With three first-round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders — in particular head coach Jon Gruden and new GM Mike Mayock — have an excellent opportunity to add young talent to their underwhelming squad.
While there have been glaring holes on the defensive side of the ball, especially with the departure of perennial All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack, Oakland’s offense definitely left quite a bit to be desired. The question is: should Gruden and Mayock spend one or more first-round picks on potential offensive weapons?
Before we explore potential draft options, just how far has this team fallen from their stellar 2016 playoff season? Just a couple of quick metrics for comparison:
2016 Offense (Stats and Rank): 2018 Offense (Stats and Rank):
Total Yards: 5,973 (6th) Total Yards: 5,379 (23rd)
Points Scored: 416 (7th) Points Scored: 290 (28th)
Pass Yards: 4,051 (13th) Pass Yards: 3,751 (18th)
Pass TD: 29 (8th) Pass TD: 19 (24th)
Rush Yards: 1,922 (6th) Rush Yards: 1,628 (25th)
Rush TD: 17 (6th) Rush TD: 9 (27th)
One would be able to sum last season’s offensive output up with this single word: horrid. The point production was anemic, their “big play” ability was clearly lacking (especially in the post-Cooper era), and Carr just hasn’t looked comfortable since that 2016 campaign. Putting all of that aside, the silver and black have plenty of opportunities to land key additions, come April.
With an offensive line returning three studs in center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson, as well as fellow sophomore tackles Kolton Miller (1st Rd, 2018) and Brandon Parker (3rd Rd, 2018), Gruden and Mayock can hold steady in the offensive line depth department for the later rounds. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayock recently seemingly removed all doubt about the organization’s plans for Derek Carr when he stated: “I think Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback. I truly believe that.” The running back trio of Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington seemed to hold their own, even possibly getting better as the season progressed. This leaves the tight end and wide receiver positions (assuming Pro Bowl TE Jared Cook isn’t re-signed).
Now, the consensus around the league and the media suggests that the Raiders will select an edge rusher with the no. 4 overall pick. That seems set in stone. However, with the 24th and 27th overall picks, a few bright young offensive studs should still be available. At the tight end position, fellow Iowa Hawkeyes, T.J. Hockenson (49 rec, 760 yds, 6 TD) and Noah Fant (39 rec, 519 yds, 7 TD) are head and shoulders above the competition. Both are projected as late first-round, early second-round picks by several sports media outlets. Either one of these young men would provide an instant safety valve for Derek Carr in the upcoming season.
After the spectacular combo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, the air attack has substantially weakened. No longer do the Raiders have Cooper’s big play ability nor Crabtree’s knack for finding the end zone and moving the sticks, from years past. Gruden and Mayock need to find a playmaker at some point in this draft. If they choose to fill that void in the first round, Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown (75 rec, 1,318 yds, 10 TD) or one of Ole Miss’ tandem of D.K. Metcalf (26 rec, 569 yds, 5 TD) and A.J. Brown (85 rec, 1,320 yds, 6 TD) would provide Carr and the offense with a strong receiving threat opposite veteran receiver Jordy Nelson.
Whatever direction Gruden and Mayock decide to go, they must hit on each of their draft picks they received in exchange for Mack and Cooper. If not, both moves (which have already received tons of criticism) will be seen as catastrophic failures. Furthermore, they will have lost out on a golden opportunity to rebuild with some of the nation’s best young talent.