a nasty SOB such as the likes of Nelson absolutely is. Nelson is that damn good. He is a monster who gets his hands on a defensive lineman and then pushes him back far enough to use them as a blocker at the second level. Nelson has great balance, enormous power, and impeccable technique. It would be a good problem to have to figure out where to play him or how, but if available he must be drafted.
Trading Down in the First
When weighing drafting need versus drafting best player available, if none of these premiere selections are available, trading back instead of reaching for needs and adding picks may be the more prudent of choices. Ideally, in a first-round trade back scenario, the Raiders should be looking to move back in my opinion in the range of three to eight spots back of their original selection. Picks 13-18 should yield an opportunity to select any number of top-notch players at positions of needs.
A move back should include a swapping of first-round picks and add either a 2/3 (possibly both) and a 4 at the minimum. A lot of hoopla has been made about trading back into the 20’s; for the record, I think that is an awful idea. Too many of Oakland’s needs can be met and blocked by other teams in the teen ranges. A few choice targets in the teen ranges are as follows:
Jaire Alexander is the best corner in this draft. Best ball-hawking skills in the country with speed Al Davis would covet and the swagger of the Autumn Wind. Not only does he play a mean corner, he can return punts as well. With Gareon Conley slated as full go for training camp, it would give Derrick Ansley two premier young talents to mold for the next five years.
Maurice Hurst, according to Pro Football Focus, is the third-ranked player in this draft. Given a clean bill of health, Hurst is arguably the best fit for Paul Guenther’s system. Mid-first is the range all of the premier defensive tackles fall into.
Josh Jackson, the wonder corner from Iowa is also a premier corner whom I would feel comfortable with taking in the teens. His ball skills are incredible and so are his hands, which is perfect for a team who went 11 weeks without recording a single interception.
Vita Vea is the best defensive lineman in the country and the only reason I hesitate to draft him is he more or less plays the same position as Justin Ellis. A space eating lineman who eats blockers and sheds them to get to the ball carrier at will is what Vea is all about. Routinely able to defeat double teams, he is the premier line anchor on defense in 2017, a force to be reckoned with and impossible to pass up in the teens.
Trading Up into Day 2
While any of these players can be drafted at the ten spot, trading back as mentioned earlier, can bring in additional second-midrange draft picks, which is where the team can help itself the most. While premier talent is coveted and a pleasure to have, the bulk of a team is built in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds, where little-known players can be drafted and become whirlwind success stories no one saw coming.
With four sixth-round selections and two fifth-rounders, the Raiders are armed with plenty of ammunition to trade picks and make multiple moves to get extra picks in the second thru fourth rounds. Depending on which direction Reggie McKenzie and Gruden choose to take with their first-round selection, they could set themselves up to have a very nice midround draft. This coaching staff is going to be around presumably for the next five years and stocking the cabinets early allows them to have cheap labor for years to come.
The second and third rounds appear to be the money rounds in this year’s draft. The depth of this year’s running back class is tremendous outside of the first round as are the majority of the defensive lineman. Offensive linemen and edge defenders should be looked at in rounds 3-4 if they’re unable to get Chubb, Marcus Davenport, or Harold Landry. Corners and safeties are also ripe for the picking in the second round. Draft boards are like snowflakes, each individually marvelous and unique, but having multiple picks on Day 2 towards the mid rounds leads to mastery of the draft.
What is Oakland’s ideal 2018 draft strategy? One would hope it’s a combination of the three theories in play. If top target isn’t available at ten, then trade down, but if they are, draft one of them at ten and then package later picks to move up. Maybe a bit of an oversimplification but without direct access to Dave Razzano, it is pretty difficult to ascertain just where exactly the Raiders scouting department is leaning on April 26, 2018.