Oakland Raiders should give serious thought to investing in the future now

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 03: Cornerback Adonis Alexander #36 of the Virginia Tech Hokies gestures to the crowd against the West Virginia Mountaineers at FedExField on September 3, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 03: Cornerback Adonis Alexander #36 of the Virginia Tech Hokies gestures to the crowd against the West Virginia Mountaineers at FedExField on September 3, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders are still very much a work in progress, but with the supplemental draft approaching, they may want to invest in the future now.

To quote Miley Cyrus – and we’ll apologize profusely for that up front – Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has come in like a wrecking ball. He’s purged the roster of some familiar faces, while bringing in a boatload of new ones. Virtually no position group was left untouched.

Which, given the fact that they finished a disappointing and underachieving 6-10 last season, may not be such a bad thing.

One of the position groups that underwent the most extreme makeover though, was Oakland’s cornerbacks group. Gruden waltzed in and jettisoned dead weight like David Amerson and Sean Smith, and then allowed the best of the bunch, T.J. Carrie to bounce as a free agent.

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Gruden is inheriting last year’s first-round pick who – if he can manage to stay healthy and keep his head on straight – could be a big time solution for a secondary that has nothing but questions. If he plays as well as he’s flashed through the early part of the offseason work, the Raiders won’t have to worry about one side of the field, anyway.

Former Colts corner Rashaan Melvin was also brought in after posting a standout season in 2017.

In just ten games last year – his first real career action as a starting corner in the league – Melvin racked up 36 tackles, 13 passes defensed, and three interceptions. Melvin flashed some big upside, and if he can play to that level in 2018, he’s going to be a huge upgrade for this Raiders defense.

But, he’s also on a one-year deal, meaning that if he disappoints, a la Amerson and Smith, jettisoning him will be simple. However, they also run the risk of some other team having more money and poaching him should he show out and prove to not be a one-hit wonder.

Such is the risk you take – and don’t take – with one-year “prove it” deals.

To give the team some depth and flexibility, Gruden also brought in grizzled old veteran Leon Hall – one of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s guys – Shareece Wright, and Daryl Worley.

Oakland also has returners Dexter McDonald and Antonio Hamilton in the mix – though, they didn’t perform well enough even with the dumpster fire Oakland’s secondary has been the last couple of seasons, so the value they add is negligible.

Between Conley and Melvin, Oakland could have a pretty dominant set of corners. Especially playing in a system designed by a DC who knows what they’re doing and has had plenty of success running it.

However, with Melvin, Hall, Wright, and Worley all playing on one-year deals, and Hamilton and McDonald free agents after the season, that leaves only Conley under contract for 2019. Which means, there’s going to be some significant turnover in Oakland’s secondary. Again.

Which is also why GM Reggie McKenzie and Gruden should be at least think about stocking up for the future now.

With the 2018 Supplemental Draft scheduled for July eleventh, the Raiders – along with every other team in the league – will have a chance to nab some young talent.

It’s not often teams dip into the waters of the Supplemental Draft – nobody’s been taken since the Rams took Isaiah Battle back in 2015, and the last time the Raiders used a supplemental pick, it was on Terrelle Pryor back in 2011.

This year, there are a pair of intriguing prospects who’ve declared for the Supplemental Draft, who both come with some serious upside, but all have some baggage as well.

Virginia Tech’s Adonis Alexander and Western Michigan’s Sam Beal, are eligible to be taken in the Supplemental Draft, and both have drawn interest from clubs around the league – all 32 teams were represented at Beal’s pro-day, where he wowed them by running a 40 time of 4.4.

Beal, it would seem, is the more highly coveted of the two, and at six-foot-one, 185 pounds, possesses tremendous length, athleticism, and obviously, speed. He can play inside or outside, and has a knack for finding the ball.

Though he’s not a dominant, shutdown type corner, he has good instincts and is able to make some outstanding plays on the ball. He’s got a skill set that’s well-rounded and he would make a solid addition to a secondary group.

Adonis Alexander, six-foot-three, 197 pounds, is the flashier of the two. As a freshman, he got people’s attention with 55 tackles, four interceptions, and six passes defensed. He followed that up with solid sophomore season.

His junior year though, he took a step back. He played just eight games for the Hokies and had just 27 tackles and one interception. The weaknesses in his game were exposed and exploited by opposing teams regularly. And after being declared academically ineligible for his senior season, Alexander declared for the supplemental.

Still he’s got a lot of raw, untapped potential. He’s got good size and decent speed – though, he’s not a burner like Beal. He’s also more one-dimensional than Beal. He’s big and strong enough to stand up to bigger receivers on the outside. But, he’s going to struggle against smaller, faster receivers – like Tryeek Hill and Sammy Watkins.

The Raiders are going to be a very cornerback-needy team next season. It makes some degree of sense for them to use 2019 draft capital if they think they can land a prospect who fits their system.

The benefit of taking somebody like Beal now, is that he can have a year to sit back and learn. There’s less pressure on him to produce right now. And, by the time the 2019 season rolls around, he’ll be far better suited to slot right into the lineup.

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They’ve got a few days yet to think about whether or not to invest future draft capital on a player now. And if so, at what level would they be willing to invest – after all, unlike past supplementals, there may actually be some competition for these players.

Given the need not all that far down the road, it might be a good idea for Gruden and the Raiders to start thinking about addressing it sooner, rather than later.