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Raiders to ‘attack' top need positions in both free agency and draft

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All 32 NFL teams in Indianapolis to scout the best college talent in the country this week. Every team is looking intensely on the prospects and using their interviews and on-field workouts to move them up and down their draft boards. But before the draft ever comes, there's free agency to consider.

In most cases, free agency plays a major role in shaping what teams will do in the draft. It's the reason why this week when Mike Mayock was asked where he saw the Raiders going in the draft, he led out with "Well, I mean, we haven't even gotten to free agency yet."

But how much of an impact will free agency really have on the Raiders draft plans? According to Jack Del Rio, the Raiders' approach will be the same for draft regardless of what the team does in free agency with regard to the need positions.

Sure, that's what you expect any head coach to say to throw other teams off the scent. But the Raiders proved it last year, when they bulked up the tight end and wide receiver position both in free agency and the draft.

"We attacked the offense last year with some numbers at the wide receiver position with (Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree)," said Del Rio. "We developed a couple other guys who played nice roles for us. At the tight end spot, we ended up drafting Clive Walford and signing Lee Smith. We attacked that position as well and brought in some talent. That's the type of impact we were able to have last year, by combining work we put in at the combine and the draft and in the free agent market. Those efforts go hand in hand.

"We attacked receiver and tight end last year, and there will be other positions that we attack this year."

Those ‘other positions' of which Del Rio references are expected to be the offensive line and the secondary.

Rarely do you see a deeper free agent market for corners and safeties as you do this offseason. And with the Raiders desperate need at both positions, you can bet they will be adding at least one player at each. Both of those positions received little to no attention in last year's free agency or the draft, so they're overdue.

As of right now, the only sure starter in the secondary is cornerback in David Amerson. TJ Carrie could be moved around from corner to safety where needed. And the next place to look for help is free agency.

Will that be enough? Unlikely. Even if the team finds a starter in free agency, they must still find depth as well as plan for the future at those positions.

"We have to attack our secondary with draft picks and free agents," Del Rio added via CSN California. "We're going to do that. We're going to add talent to that group and make it really competitive."

The same goes for the offensive line which has needs at both tackle and guard. With offensive tackle as the most dire.

"You start by wanting to have one top tackle, and he typically protects the blind side of a right-handed quarterback," said Del Rio. "The left tackle has a little more significance. Being strong across the front is important and it's never about one guy. I think we saw a need to be strong in the trenches when you saw Denver's front dominate (the Super Bowl)."

The free agent market at tackle is not deep at all and the first round caliber talent at the position could potentially be off the board by the time the Raiders make their pick at 14. While guard will have more players available in free agency and quality talent can be found after the first round.

With a considerable amount of money to spend in free agency, and a full draft at their disposal, the Raiders can afford to double up their incoming talent at the most needed positions. At that's just what they intend to do.