The Oakland Raiders enter the draft with needs throughout their roster. Despite the fact that general manager Reggie McKenzie did his best to fill the roster under rather unfavorable cap conditions, the Raiders still need a lot of help and they hope to find that help in the draft.
Some people use the "best player available" draft strategy while other use the "biggest need" strategy when approaching the draft. Luckily (or unluckily), the Raiders have enough holes that they will often be able to satisfy both strategies at the same time.
But the age old draft strategy debate begs one question, what are the positions that the Raiders must address in the draft? I now venture to answer that as well as two further questions. What positions should the Raiders draft and what positions shouldn't the Raiders draft?
Positions the Raiders Must Draft
To qualify for this category, the position must be so bad that the Raiders must draft someone to supplement. It could be due to a severe lack of depth or a severe lack of starting quality players, but for this group, it has to be a position that the Raiders simply cannot go into the season with as it currently stands.
DE - The Raiders simply have no pass rush and with a secondary that isn't exactly a strong suit, they need to get a pass rushing DE who can take pressure off of the corners. The Raiders currently have Lamarr Houston on one side and Andre Carter on the other. Houston will hold down one DE position easily and Carter should certainly see a good amount of time at the other, but he is older and is not an every down player at this point in his career.
FS- The Raiders spent a major portion of the 2013 off season without one natural free safety on their roster. Reggie McKenzie addressed the lack of any players by signing two young FS in Usama Young and Reggie Smith, but neither inspires a ton of confidence. They do both have potential, but potential doesn't win games. This year's draft is very deep at the safety position so the Raiders would be foolish not to take one.
OT - The Raiders have a solid starter at one tackle position in Jared Veldheer, but the right side is an absolute mess. Over the past few years, the only things that were consistent about the right tackle position were false starts, holds and sacks given up. The Raiders don't need to spend a high pick on a tackle, but they cannot continue to ignore the position either.
Positions the Raiders Should Draft
To qualify for this group, the position is one in which the Raiders would be very wise to draft, but if they are unable to address them, it will not be the end of the world. Most of these positions will likely be drafted, but Reggie may not be able to draft one at every position.
CB - The Raiders signed a duo of young CBs who have something to prove, but both are on one year deals so even if they do prove something, there is no guarantee McKenzie will want to pay them what they may get on the open market (see: Philip Wheelerexperiment). Meanwhile, they have a bunch of young and mediocre players for depth, none of whom has shown promise of developing into a good starter.
DT - The Raiders added some solid depth at the DT position after losing both of their starters this off season, Tommy Kelly via cut and Richard Seymour via a voided contract. But while Vance Walkeris a very promising player, he is not a proven starter. The other signing, Pat Sims, is much more suited to be a back up. I was very close to putting this in the must draft category, but if the Raiders get a good pass rushing DE, Walker and Sims are both solid in run support, so they would be ok as a starting duo.
TE - This was another position that I was tempted to put in the must draft column, but the Raiders do have a blocking specialist TE in Richard Gordon and a pass catching TE in David Ausberry. Neither is great and both clearly have holes, but I think the Raiders can get by with them for a year. Who knows, one might even emerge as a talent like Brandon Myers did last season.
G - The Raiders could really use an upgrade at both of the guard positions, but neither is so bad as to making it a position that the Raiders must address in the draft. Plus, they drafted Tony Bergstrom last season in hopes he could win one of those spots. He has not yet emerged as a starting candidate, but he is still young and could still do so. This position could very well go unaddressed in the draft.
Positions the Raiders Should Not Draft
This group is for positions that are not great and could use more depth or better players, but given all of the holes on the roster or the youth of the group, the draft is not the place to address it. Instead, McKenzie should look at undrafted free agents and veteran free agents to fill these.
WR - The Raiders added two wide receivers as rookies last season in Juron Crinerand Rod Streater. Criner has yet to live up to his potential but has shown he has the talent to play in the NFL. Streater on the other hand, showed that all 32 teams made a mistake by not drafting him. In addition, the Raiders have young receivers in Denarius Mooreand Jacoby Ford. Given the youth at this position, the Raiders would be better suited to sign a veteran, maybe Derek Hagan?
RB - I was really torn where to put this position. With Darren McFadden and his injury issues, depth is clearly important. Plus, McFadden is a free agent next off season and there is no guarantee he will remain in Silver and Black. But the Raiders signed a very solid back up in Rashad Jenningsand can rely on FB Marcel Reeceif need be. Given the immense number of holes on the roster, this just doen't seem urgent enough to trump the others.
SS - After losing Mike Mitchell this off season, the Raiders found themselves needing to get some help at the back up SS position. But with a starter like Tyvon Branchwho plays at a high level and hardly ever misses time, the back up spot simply is not as important. The Raiders should be able to find an adequate back up as an undrafted free agent or in an unsinged veteran free agent.