With the Raiders 2015 season in the books, it is time to turn our attention to 2016 and the NFL Draft. General Manager Reggie McKenzie has already build a young foundation through recent drafts, finding starters in Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Amari Cooper, Clive Walford, and Mario Edwards Jr among others. He would look to add to that young nucleus this offseason.
Here are five players the Raiders should consider with the 14th overall pick that would fit well with the Silver and Black.
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Throughout the College Football season, Jaylon Smith was considered by many, including myself, to be the best player in the country at any position. So how in the world would the Raiders have any shot at drafting him in 2016 NFL Draft when they pick at 14th overall?
In his last game at Notre Dame, Smith injured his knee tearing his ACL and LCL. This was a blow for Smith as his draft stock will drop, but it could be a blessing for the Raiders. Smith is set to make a full recovery according to Sports Illustrated. If this is the case, there is absolutely no reason Reggie McKenzie should pass on the Notre Dame product if he falls to the Raiders.
One of the Raiders biggest weaknesses in 2015 was middle linebacker. Malcolm Smith played well, but Curtis Lofton was atrocious which led to extended playing time for rookies Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball. While both players showed the potential to contribute, Jaylon Smith has the potential to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He has the agility to cover receivers and running backs while also possessing rare speed that allows him to cover a ton of ground. On top of his athleticism and instincts, Smith was one of the nation's most forceful tacklers.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Strong powerful linebackers in the mold of Brian Urlacher used to be the perfect weapon for defenses. But in today's era where running backs are often used in the passing game, linebackers that are agile and quick are becoming necessities. Jack perfectly fits this model.
Jack is a ridiculous athlete that actually spent time at running back early in his career with the Bruins. He saw his 2015 season cut short by a knee injury in which he tore his left meniscus. Like Jaylon Smith, Jack could see his draft stock drop because of the injury. If the Raiders are lucky, he may just fall right into their laps with the 14th overall pick.
As mentioned above, middle linebacker is one of the Raiders biggest holes to fill and adding a prospect like Jaylon Smith or Myles Jack would instantly improve their defense. Both players boast perhaps the country's best combination of instincts and athleticism.
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
One of the most prized positions in the NFL is a true shut-down cornerback. Vernon Hargreaves III is pretty dang close to being a shut-down cornerback. He excels in man coverage and often shadowed the opposing team's best receiver. Equally effective in both press and off-man coverage, Hargreaves has the talent to take a receiver out of the game completely. He is also aggressive in run support and shows zero hesitation to tackle bigger players.
Despite superior athleticism and instincts, he has seen his stock slip because of his size. While I personally think size in a cornerback is overrated, NFL teams are increasingly looking for the next Richard Sherman. And because of this, there is a legitimate chance that Hargreaves could fall to the Raiders at 14 overall.
If it wasn't for the heroics of David Amerson, the Raiders secondary would have been atrocious. If they can find a top cornerback in the NFL draft, they are in business. Oakland would have Hargreaves and Amerson on the outside while having the flexibility to use T.J. Carrie in the nickel. That would be a huge improvement from having to watch D.J. Hayden get burned every play.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Mackensie Alexander is a player that really came on in 2015. Just a redshirt sophomore, Alexander dominated the ACC and was the best defensive player on a Clemson team that made it to the National Championship. Alexander compares a lot to Hargreaves as both players are "undersized" but boast a great combination of athleticism and instincts.
Alexander excels in man coverage, but will face a learning curve in zone coverage and learning the different schemes. The Raiders have a gaping hole at cornerback and Alexander is talented enough to garner serious attention if he is available when they pick.
Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Where Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack boast elite athleticism for the position, Ragland relies on impressive instincts and aggressive tackling to beat opponents. He was the leader for an Alabama defense that won the National Championship and is loaded with NFL talent.
Ragland has similar traits to that of C.J. Mosley who has played well for the Baltimore Ravens the past two seasons. Wherever the ball is, you are guaranteed to find Ragland close behind as he has a nose for the football and displays great pursuit.
If the previous four players on this list are all off the board, Ragland should be the pick for the Raiders as he would give them an instant starter in an area of need.