For Raiders fans, it seems it's never too early to be thinking about the NFL Draft. The Silver and Black seem to be on their way to a top-three pick this coming May. If the Raiders want a chance to eventually compete for the playoffs, they must continue to develop young talent.
While I usually do not encourage trades in mock drafts because they are tough to predict what you get in return for the trade, I am using trades in this draft because I truly believe the Raiders should and will trade back. I think the mock will be more accurate with trades because that is what I project the Raiders to do.
The Raiders seem to be a pretty safe bet to end up with a top-three draft pick. If this is the case, there is a good chance that either Leonard Williams or Cedric Ogbuehi are available. They are in my opinion the two best players in the country and they would give the Raiders elite talent on either the offensive or defensive line. But, the Raiders can't take them and here is why.
Derek Carr has continued to improve, even with a lackluster receiving core and poor run game. The best way to help a rookie quarterback is to give him weapons. When you look at the Seattle Seahawks, what makes their offense so potent is they can beat you on the air and ground. Marshawn Lynch takes an enormous amount of pressure off Russell Wilson and vice versa. Percy Harvin is a legitimate number one receiver that the Raiders desperately need.
So on that note, I am trading back into the 8-10 range to pick up the best eligible receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft. If the Raiders do this, they will receive the trading team's first and second round pick for sure along with a possible third round selection.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Through four games, Cooper leads the country with 43 receptions for 655 yards and five touchdowns. 320 of those yards have come from yards after the catch. This is because of three things: Cooper is healthy again, Lane Kiffin's offense generally features one star wide receiver, and his hands have vastly improved. Cooper is far and away the top receiver eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft. If he was eligible last year, I would have had him tied with Mike Evans as the second best receiver with only Sammy Watkins ahead of him.
Cooper reminds me of a slightly less explosive and smaller Julio Jones. He has great speed and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. While only 6'1" and 210 pounds, Cooper can still become an elite receiver in the NFL because of his speed, hands and route running.
If the Raiders could trade back into the 8-10 range and snag Cooper, it would vastly improve their receiving core giving the Silver and Black a number one receiver for the first time since Randy Moss. Rod Streater is currently the best receiver on the Raiders and while he is a solid number two option, he does not have the explosiveness to be a number one. If the Raiders take Cooper, their receiving core will look like:
Wr 1 Slot Wr2
Amari Cooper James Jones Rod Streater
All three receivers have great hands with Cooper being the biggest playmaker and Streater having the biggest body. This would be a top-ten receiving core that would immensely help Derek Carr's progress.
I am now going to trade the Raiders second selection in the second round that they got for trading back in the first and a fourth round pick to trade up into the late first round to select a guy who I feel is a top talent but will drop because of position value.
Now that the Raiders have added their number one receiver, they need to find a runningback that can keep defenses honest and take pressure off Carr. With Todd Gurley most likely gone, the next best runningback would be Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Gordon is talented enough to be a top-ten pick, but as the value of the runningback position drop, teams are waiting longer to pick them. There is a great chance that Gordon falls to the late first-round.
I think Todd Gurley is the best runningback eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft, but Melvin Gordon is right behind him. These two studs are the best runningbacks I have seen since Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden. They are different prospects as Gurley has the body and playing style of Marshawn Lynch and Gordon resembles Jamaal Charles.
While Gurley had 222 carries his freshman year, Gordon had the luxury of sitting behind Montee Ball his first two seasons. As a result, Gordon has taken less hits than Gurley and is projected to have better durability in the NFL. Last season as a redshirt sophomore, Gordon carried the ball 206 times for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns. His yards per carry (7.8) was amazing considering how many rushing attempts he had.
This season, Gordon is starting off where he left off last year with 78 carries for 612 yards (7.8 avg.) and eight touchdowns in only four games.
The two most impressive attributes Gordon has are his acceleration and his vision. Like Amari Cooper, he is a threat to score every play because he can hit full speed so quickly. Gordon does a great job of finding holes in the defense and often cuts back when the opportunity is there.
Melvin Gordon based off of skills and production is a top-ten talent. But because runningbacks have been so devalued in the NFL, his stock will take a huge drop.
As bad as the Raiders runningbacks have been, their secondary has played even worse. While the Raiders need another cornerback, they should fill the need in either free agency or the 2016 NFL Draft because they have a massive hole at free safety. Charles Woodson is about to turn 38 and is only signed to a one-year contract. Chances are he doesn't return next year leaving the Raiders without a starting free safety. So with their original second round draft pick which will be around 33-36 overall, the Oakland Raiders select:
Kurtis Drummond, FS, Michigan State
While Drummond is not as talented as Landon Collins (Alabama safety with top-ten talent), he is still a great free safety. Drummond was the leader of a Michigan State defense last year that consisted of star cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes. He had great numbers his junior season with 91 tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions.
Drummond is an intelligent player who always seems to be where the ball is. He is a hard hitting tackler but also can make the tough open field tackle. He breaks on the football quickly because of his anticipation and quick feet. Drummond has impressive range along with a great vertical jump to contest jump balls.
For reference to his athleticism, watch around the 2:30 mark in the video below, it is one of the best interceptions I have ever seen.
The biggest concern with Drummond is his frame. At 6-1, 200 pounds, he is on the lighter side for an NFL free safety. But that doesn't stop him from being the most physical player on the field.
This season, Drummond is off to a fast start with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and two interceptions. The biggest reason why he will drop to the second round is because of his size and the amount of cornerbacks this season that have first round talent. Five cornerbacks are projected to be drafted in the first round which should drop Drummond's stock.