Jon Gruden’s tongue-in-cheek comment barely a month into the 2018 season after trading Khalil Mack proved the Oakland Raiders head coach has a doctorate in trolling.
“It’s hard to find a great one,” he said in September. “It’s hard to find a good one.”
With Mack — Oakland’s best quarterback harrier — shipped off to Chicago for a slew of draft picks, the Raiders impotence was on full display and culminated in a flaccid 13-sack season total.
Coupled with the Amari Cooper swap with Dallas, Gruden holds a trio of first-round selections this April and the Raiders are in prime position to reinforce a defense bereft of a consistent pass rush.
What if the Raiders use all three first-round picks on defense?
Draft day is Oakland’s golde … Silver opportunity to add more prospects to that process.
The ineptitude to drop the quarterback alone is reason for the Raiders to potentially take a trio of pass rushers in the opening stanza of the draft, however, that is as unlikely as Gruden gambling and taking electrifying quarterback Kyler Murray in the first.
Oakland needs help on all fronts. The team simply has an exorbitant amount of needs at every position. However, defense is the unquestionably the weaker side of the ball. Picks No. 4, 24 and 27 give Gruden outstanding ammunition to provide defensive coordinator Paul Guenther quality assets.
Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is likely the first (and premiere) pass rush prospect to be taken — as high as No. 1 by Arizona. However, there is plenty of talent behind him, both on the interior and edge for the Raiders at No. 4.
You can start with Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell. The defensive tackle (8 sacks), linebacker (17), and end (11.5) bring unique styles at different positions.
Drop to No. 24 and Oakland could fortify a weak linebacker unit in LSU’s Devin White (123 tackles, 3 sacks) or strengthen a lackluster cornerback group with Washington’s Byron Murphy (58 tackles, 4 interceptions, 13 pass breakups).
In addition, at No. 27, more teeth to pass rush is surely to be available in Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat (12 sacks) and Jachai Polite (11 sacks).
In that same presser where Gruden dropped the troll line, he provided quality insight.
“With college football, they aren’t dropping back to pass and throwing anymore, Gruden noted. “They’re throwing laterals and bubble screens and running read options. You have to train these guys, and it takes a little time to learn how to rush the passer. We have some guys who are in that process right now (with Arden Key, P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst).”
Yet, April’s draft shouldn’t be about trolling. It should be about Gruden wisely selecting prospects and coaching them up to be quality contributors for a Raiders defense sorely lacking in talent.