This off-season, much like the past two off-season, the Raiders came into it with a lot of needs. There were even positions that seemed set at first which became needs once free agency began. Then the team began their their off-season influx of player acquisitions. But how do those acquisitions really affect their draft needs? Let's examine that.
There were possible needs at most every position but the needs stacked up like this:
Quarterback, defensive end, cornerback, offensive guard, defensive tackle, wide receiver, free safety, running back. With offensive tackle now added as well.
Let's look at these positions in the order of importance heading into the off-season:
In: Matt Schaub, Trent Edwards
Out: None yet but Terrelle Pryor is expected to be traded or released soon.
Draft priority: About the same. The plan all along was to bring in a veteran so the team wouldn't be forced to start a rookie. Schaub is 32 and it remains to be seen if he will return to form. The team will proceed to draft a QB just as they would have otherwise. And if the guy they want isn't there, it isn't the end of the world because they have Schaub and a capable alternative in Matt McGloin.
Out: Lamarr Houston, Jason Hunter
In: Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley
Draft priority: About the same. The Raiders may not be as desperate as they were before but the priority level is unchanged. That's because Tuck and Woodley are both temporary solutions. Depth, competition, and an heir apparent is needed. Also, as the Seahawks showed, a team simply cannot have too many pass rushers.
Out: Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins
In: Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers
Draft priorty: Lower. The duo of former 49ers starters Brown and Rogers are both upgrades over the former duo of Porter and Jenkins. Along with last year's top pick D.J. Hayden, the Raiders have their starters and nickel corner. They should look to grab a corner in the mid rounds.
Out: Mike Brisiel
In: Kevin Boothe, Austin Howard
Draft priority: Slightly lower. The Raiders have Howard pegged for right guard to replace Brisiel and a competition between Boothe, Khalif Barnes, and Tony Bergstrom going at left guard. Toss in Lamar Mady as depth and suddenly there is a decent stable of guards. The fly in this ointment is the uncertainty surrounding Menelik Watson. If he doesn't live up to the hype, Howard may end up at right tackle after all, and leave a void at right guard. The Raiders may look to avoid the void if they see a guy they like a lot still on the board in the mid-late part of the draft.
Out: Vance Walker
In: Antonio Smith, CJ Wilson
Draft priority: Slightly lower. The return of Pat Sims is big (so to speak). The team needed an upgrade over Walker and they got it in Antonio Smith. However, that doesn't eliminate the need entirely as Smith is a temporary solution. Like the DE additions, depth and an heir apparent is needed. Smith just allows them to not reach for need if their guy isn't there.
In: James Jones
Out: Jacoby Ford
Draft priority: About the same. Actually, it oddly raises it's priority simply by default due to the lower priority of the positions ahead of it. The Raiders still don't have that surefire number one guy. If they had gotten DeSean Jackson, he would have been that guy. As it stands, the draft is their best shot of getting that player. Luckily it's deep at the receiver position so a great talent can be had anywhere in the first two rounds and perhaps later.
Out: No one
In: No one
Draft priority: About the same. The team brought back Charles Woodson and Usama Young so the position is not in dire need. However, Young is not a proven starter and Woodson is about to embark on what is likely is final season. The Raiders need to think about drafting his replacement.
In: Kory Sheets, Maurice Jones-Drew
Out: Rashad Jennings
Draft priority: About the same. They have a large stable of running backs at the moment. None of them are surefire starters, but there are options there. Enough so that they can afford to let the competition shake out for the starter and two backups. And if a player they really like becomes the best player available in the mid-late rounds, the more the merrier.
Out: Jared Veldheer
In: Donald Penn
Draft priority: Higher. This position was one of the few that were locked down. Not anymore. Veldheer left as a free agent and he was replaced by castoff, Donald Penn. At 30-years-old, he is four years Veldheer's senior. He also had a terrible season last year which is what led to his release. He might return to form but even if he did, he is not the long term answer. Menelik Watson on the other side has barely even set foot on the field due to injury, though the team would very much like to see what they have in him. If he can't go, Austin Howard or Khalif Barnes are capable of taking over at right tackle.
Updated draft needs
So, as you can see, the arrivals and departures haven't really changed the Raiders draft needs all that much. Here is how I see them stacking up now:
QB, DE, WR, DT, CB, OT, OG, FS, RB
The Raiders currently have six picks in the draft. Unless they trade down, they won't be able to address near all of their needs. What they were able to do in free agency is add vets at each position which allows the luxury of holding out to fill some positions until next year's draft.