Considering the history of GM Reggie McKenzie, and his conservative style, we can really break this down to two viable options: trade down or take the best player available.
If Al Davis was still running the show, he’d probably be eyeing either RB DeAnthony Thomas (Oregon) or CB Thurgood Dennis (Wisconsin Eau-Claire), two guys who can run 10.3 or lower in the 100 meters. Fortunately for Raiders fans, draft decisions are now based on a sea of factors in addition to simply speed.
Obviously trading down should be the Raiders first option, without a doubt. Considering the wide array of holes that litter the thin roster, acquiring as many draft picks as possible is the shrewdest move. It’s like throwing darts, the more chances you have, the more likely you are to hit a bullseye.
The 5th pick holds quite a bit of value. Even if they’d move down ten slots in the first round, they could still get an early second round pick and a third. Heck, they could trade down just five slots and get an early third. Point is, there’s a lot of trade value with this pick, and the Raiders could turn this one pick into a couple.
Should the Raiders decide to stay put, they have to decide whether to take a QB there or not, considering this is their biggest need. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) will be gone, and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) could be as well. Do they take Blake Bortles (UCF) or Derek Carr (Fresno State)? McKenzie will have a tough decision to make at this juncture.
If the Raiders aren’t sold on either Bortles or Carr, and aren’t trading down, they’ll simply take the best player available with the intention of addressing QB’s in rounds two onward. Options then could include WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson), DE/OLB Khalil Mack (Buffalo), OLB Anthony Barr (UCLA) and OT Jake Matthews (Texas A&M).
Watkins would immediately add a reliable big play option for whichever young QB is under center for the Raiders in 2014. A combo of Rod Streater (60 receptions and 4 TD’s in 2013), Denarius Moore (15.1 ypr and 5 TD’s in 2013) and Watkins wouldn’t make up the best receiving corps in the league, but it’d be pretty solid.
Mack and Barr both offer the Raiders the option of either playing standing up at OLB or with their hand in the dirt at DE. The true reason either one would be such a good option here is that they both offer elite pass rushing ability off the edge, something the Raiders are in dire need of. Each put up 10 sacks in 2013, and are considered the best pass rushers in the draft not named Jadeveon Clowney.
Matthews would also make a lot of sense with this pick, as he’s widely viewed as one of the best tackle prospects in recent memory, even better than former linemate at Texas A&M Luke Joeckel, who went second overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Matthews can play either left or right sides, and would be an outstanding bookend to Jared Veldheer, who’s quickly becoming one of the best young tackles in the NFL after just his fourth season.
We should also mention there’s a chance the Raiders decide to move up in the draft, and not down. If the Raiders become totally sold on Bridgewater or Manziel and want to move up to the first or second pick overall, they certainly could, but it’d take an arm and a leg in draft capital. Not quite as much as what the Washington Redskins gave up for Bob Griffin, but it’d be costly. In addition to the 5th pick overall, they’d likely have to give up a first round pick next year, or a second this year and a second next year. A lot for a team with so many needs.
Point is, they could move up, but it’d go against all of McKenzie’s personnel philosophies.
The Raiders have plenty of options at five, but what do they do with it?