Oakland Raiders Draft Strategy: Wide receiver

Streeter Lecka

It's not too often that a team with as many holes as Oakland has would target a position like receiver, but could that be the case in the upcoming 2014 draft? With players like Sammy Watkins on the board, however, the Raiders could be tempted to draft just their second first-round wideout since Tim Brown.

With the nightmare of Darrius Heyward-Bey still fresh in our minds, the idea of drafting a receiver early on can be a terrifying one to say the least — especially after watching Michael Crabtree (the presumed top receiver in the 2009 draft) emerge as a serious force in this year's playoffs. But don't let that scare you too much. It was just 25 years ago that Oakland used a first-round pick on a wide receiver — a gentleman by the name of Tim Brown.

In the second part in this series, we're analyzing a number of different strategies available to Oakland, primarily focusing on what to do with their first pick. In the first piece, I looked at whether drafting a quarterback at No. 5 was the right move and came to the conclusion that the answer was "no".

The thought was simple: with so many holes, Oakland is in no position to reach for a quarterback. As it stands, Mel Kiper has the top quarterbacks ranked no higher than ninth overall — making all of them a reach at No. 5.

The good news for Oakland, however, is that within the top ranked players on the board, there are plenty of players among positions of need. Last week, Reggie McKenzie announced that the three major areas of need are quarterback, wide receiver and along the defensive line. As it so happens, those were the three positions this draft series aimed to address.

With all of this in mind, the one assumption going into this piece is simple: Oakland will keep their first pick. I'm not saying this is the best strategy, or that it's even likely, I'm just saying some assumptions needed to be made and that's the one I went with. So on to the receivers.

For a team with so many holes, is wide receiver really a position worth looking at in the top five picks? In short, the answer is a simple "yes" and there's a few big reasons for that.

First, the Raiders are desperately in need of a No. 1 receiver. Rod Streater and Denarius Moore have had stretches of great play in the past two seasons, but it's clear that unless one makes a massive jump in the next couple years, neither is capable of being the No. 1 guy, and that's fine.

Each team needs a whole stable of receivers (see: Denver, Green Bay, etc.) and not all of them need to be "elite". If Oakland could find an "elite" guy to put alongside Moore and Streater, all of a sudden, the Oakland receiving corps becomes one of the best in the league.

It's the idea that a guy who's really built to be a No. 2 option will fail when he's treated by opponents as their top target. If Moore and Streater become a No. 2 and 3 option, look out.

Secondly, before grabbing their quarterback of the future, Oakland needs to make sure there are pieces around him that will allow him to be successful. Even if they draft a quarterback at the top of the draft, if that quarterback is handed the same weapons Pryor and McGloin were this season, don't expect that guy to earn any Rookie of the Year honors.

Put simply, drafting a play-maker on the outside will make the Raiders' quarterback position far more attractive. In fact, it might even prove that a guy like Matt McGloin is a capable quarterback in this league; who knows?

Thirdly, the advantage of drafting a receiver at the top of the draft is that (at least in recent years) the picks have been overwhelmingly successful. Since 2006, there have been seven wide receivers taken in the first 10 picks of a draft. Of the seven, five (in my opinion) have been overwhelming successes, one has become an average NFL player and the other was a definite bust.

Those seven players were (going from most recent backwards): Justin Blackmon, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson and Ted Ginn Jr.

Obviously, Ginn was the bust and Heyward-Bey was the other disappointment. It should be noted, however, that the Raiders were apparently the only team that had DHB projected in the top 10. With that said, though, look at the other five names on that list.

Johnson is the best receiver in the league, Green and Jones are definite stars, and if not for injuries and off-the-field problems, Crabtree and Blackmon have shown they'd be elite receivers in this league. (Don't tell Richard Sherman I said so, though).

So the final question is: are there any guys in this class capable of being the next Julio Jones or A.J. Green?

In my opinion (and seemingly in the opinion of most draft experts), the answer is yes.

At the top of every list is Sammy Watkins, the play-maker from Clemson who Kiper has ranked as the No. 6 prospect in this draft. Although just 6'1", Watkins has the speed and athleticism to be a star at the next level.

The next two guys on most lists are Mike Evans and Marquise Lee — both interesting picks because of their unique storylines. Evans is, of course, best known for catching "up-for-grabs" passes from Johnny Manziel, and at 6'5", that's no surprise. Lee, on the other hand, was projected as a top pick had he come out last season, but after a poor year of production at USC in 2013, he has fallen down draft boards into the middle of the first round. Lee's best asset is his incredible speed, which is important because he's listed at just 6'0".

With all of this in mind, I think the best pick for Oakland of the three is Watkins simply because he appears most likely to become the stud they're looking for. If Watkins is gone, I think the Raiders should pass on receivers and look to bolster their defensive line, while addressing their receivers in the second round.

Players projected to be available in the early second round include Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State, speedster Brandin Cooks from Oregon State, and Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt.

So there you have it: I say no to the quarterback position at No. 5 and yes to a receiver if Watkins is still available. If not, as we'll talk about next time, there are plenty of defensive linemen ready to make an impact.

What do you think?

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