Heading into the 2014 draft, the Oakland Raiders have a lot of questions and very few definitive answers. From the offensive line to the defensive line to the linebacking corps to the secondary, the Raiders have no shortage of areas of need. There are so many different holes that need to be plugged, yet so much emphasis is being put on the quarterback position with many of the Raider faithful screaming for the team to take Johnny Manziel if he’s still on the board at the No. 5 overall pick. Some argue logically that the Raiders need to build from the ground up and should make the smart pick by taking Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews or Auburn tackle Greg Robinson if they’re still on the board. Others argue passionately — and loudly — otherwise. However, if head coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie are confident that they can address the glaring holes on the offensive line via free agency, there is still a very smart pick the Raiders can and should make. And his name is not Johnny Manziel.
Having a flashy quarterback is all well and good, but if said flashy quarterback has no real receiving threats to throw to he becomes a little useless. Rod Streater is developing into a pretty good receiver, leading the team in receptions (60) and receiving yards (888), but he can’t carry the load on his own. Andre Holmes (25 receptions, 431 yards) and Denarius Moore (46 receptions, 695 yards) are nice complementary pieces, but both drop a lot of balls and neither is the genuine receiving threat the Raiders desperately need opposite Streater. If the Raiders are adamant about not taking an offensive lineman with their first-round pick then they absolutely can and should select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fifth pick.
The Raiders desperately need to upgrade their talent level in a lot of areas — the receiving corps being just one of them. But if they truly want a dynamic offense, they’ll need more than just Rod Streater to throw to. After all, a quarterback — be it Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson or even Johnny Manziel — isn’t worth very much without some solid, consistent receivers to target who can make plays. Watkins had a standout 2013 campaign for the Tigers, hauling in 101 balls for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. As brilliant as his regular season was, Watkins was even better against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl, snagging 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to the win. To think that the Raiders couldn’t desperately use that sort of productivity out of a receiver is pure folly. Pairing him up with Streater would give the team a truly formidable 1-2 receiving punch which is something the Raiders haven’t had in quite a long time.
Watkins is a speed guy who can stretch the field, but he’s also a possession receiver who can get you tough yards underneath. In space, he’s even more dangerous and can make some fantastic plays. Watkins would be a terrific pick at No. 5. He’s got plenty of flash, pizzazz and could have an immediate and dynamic impact on the Raiders offense.
Having a dynamic quarterback is all well and good, but he will still need an array of weapons at his disposal. Assuming that Rashad Jennings returns and the rushing attack is as productive as it was last season, the Raiders still desperately need to upgrade their receiving corps to improve upon the NFL‘s 25th ranked passing game. Sammy Watkins can step in and fill a gaping hole in the Raiders offense.
Manziel is a high risk/unknown reward type pick and one that Allen and McKenzie absolutely cannot afford to gamble on right now. Sammy Watkins is a far safer pick and is as close to a sure thing as the Raiders are going to find. He’s a player who can step in immediately, have a dynamic impact on the game, vastly improve the overall passing attack and quite possibly help lead the team to more wins in 2014. And it’s very likely that Watkins will be on the board at No. 5. If Allen and McKenzie want to begin lifting the Raiders out of mediocrity and inject a little life into the team they’ll take him. He’s a far lower risk than Manziel and a piece they need more than they may realize.