The Raiders spent their bye week continuing to look toward 2019 — and beyond. They traded wide receiver Amari Cooper, the fourth-overall pick in 2015, to the Cowboys for a first-round pick. As it stands, Oakland now has three first-rounders in next year’s draft. With the current NFL standings through seven weeks, the Raiders have picks No. 4 (their original selection), No. 9 (from the Cowboys) and No. 15 (from the Bears as part of the Khalil Mack trade).
As it stands, the Raiders are 1-5, have a point differential of minus-66, which is third-worst in the league behind the Cardinals (minus-92) and the Bills (minus-94). And like those teams, Oakland has virtually no chance of salvaging the season, Jon Gruden’s first in the NFL since the 2008 season. Which could mean that he’ll spend the next 10 games evaluating the players currently on the roster and spend free agency and the draft putting together his vision of what a winning roster looks like. At the top of the to-do list (in no particular order): Replacing Mack, replacing Cooper and determining if Derek Carr is the long-term answer at quarterback.
Starting with Carr first, a cursory look at the stats and you might think the fifth-year quarterback is really flourishing under Gruden. Carr’s completing 71.7 percent of his passes, which is eight percentage points higher than at any other time in his career. But he also has eight interceptions — he was tied for the lead league heading into Week 7 — and just seven touchdowns. But the low point came in London in Week 6 when Carr was 23 of 31 but managed just 142 passing yards and lost two fumbles. He’s had three multi-pick games, and only once hasn’t committed a turnover. And because he’s not Gruden’s guy, it’s reasonable to think that he may not be in the new coach’s long-term plans.
Replacing Mack and Cooper, while not easy, are certainly less complicated; the Raiders have seven sacks and three fumble recoveries this season. Mack, now in Chicago, has five and four. Cooper, meanwhile, was averaging a career-low 12.7 yards per reception but he ranked 25th in value per play, just ahead of Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffery. If the Raiders are going to be something other than mediocre (or worse) — they’ve had exactly two winning seasons since Gruden was last in Oakland in 2002, most recently in 2016 when they went 12-4 — they’ll need to nail all three of their first-round picks.
If you’re wondering, the picks below are ordered based on winning percentage, playoff seedings and strength of schedule (via Tankathon.com).
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1. San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. He’s the best player in the draft even if he’s decided to skip the rest of his college season to recover from a core muscle injury that required surgery on Sept. 20. The 49ers used first-round picks on Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas from 2015-17 but none are as consistently disruptive as Bosa.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. The Cardinals’ offensive line has struggled to protect rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and has been even worse at creating running lanes for David Johnson. Some of that is scheme-related, which is why offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired and replaced with quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich. Still, needs along the O-line remain and Jonah Williams is the best of the bunch, though it’s probably a reach to take him second overall.
3. New York Giants
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. Until the Giants have a viable option at quarterback not named Eli Manning, Herbert remains the pick here. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported on Sunday that Herbert could choose to return to school, which would be a devastating development for the Giants. One option: New York could target a short-term solution like, say, Joe Flacco, until they could unearth their next franchise passer.
4. Oakland Raiders
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. Oliver is one of the two best players in the country and the Raiders would be lucky to find him here. The only knock on him is that he’s short by defensive tackle standards but just watch him play. He has a non-stop motor and is damn-near unblockable. He won’t replace Khalil Mack but he’ll immediately upgrade that defense.
5. Indianapolis Colts
Brian Burns, DE, Florida State. The Colts’ defense has gone from one of the league’s worst units in 2017 to a replacement-level outfit heading into Sunday’s game. And there’s no quicker way to get better than find elite pass rushers. Burns has been dominant this season and could be one of the first in a deep class of edge rushers to come off the board.
6. Buffalo Bills
Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State. This is probably too high to take a wide receiver, especially now that we don’t know when Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf will return from injury. But Harmon is the second-best receiver in this class and even though he’s coming off a tough game against Clemson, his ability to get in and out of breaks, create separation downfield and make contested catches checks all the boxes of exactly what this putrid Bills offense needs.
7. Atlanta Falcons
Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama. How deep is Alabama’s bench? Williams played behind Da’Ron Payne last season and the redshirt sophomore has opened a lot of eyes with his play over the first half of the college season. In related news, the Falcons’ defensive line is among the worst in the league — against the run and pass — and drafting Williams would solve a lot of those problems.
8. Cleveland Browns
Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. To hear Hue Jackson tell it, the offense needs his help. But this unit has a lot of young playmakers who just need to grow into their roles. A wide receiver is an obvious need but not this high. Instead, Cleveland continues to assemble the league’s best young stable of defensive talent; a year after adding the best cornerback in the 2017 draft, they double down and get Williams, the best cornerback in the ’18 draft class.
9. Oakland Raiders (via Cowboys)
Drew Lock, QB, Missouri. Lock looks like an NFL quarterback and he can make all the throws. His decision making can get him into trouble but this would be Jon Gruden’s quarterback to mold as he sees fit. With the fire sale going on in Oakland, Derek Carr’s days could be numbered.
10. Tennessee Titans
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. We know how inept the Titans’ offense can be but it’s too high to take an interior lineman, wide receiver or tight end. Plus, the defense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire — specifically, the pass defense ranks 23rd, according to Football Outsiders. Adding Ferrell and pairing him with 2017 second-round pick Harold Landry seems like a no-brainer
11. Jacksonville Jaguars
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford. The Jaguars desperately need to move on from Blake Bortles but with two quarterbacks off the board and little depth at the position in this class, the team turns its attention to stocking the offense with playmakers who can help whomever replaces Bortles.
12. New York Jets
Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State. The Jets’ defensive line have been replacement-level against the run and the pass, and the defense has 15 sacks in seven games. Sweat, who is having a fantastic college season, can be a difference-maker in pass-rushing situations.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama. Malcolm Jenkins is 30, Corey Graham is 33, and Thompson is the best safety in college football and it’s not even close. This team has other needs too, but upgrading the secondary remains a priority and it’s tough to do better than Thompson here.
14. Denver Broncos
David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin. The Broncos have needs up and down the roster — most notably at quarterback — but they take Edwards here, one of the best players in college that few people are talking about. Unbelievably consistent, Edwards could start immediately to anchor the right side of the line.
15. Oakland Raiders (via Bears)
A.J. Brown, WR Ole Miss. Al Davis would love this pick. Brown’s a burner though he plays mostly out of the slot, which may be a better fit for Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense, that now features quarterback Drew Lock (taken six picks earlier, courtesy of the Amari Cooper trade with the Cowboys). We also considered a pass rusher here, but Oakland’s offense is too anemic not to address twice in Round 1.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. The Bucs’ entered Week 7 with the NFL’s worst defense and the defensive line was 27th in rushing the quarterback. Simmons is one of the quickest defensive tackles in college football and he’d be a welcome addition to a unit that includes Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry.
17. Seattle Seahawks
Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia. The offensive line needs to be upgraded. This is not news. Yes, the group has played better than expected, but there’s no reason the offense should consist of Russell Wilson running for his life on most plays.
18. Detroit Lions
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan. Is he a defensive tackle or a defensive end? Gary hasn’t put up eye-popping stats this season but he’s a versatile player who could fit whatever scheme Matt Patricia could dream up.
19. Miami Dolphins
Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. If there was ever an advertisement for why your defensive line needs to be better at the point of attack, this is it:
Lawrence is a 340-pound bowling ball who is strong as an ox and quick as a cat.
20. Baltimore Ravens
Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama. C.J. Mosley could hit free agency after the season and Wilson would seamlessly transition into the role.
21. Houston Texans
Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has taken a beating this season. (To the extent that he had to take a bus to Jacksonville because of concerns that his partially collapsed lung might not fare well to the change in air pressure if he flew to the game with the rest of the team.) Risner is tough and consistently reliable, which is exactly what Houston’s offense line needs more of.
22. Cincinnati Bengals
Kris Boyd, CB, Texas. The Bengals love drafting cornerbacks in the first round and Boyd has opened some eyes with a good senior season for the Longhorns.
23. Green Bay Packers
Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky. Allen has been red-hot this season registering eight sacks for the Wildcats, including five in his last three games. He’d bolster the Packers’ pass rush, which has 18 sacks in six games.
24. Minnesota Vikings
Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College. The Vikings rank 24th in run blocking, and 29th in runs up the middle, according to Football Outsiders. If they can get better up front, and get Dalvin Cook healthy, this offense could be unstoppable.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida. The Steelers need help at inside linebacker and cornerback but Polite has been a terror this season for the Gators. And an effective pass rush can mask other issues on defense.
26. Washington Redskins
Ryan Finley, QB, N.C. State. Finley is coming off his worst game of the season but his style of play — getting the ball out quickly, anticipatory throws, the lack of a strong arm — reminds us of Kirk Cousins, whom the Redskins miss after trading for 34-year-old Alex Smith. Finley wouldn’t be ready for a starting role in 2019 but he could be the team’s quarterback of the future in 2020 and beyond.
27. Carolina Panthers
Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford. Smith is an athletic down-the-field pass-catcher in the mold of Greg Olsen, who will be 34 next year.
28. Los Angeles Chargers
Devin White, LB, LSU. Same as last week. Denzel Perryman is in the final year of his rookie deal and while White hasn’t been as consistent as Mack Wilson this season, he’s checks all the boxes for what NFL teams are looking for in their middle linebackers in today’s game.
29. New England Patriots
Noah Fant, TE, Iowa. Rob Gronkowski has hinted at retirement but even if he sticks around for a few more years, the Patriots would have yet another middle-of-the-field weapon for opposing defenses to have to contend with.
30. Green Bay Packers (via Saints)
Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame. The Packers have invested a lot of recent draft picks in shoring up the secondary and now, with their second first-round pick, they try to fix their run defense, which has been suspect through the first half of the season.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Michael Jackson, CB, Miami. If the Chiefs can cobble together a replacement-level defense they’re a legit Super Bowl contender for the next 2-3 years.
32. Los Angeles Rams
Te’von Coney, LB, Notre Dame. If there’s a weakness on this Rams team it’s at linebacker. The defense has been average this season, and the run game ranks 26th. Coney has had a stellar senior season at Notre Dame and he would immediately upgrade the middle of this D.
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