Remember the priceless faces of the crowd when Brock Lesnar snapped the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30? Those same shocked gawks that oozed of unparalleled heartbreak will be heavily present amongst the RaiderNation on April 25.
That’s when the NFL embarks on its yearly spectacle called the draft – an event that houses both new hope and hackneyed disappointment in a very confusing manner. It’s not a stretch to say, no matter who the team picks on the first day of the draft, there will be fans who love and loathe the selections. The Raiders’ rabid fanbase runs the gamut of feelings heading into an all-important draft. Just look at Raiders Twitter. The dissent amongst fans on certain prospects is ever-present like the agreement some have about potential new Raiders.
Oakland will nab a player RaiderNation is clamoring for and leave a prospect on the draft board leaving the fanbase angry. It happens every single draft. The venom regarding the Kolton Miller “need” selection last year, while Derwin James (best player available (BPA)) was ripe for the picking is still thick.
Are you nervous? You should be.
Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock are at the poker table with three aces in their hand in the form of a trio of first-round selections. The team is seemingly playing with house money after decisive, yet smart, additions in free agency. As Mayock said, free agency allows the team to be more “surgical” in the draft. Yet, how much surgery can you do on a roster that resembled a cadaver at the onset of the offseason? See what I did there? Sprout positivity only for pessimism to rear its ugly head? That’s how RaiderNation is, can and will be.
Anxiety runs deep because the Raiders’ brain trust can approach the draft a variety of ways. Mayock and Gruden can go for broke and trade picks to move up from No. 4 to nab a prospect they really like. They can stand pat at 4 and take someone who falls in their lap. Or they can trade back, acquire more draft assets, and still land a talented collegian. And this doesn’t even address positions.
The Raiders have glaring needs at several critical spots with pass rush taking the cake. While the team addressed wide receiver, offensive tackle, linebacker and the secondary in free agency, the team went about attacking the need like it did trying to sack opposing quarterbacks – impotently. Oakland hasn’t landed a rush specialist and only has Arden Key (a third-round pick last year) and Josh Mauro (a run stuffer) at defensive end. Inspirational, right? Draft day will be the Cialis to the Raiders pass rush woes – maybe.
One of the three first-rounders (No. 4, 24 and 27) is likely to get dealt and Raider Nation should be watching that exchange very closely. The prior GM, Reggie McKenzie, had a penchant to be suckered into draft-day swaps and Oakland didn’t necessarily come away with the best compensation. Mayock has shown early he can maximize a deal and not give up primo draft capital. Will that hold up when the clock is ticking down from the allotted 10 minutes teams are afforded when it’s time to pick in the opening stanza?
Add the considerable gap between the Raiders’ second-round pick (35th overall) and its following pick in the fourth round (106th), maneuvering is almost a given. It’s very difficult to see Mayock – a draft junkie – sitting there and waiting for 71 prospects to get their name called before he gets to make another Raider selection.
So many variables and still so much time before the draft. One thing is for sure, Raider HQ in Alameda should be popping April 25