Remember Jon Gruden’s tongue-in-cheek comment the Raiders wanted Derwin James but didn’t take him in the draft last year because the team took two safeties in the two years prior?
It was equal parts veiled shot at then GM Reggie McKenzie and the two safeties taken Karl Joseph (first round 2016) and Obi Melifonwu (second round 2017). Both McKenzie and Melifonwu are gone and Joseph remains, but I digress.
That whole “we didn’t take this guy because we took those guys” mantra needs to be chucked out the window in Alameda (and eventually Las Vegas). ASAP.
Gruden and his handpicked general manager Mike Mayock have a trio of picks in the opening stanza of the 2019 draft and with the Raiders roster so talent deficient, redundancy is not a horrible thing. Not for a team sans talent.
Still Needs an Upgrade
Especially on the defensive line — namely defensive tackle.
Sure, point out the Raiders have emerging young talent in Maurice Hurst (fifth round in 2018), PJ Hall (second round) and Arden Key (third round) on the D-line. Beyond them, however, there is a void of talent up front. The game of football is often won or lost in the trenches and if Gruden and Mayock are gifted an opportunity to fortify the front, they must do so, posthaste. The Raiders are in dire need of an influx of talent and depth from left to right end and everywhere in between.
That means if defensive tackles Quinnen Williams (Alabama) and Ed Oliver (Houston) or defensive end Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) or edge rusher Josh Allen (Kentucky) are ripe for the picking at No. 4 overall when the Raiders are on the clock, by all means, take one. Don’t blink, despite spending draft capital in 2018 on Hall, Key and Hurst.
Attack the Edges
Let’s say the Raiders take a pass rusher at four. That shouldn’t preclude them from taking another one with any of remaining picks. After all, Gruden did remind us so frequently finding a pass rush is quite difficult.
Stock defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s kitchen full of quality ingredients and let the man get to cooking. Another wave of moldable talent up front allows Paulie G to use his rotation system that keeps lineman not only fresh, but hungry to jump into the fray.
Case in point: Look at what happened to Williams and Alabama against Clemson in the title game. We saw Williams and his fellow lineman with hands on their hip as Clemson carved up the defense and moved the chains due in large part to the lack of depth and rotation along the front.
Addressing Offensive Woes
Same goes for the offensive side of the ball. While defensive prospects are plentiful in the top half of the draft, the Raiders holding the 24th and 27th overall picks shouldn’t preclude them from fortifying the offensive line despite them taking tackles Kolton Miller (first round) and Brandon Parker (third round) in last year’s draft. Both versatile and violent, Kansas State’s Dalton Risner could be had in the lower portion of the first round and give the Raiders a nasty and zone blocking scheme-ready prospect on the front line — one that was charged blocking for quarterback Derek Carr (who got dropped 51 times this past season).
This, of course, is not solely isolated to the first round. The Raiders go in with 11 total picks and should not be afraid to double up at spots they drafted previously.
Redundancy is a luxury. It is something great and good teams worry about. That is not the Raiders. They need to do a lot of work to get there. Moreover, this upcoming draft is one of numerous steps on this arduous journey.