Coming into the offseason the Raiders were faced with many challenges. They just had back-to-back 4-12 seasons, Darren McFadden missed six games due to injury and only had five touchdowns, leading receiver Rod Streater had 888 yards which may sound good but 7% of those yards were on one play.
Then there’s the whole quarterback situation.
Terrelle Pryor looked confused at times and looked like he only went through one check down then tucked the ball and ran and Matt McGloin looked like he was comfortable in the pocket but then would get sacked or throw an interception because of the pressure coming his way.
Defensively the Raiders dropped in all categories from 2012 – they now ranked 29th in points per game, 27th in passing yards and 22nd in turnovers.
With all this hardship, the Raiders were awarded the fifth pick in the 2014 draft, their highest pick since 2008 when they picked Darren McFadden out of Arkansas.
Now comes the question who do they pick?
First we have to address what they’ve done with the $66.5 million in cap space that they had going into free agency. In only 18 days the Raiders picked up Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, James Jones, Austin Howard, Donald Penn, Antonio Smith, Tarrel Brown and Kevin Boothe. That’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. If you haven’t had a chance to get a run down of what some of these guys will do for the Raiders, check out Tony Fernandes’s fantastic write up on the players.
While some of the Raiders needs have been addressed by these additions, the Raiders still have some needs that need to be addressed with the fifth pick in the draft.
1. Need: Wide Receiver – Solution: Sammy Watkins
Sammy has been on the top of everyone’s list of who the Raiders should pick up first in the draft. Even though Watkins is only 6’1” and his route running needs a little more work – he has outstanding field awareness, above average agility and with the addition of James Jones to the Raiders roster, can learn from a veteran receiver and help solidify him as a starter in the NFL. Also with young receivers around him like Moore and Streater, Watkins can feel like he’s learning in a group with his peers.
2. Need: Linebacker – Solution: Khalil Mack
With the addition of Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley the Raiders addressed some big needs on defense however a player like Khalil Mack only comes along once in a lifetime. Considered to be the new “Von Miller”, Mack has a big 6’3” frame a big 10 ¼” hands. His football instincts are second to none and his speed (4.65 40-yard dash) to track down players are his ultimate strengths. Unfortunately his play can be seen as reckless and spotty but with Tuck and Woodley there to help guide him, Mack can have a long career not just with the Raiders but any team that decides to draft him.
3. Need: Tackle – Solution: Jake Matthews
The 6’5”, 308 lbs offensive tackle from Texas A&M was once seen as a possible number one draft pick early last year. His big athletic size and a rumored explosive six inch punch to start the play is something that the Raiders desperately need. In addition to that he’s been a great run blocker and is able to finish plays and not give up. Declared one of the safest picks in the draft, Matthews would be a great addition to the Raiders line if they keep playing round robin with who they have now.
Regardless of who the Raiders pick with their first selection this year, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have tried to address most needs during free agency. With the rumors of DeSean Jackson possibly interested in Oakland and with the recent addition of C.J. Wilson the Raiders are showing that this is the year to show and prove otherwise big changes will come from the top down. Who do you think the Raiders should pick up first in the draft?