It’s April 25th and the wait is finally over. Eight months after trading defensive lineman Khalil Mack and seven months after sending wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, day one of the 2019 NFL Draft has finally arrived. The Oakland Raiders have more picks (three) in the first round than any other team, including one in the top five. Here’s the Raider Nation’s guide to surviving the 2019 NFL draft.
The Raider Nation’s Guide to the 2019 NFL Draft
Step One: We Blew It
No matter what happens, a very vocal contingent of Raider Nation will be upset about who Oakland does or does not select in the first round of this draft. This is true for all thirty-two NFL fanbases, but to be fair, the stakes aren’t quite as high for them as they are for the Raiders.
There is a chance that Oakland completely botches this draft. They could do everything right, dot all the I’s and cross all the lower case j’s, watch all the film, pick the guys everyone loves, and still mess up because this whole thing is a giant crapshoot. After all, six quarterbacks were taken before Tom Brady in 2000, and that same year, head coach Jon Gruden and late Al Davis drafted a kicker, good ol’ Seabass, in the first round.
But even if you don’t understand the pick or if you disagree with the selection, it’s not the end of the world. Take a step back, remember that Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have a plan in mind… Or don’t. Tweet vehemently at Oakland’s poor social media guy, who has no say over who the Raiders pick.
Step Two: Buckle Up
The craziest thing about this draft is that Oakland could do literally anything and it wouldn’t be shocking. There is speculation that the Raiders will trade up for the first overall pick to select either Oklahoma’s quarterback Kyler Murray or Ohio State’s pass rusher Nick Bosa. There was a mock going around where Oakland traded up to take Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock.
Gruden and Mayock have a game-plan, and the reality is that as much as talking heads spin stories, nobody outside of Raiders headquarters knows what that that plan is. So we can build up an idea of what we think Oakland will do or what they should do, but that doesn’t mean it’ll end up being what they choose to do.
So when the Raiders take linebacker Devin White, Josh Allen or even quarterback Dwayne Haskins at number four overall, embrace the anger or disappointment. The perk of being a fan is that you don’t have to be right all the time. I was at a concert when Oakland selected Mack and I did not like the pick. I was worried about how he came from a small school and personally, I wanted current Tampa wide receiver Mike Evans. Everyone’s wrong sometimes in the heat of the moment, so buckle up because it could get crazy.
Step Three: Trading Down is Good
Last year, the Raiders had a chance to draft a myriad of defensive stars and instead, they traded down. Passing on safety Derwin James infuriated Raider Nation when it happened during the draft, and after James’ phenomenal rookie season, I promise there’s at least one Oakland fan that laments the move every single day on Twitter (here’s proof). So it would be understandable if fans were annoyed about the team trading down from number four.
However, they shouldn’t be upset for two huge reasons. Reason number one is that regardless of how great a prospect is on paper, there’s no promise that they’ll pan out in the pros. Someone might check all the boxes and flop. Meanwhile, the guy you wrote off could end up being a star. So while having one high pick means you have more choices, having two slightly lower picks gives you more chances at drafting a quality player.
The second reason is Mike Mayock. Rewind a year and present a hypothetical situation where a team has four of the first 35 picks and then, ask them who they would employ to help nail those picks. I bet most people would say Mayock, aka, the master of the mock. He was NFL Network’s premier draft expert, and he’s now with the Raiders. Nothing bad can come from him having even more shots at this draft class.
Step Four: Trading Up is Good Too
Conversely, if the Raiders decide they want a prospect that just won’t be available when they pick, they might go ahead and give up some capital to move up the board. I know I just said Oakland has better odds of landing a player they love if they trade back, but if they really love a guy, there’s no shame in giving up a little to take him.
Lets say Mayock and Gruden really love defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, but they think the Jets want him. Williams is my favorite player in this draft and he’s someone that I think could end up being an Aaron Donald type of player. If the powers that be agree that he could make an immediate impact and help transform the fate of the franchise, then they absolutely should.
There are those that believe trading multiple picks to move up defeats the purpose of the Mack trade, but they’re wrong. If Mack were in this draft, I would beg Oakland to trade up and draft him again. The issue wasn’t the player, it was the money, and frankly, how Raiders owner Mark Davis and Oakland mismanaged contract negotiations. The team couldn’t make it work with Mack (or, more bluntly, his agent), but the Raiders aren’t going into this draft with the goal of justifying the trade. They’re attempting to fix the franchise, and if that means trading up, so be it.
Step Five: The Quarterback Conundrum
The biggest question mark in this draft for Oakland is whether or not this is the year where Gruden pulls the trigger and picks a rookie quarterback. I’m not crazy about this draft class, but I know a very vocal part of Raider Nation is clamoring for someone other than Derek Carr under center. I think we’ll find out pretty early whether this is the time or not.
As we saw last year with Miller, Gruden is not afraid to reach for his guy, and at four, most quarterbacks will still be on the board. There’s always a chance that someone jumps up and both Murray and Haskins are off the board when the Raiders are on the clock, but it’s unlikely. If Oakland stays put at four and takes a different position, I don’t think they take a quarterback in the first.
That is unless Daniel Jones is on the board at 24 and Gruden starts getting that itch. In that case, everyone has to hope Mayock can talk him out of it. With the quarterback classes on the horizon, it seems silly to take one you don’t genuinely believe in just because you have draft picks to burn.
Step Six: Enjoy It
It’s not every year that your favorite team has multiple first round picks. Most of the time, you get one pick and you have to hope it’s the right guy, even though it rarely is. More than half of the players taken in the first round won’t be named All-Pro in their careers, with roughly 30% failing to be starters after five years (per a study by Patrick Rishe).
Raiders fans don’t need to be told twice, the only first-round picks from the last twenty years that are still on the roster are Karl Joseph (2016), Gareon Conley (2017), and Miller (2018), with Joseph’s roster spot up in the air. However, it is worth noting that without trading their two other first rounders, Cooper (2015) and Mack (2014), the Raiders wouldn’t have as many picks to play with.
So instead of panicking or getting too worked up, Raider Nation should enjoy the fact that their odds of landing a winner are three times better than most of the teams in the league. Enjoy the ride and hope the powers that be take a defensive end at some point. Just Win, Baby.