After being on the brink of making it to the playoffs last year and adding some key contributors this past offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders appear to be on the cusp of going from a fringe playoff team to being a legitimate contender.
The Raiders making the jump hinges upon having a successful draft in a few days. With five picks in the first three rounds, they have sufficient capital to significantly improve their roster. Here’s how the Raiders can get the most out of this crucial draft:
Round 1, 12th overall pick
First of all, the Raiders MUST move up in the draft in order to get an elite defender. A lot of people want a receiver at 12, but looking at marginal value, defensive positions have a much steeper drop off than wide receiver, and they have much higher potential to drastically improve the team. Keep in mind Las Vegas does not necessarily need to get the best receiver in this draft, they just need someone who will be a bigger threat than Tyrell Williams. They can miss out on having their pick of Ruggs, Jeudy, and Lamb and still achieve that.
Not including Chase Young (who’s a lock to go to Washington at number two), there are three defensive playmakers in this draft that could transform the Raiders’ defense in order of preference:
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown is the only defensive tackle in the draft or even currently available that will consistently command a double team on every play. This is something that the Raiders have been lacking for years. Someone like Brown makes an entire defense better overnight. Also, he has all the leadership qualities and character traits that Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden are looking for. Brown would be a slam dunk.
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Okudah is the only surefire shutdown corner in this draft. Pairing him with Trayvon Mullen could give the Raiders one of the league’s top cornerback tandems for years to come.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Simmons is by far the most versatile defensive prospect in this draft. Adding him would finally give the Raiders someone who can cover players such as Travis Kelce (maybe Johnathan Abram will but man coverage isn’t his specialty). The only reason he’s third here is because Las Vegas just added two starting linebackers in free agency. However, Simmons would still likely be their best linebacker right away.
In order to lock one of these three prospects, the Raiders will likely have to trade up into the top seven, assuming four of the first six picks are quarterbacks and Chase Young. Given that the Chargers and Dolphins will likely take signal-callers, Las Vegas should be looking at either Detroit at number three, the Giants at four, or Carolina at seven as potential draft partners. There are two realistic ways paths the Raiders could take to trade up with any of those three teams.
Let’s break down those two scenarios:
Related: All NFL Three Round Mock
Scenario A: Swap 12 and 19 for a top 7 pick and a 2nd rounder
This scenario would turn two picks in the middle of the first round into a high first and a high second. Here is what a realistic trade (pick values within 2% in either direction according to footballguys.com draft pick value calculator) would look like with each potential partner:
DET- 12, 19, 121 for 4, 35
NYG- 12, 19 for 4, 36
CAR- 12, 19 for 7, 38, 113
By doing this, the Raiders could still get a very talented receiver, whom they could pair with Tyrell Williams right away while he develops into a true number one. The front office could have their pick of Laviska Shenault from Colorado, K.J. Hamler from Penn State, or Chase Claypool from Notre Dame. These are all players that would usually be first rounders, but will fall to the second because of the absurd depth of this year’s class. From there, the Raiders could use the third round to grab potential sleepers at whichever two levels of the defense they didn’t address in round one, and then they would be free to go with BPA on day 3 of the draft.
Raiders Blog: Scenario B
Scenario B: Swap 12 and a 3rd for a top 7 pick in this scenario, the Raiders can move up and still keep their other first round pick. Here’s what those trades could look like:
DET- 12, 80, 91 for 3, 109
NYG- 12, 80, 91 for 4, 110
CAR- 12, 91 for 7
By not giving up pick 19th, the Raiders would still be in position to get one of the top receivers in the draft. Potentially, one of Ruggs, Jeudy, or Lamb falls into their lap. If not, they would still be able to choose between Tee Higgins from Clemson and Justin Jefferson from LSU. After that, they could use their remaining third and fourth rounders to shore up the defense, and then spend their remaining draft capital on the BPA.
Either one of these paths will lead to the Raiders being significantly better next season. Getting an elite playmaker will turn the defense into one of the better units in the league. By adding another talented receiver, the Raiders will make teams cover Williams with their No. 2 corner, Renfrow will get the nickel, and Waller will get safeties. This offense has the potential to be very difficult to stop.
Last year Mike Mayock played it safe, which was the right call. This year, he needs to swing for the fences.
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