With the Raiders 2014 NFL season over, it is officially draft season. Now that the Raiders 2015 draft position is finalized at number four overall, which players should be on their radar?
Here are a couple players that could potentially be on the board when the Raiders pick at number four overall. I am projecting the Buccaneers will pick Marcus Mariota with the number one overall pick. That leaves the Titans and Jaguars before the Raiders. It is quite possible that the Titans use the number two overall pick to select Jameis Winston. But even if both the Titans and Jaguars pick the players below, at least one will be available for the Raiders.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Of the players listed, Cooper is the most likely to be available when the Raiders pick. He is far and away the best wide receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft. Cooper finished the regular season with 115 receptions for 1,656 yards (14.4 avg.) and 14 touchdowns. Even more impressive is he put up those numbers in the SEC, even when opposing coaches new he was going to get the ball.
Cooper does not have the explosiveness of Sammy Watkins or the size of Mike Evans, but he does all the little things. He runs very polished routes, has sticky hands, catches the ball at its highest point, and has sneaky speed allowing him to be a playmaker. The only receiver I would have drafted over Cooper last year was Sammy Watkins, I would take Cooper over Mike Evans any day and I was a big fan of Evans.
What impresses me most about Cooper is his versatility. His first two seasons, the Alabama product had success in a pro style system. But this last year, the system changed completely when Lane Kiffin was hired as Offensive Coordinator. Kiffin focused on isolating Cooper and getting the ball to him quickly and in space, and Cooper proved he could have great success in that system too.
If he is available when the Raiders pick which is quite likely, the Raiders would be wise to give him a close look. They desperately need a top receiver, and Cooper could give Derek Carr a weapon and help both Carr and the offense immensely.
Leonard Williams, DT, USC
He very well may be the best player in the nation, even over Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. It is unlikely that Williams will still be there when the Raiders pick, but it is still possible. Especially if the Titans pick Jameis Winston because then Jacksonville would likely decide between Williams or Randy Gregory.
The junior finished the season with 80 tackles and 7 sacks. He has great size at 6'5" and 300 pounds but also has impressive speed and athleticism allowing him to be effective against both the run and as a pass rusher.
Khalil Mack was one of the best defensive players in the NFL this year, and he did that without any threats on the defensive line. Imagine the success that Mack and Sio Moore would have if offenses had to plan for more than just them. Offenses would not be able to double-team Mack because that would leave Leonard Williams unblocked, and vice versa they would not be able to double-team Williams because of Mack.
But ripple of William's impact spreads even further; with the trio of Mack, Williams and Moore pass rushing, quarterbacks will have to throw the ball much quicker making life on the Raiders secondary easier.
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Randy Gregory is your prototypical pass rusher. He has a long body at 6'6" and 245 pounds with a great blend of power and speed that he uses to generate sacks. In two seasons at Nebraska, Gregory recorded 16.5 sacks and 115 tackles.
Gregory would help the Raiders in a lot of the same ways Leonard Williams would. Except while Williams is a better run defender, Gregory would be a better pass rusher and give the Raiders a speed rusher off the edge. Either way, both would help the Raiders defense.
While there are character concerns and reports of him being an individual before a team player, Gregory has too much talent to pass up at number four overall. He could immensely help the Raiders with his elite pass rushing ability.