The Oakland Raiders were a mess this season. It wasn’t supposed to be that way only a year ago.
Last January, the Raiders hired Jon Gruden to a 10-year, $100 million deal, turning the NFL on its proverbial ear. After trading away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper before going 4-12, the Raiders are now picking fourth-overall in April’s draft. They also have the 24th and 27th picks from those aforementioned trades, making them the league’s only team to have three first-round choices.
Now, Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock must make those choices count.
Looking at the class, it’s both heavy on underclassmen talent and defensive stars, especially edge rushers. Almost any mock draft has at least 20 defensive players going in the first round, with a half-dozen or more being pass-rushers off the edge. While Nick Bosa will likely be gone by the time Oakland is on the board, there are ample avenues for Gruden and Mayock to take.
It’s impossible to say how the board will fall, but a plausible situation might have the Raiders landing a trio of EDGE Josh Allen from Kentucky, corner Byron Murphy of Washington and receiver D.K. Metcalf out of Ole Miss. If something such as that package were to end up in Oakland, the Raiders would at least have a chance of replacing Mack and Cooper with Allen and Metcalf, while netting Murphy as an upgrade in the secondary.
Of course, there’s a considerable rub. Replacing one of the league’s best players and arguably the best edge rusher in Mack is no easy task. Allen could become a perennial Pro Bowler and not become Mack, so the Raiders are ultimately charged with finding three really high-end talents to build the future around.
If Oakland can do that, the rebuild is well under way. Nobody expects the Raiders to climb any higher than third place the loaded AFC West next year, with the Kansas City Chiefs sporting Patrick Mahomes and the Los Angeles Chargers having arguably the league’s most complete roster.
Still, a terrific haul in the first round would go a long way for the Raiders and their beleaguered fanbase, which has been pining for a consistent winner since the early 1980s. If Oakland can’t significantly upgrade the roster, it could be another ugly year with the likelihood of trying to find a new quarterback in 2020.
Over the next three months, Mayock and Gruden will need to be aggressive in identifying their top targets and then acquiring them. For Oakland, it’s the only way out of its own black hole.
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