With the 2014 NFL Draft just a couple months away, the Oakland Raiders are deep into their pre-draft preparations and scouting. The Raiders have a number of holes that they need to fill on their roster and with plenty of potential prospect available to them at No. 5 overall, the emphasis on scouting is at a premium. The NFL’s premier scouting event is the NFL Draft Combine, which brings in the top draft eligible players in for to perform a number of different physical and football skill tests that give the scouts a close-up look at various players. How did the results of the combine alter the draft plans of the Raiders’ front-office?
Prior to the combine, the Raiders draft board looked at three potential selections in Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, or one of the top three quarterbacks. Clowney was seen as the top choice, as he could be a difference maker on the defense and is a once in a generation physical specimen. Watkins was the other player that the Raiders hoped would fall to them, as he would be a perfect addition to their offense. Watkins has the skill set to be a play-maker and game breaker that the Raiders’ offense sorely needs.
The top three quarterbacks have to be intriguing to the Raiders, who do not have a sure fire lock at the quarterback position. The most NFL ready seems to be Teddy Bridgewater, who is a developed passer and has good athleticism to move around inside the pocket and make plays on the edge. The other two are high upside, highly athletic quarterbacks in Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. Bortles is a lot like Andrew Luck, as he is a big framed quarterback that has good passing skills and is surprisingly athletic. Manziel is a play-maker through and through able to make plays with his feet and his arm.
Trading down remained an option, but it was much tough to pass on the potential franchise changing talent that is available at the top of the draft. Trading will give the Raiders better value on a number of different players that could fill their draft needs better, while netting them some extra picks in such a deep draft, especially in the second and third rounds.
Following the combine, the options for the has opened up immensely. While their original top of the draft board remains mainly intact, many other players have moved up as legitimate options at the fifth pick.
Another quarterback has entered the discussion in Derek Carr, the Nation’s leading passer looked at lot more athletic than what many believed at the combine. The major question mark was his ability to avoid the rush and the numbers he put up show that he has the athleticism to move around in the pocket. His value increase tremendously, if the Raiders trade down and he is still available at the middle of the round.
Two outside linebackers look to be two potential options, as well. Khalil Mack of Buffalo and Anthony Barr of UCLA look to explosive edge rushers at the next level and with the Raiders wanting to play a more attacking style of defense, which would make these players perfect fits for head coach Dennis Allen. Mack was one of the stars of the combine, as he showed off his explosiveness in every single drill he performed in. Barr is that long, lean athletes that teams are looking for on the edge and looks to be a more well-rounded linebacker compared to Mack, but make will be the better pass rusher. Either player would fit that predator position that Allen wants to implement this season.
Trading down looks a lot better, as well. It introduces more positions for the Raiders to look at, such as, wide receiver, defensive back, defensive line and tight end. Wide receivers Mike Evans and Marquise Lee look to be perfect fits in that 10 to 20 range in the first round. Defensive backs Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Calvin Pryor would be ideal additions to the back of the Raiders’ defense. An intriguing prospect in the middle first is tight end Eric Ebron, as he would look to have an impact much like Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham at the tight end position. A receiving threat at tight end would give the Raiders another option for their quarterbacks, while opening things up for Rod Streater and Denarius Moore on the outside.
Ideally, the Raiders would be in line to select Clowney at pick five, but he probably locked himself into a top three pick following his combine performance. With Clowney gone, Mack looks to be the best option for the Raiders at their slot, while one of the quarterbacks would be the second best option. Those are two positions that the Raiders have a substantial need for an impact type player.
The NFL Draft Combine was a huge boon for the Raiders, as it opened up their potential options at the fifth pick. It also solidified many of the top prospects, which would increase the bounty the team could bring back in a trade down. The 2014 NFL Draft is extremely deep and the Raiders are in a great position to infuse this team with young talent at every position.