With the 2014 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the Oakland Raiders are deep into their draft preparations. As the Raiders attempt to rebuild the franchise, the NFL Draft becomes an important means to add talent to their roster. Prior to free agency, the Raiders had a number of different draft needs throughout the roster. During free agency, the Raiders were extremely busy and added a number of proven veteran players at several key positions. Did the Raiders’ free agent spending spree change their drafting needs?
Before free agency, the Raiders had draft needs at just about every position, except linebacker or offensive tackle. The most pressing needs were at quarterback, wide receiver, interior offensive line, pass rush, and secondary. The quarterback position and finding some impact pass rushers were the two favorites for the Raiders to spend their top picks on.
In the free agent period, the Raiders added veteran players at nearly every position of need. The quarterback position, pass rush and secondary were the most heavily added, while veteran starters were added at the others. While they filled their major roster holes in free agency, their draft needs mostly remain the same. The way they set up their free agent contracts are similar to one year deals, if the player does not perform then they can part ways harmlessly. So, the Raiders will look to create depth and develop future starters with this draft class.
The other position that jumps up as a major need following their free agency is the offensive tackle position. They lost their best tackle in Jared Veldheer to the Arizona Cardinals and replaced him with the aging Donald Penn. Also, second year tackle Menelik Watson remains a major question mark at the right tackle position. That could potential put the two top tackles, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Auburn’s Greg Robinson, as potential draft targets with their first pick.
The best thing about their free agent haul is that it allows them to be patient in the draft. They can now go best player available at their picks and do not have to reach to fill a position of need. Say there is a run on quarterbacks and the Raiders have Sammy Watkins or Jadeveon Clowney sitting their at pick number five, they can take either talented playmaker and do not have to reach for the fourth best quarterback.
They can now take players that have higher ceiling, but may not be ready to see the field immediately. They have set themselves up to take their time to develop some young talent, or wait till next year’s draft to address certain positions.
It really opens them up to players that are in the second tier or players with injury concerns. This includes quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo, Zach Mettenberger, or Aaron Murray. It also allows them to take a flier on defensive players, such as, Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley and Oklahoma corner back Aaron Colvin.
Despite their heavy presence in the free agent market, the Raiders’ draft needs did not change all that much. They need to still create depth and develop future starters to step in after the departure of the veterans they brought in. It decreases the need to pursue specific positions in the earlier rounds of the draft, except the offensive tackle position has seen an increase in need.
The Raiders are in a good situation that they have not really been in for quite awhile. They are in a situation to develop young talent naturally, instead of throwing their rookies into the fire right away. While the veteran talent sets them up for short term success, the financial commitments do not put the Raiders in a bind in the upcoming seasons. That allows them to commit to their young core of players to build around in the future.