Creating a Big Board for the Raiders for the 2016 NFL Draft was far more difficult than in previous seasons. The past three years, the Raiders picked in the top-five and had several clear needs to address. This time around the Raiders don't select until 14 overall and have fewer holes to fill.
The two positions that could be argued as a major need (safety and middle linebacker) don't have any players valued high enough for the 14th overall pick and would be better addressed in rounds 2-4. After the top-two players, it became extremely difficult to rank the rest as they are all so close and I think any of them would be a solid selection for Oakland.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
With the devaluation of the position, running backs selected in the first round of the draft have become a rarity. The only reason a running back should be taken that early is if they are a blue-chip player and a game changer. The three players in this category are Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, and Leonard Fournette. If Elliott falls to the Raiders at 14th overall, he would be the top player on their board as he is arguably the best offensive player in the entire draft. The addition of the star running back would solve the team's lack of depth at the position and would give Oakland a scary backfield with Elliott and Latavius Murray. The Raiders ranked 28th in rushing yards last season, adding Ezekiel Elliott to the offense would solve that problem.
2. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
As the NFL Draft approaches, it seems Ronnie Stanley's stock may be falling. This makes it a realistic possibility Stanley could be on the board when the Raiders pick; Merry Christmas, Oakland. Former NFL defensive end Stephen White wrote an excellent piece in which he argued why Ronnie Stanley is the top offensive tackle in the draft. The basis of the argument is that while Stanley has room to improve in the run game, his pass blocking is second to none. The Raiders need depth at offensive tackle as Donald Penn is turning 33 this month and Austin Howard and Menelik Watson haven't shown the ability to stay on the field consistently. Stanley would battle Penn for the starting left tackle job and would be able to protect quarterback Derek Carr for years to come.
3. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
While the Raiders have a solid trio of cornerbacks in Sean Smith, David Amerson, and T.J. Carrie, the number of defensive plays in which five or more defensive backs were on the field has increased from 43.4 % in 2008 to 63.4% in 2015 according to Pro Football Focus. Alexander has the rare ability to play lockdown man coverage and is the closest thing to a "shut-down cornerback" in this draft. Per Pro Football Focus, Alexander allowed just 33% of passes into his coverage to be caught which led all cornerbacks. Alexander plays bigger than his size (5'10", 190 lbs) and shows excellent physicality. After shutting down Sterling Shepard back to back years and making potential first round receiver Will Fuller irrelevant last season, Alexander is the top cornerback on my board. His NFL Combine press conference was very impressive showed the football intelligence and confidence that is necessary for the position.
4. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Right behind Alexander is Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves is the more athletic of the two and also shows the aggressiveness that Alexander has in run support. While Alexander is better in man coverage, Hargreaves plays zone coverage much more effectively. My biggest concern with Hargreaves is that his 2014 tape was better than in 2015. But at the end of the day, both cornerbacks would be a great addition to the Raiders secondary.
5. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
The Raiders currently have a solid receiving core, but Treadwell may be too talented to pass and Michael Crabtree isn't getting any younger. The Raiders offseason was focused on improving the defense and the offensive line, but no attention was spent on improving the offensive skill positions. Treadwell fits the Alshon Jeffery mold as a physical receiver that wins at catch point. His addition would give the Raiders a phenomenal redzone threat as well as a bigger receiver. Placing Treadwell over Rankins and Lawson was difficult, but the defensive line is the deepest position in the 2016 NFL Draft and the Raiders can find great value there in the middle rounds.
6. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
As a smaller defensive tackle with great quickness and explosiveness, Rankins reminds me a lot of Aaron Donald when he came out of Pittsburgh. The Raiders have two run stuffing defensive tackles in Dan Williams and Justin Ellis, but neither provide much of a pass rush. Rankins would provide a pass rush from the interior and add to an already scary front-seven.
7. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Lawson finished the 2015 season among the nation's leaders in tackles for loss (25.5) and sacks (12.5). His addition would give the Raiders insurance in case Mario Williams Jr's neck doesn't check out. If Williams is healthy, the Raiders would have an interior passing rushing defensive end in Williams and an edge rusher on the opposite side in Lawson. Add Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith, and Denico Autry to the mix and the Raiders would have arguably the best front-seven in the NFL.
8. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Decker is my third highest rated offensive tackle behind Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley. Even though he is third, Decker is still really good and definitely deserving of the 14th overall pick. Like Stanley, his addition would help improve the Raiders depth at offensive tackle.
9. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
The second highest rated receiver on my board, Doctson isn't too far behind Treadwell. The biggest reason why Treadwell is rated higher on this board is because of their play styles. Doctson may have the best hands in the draft and has a similar play style to Michael Crabtree. Meanwhile, Treadwell has the style of Alshon Jeffery or Dez Bryant, something the Raiders don't already have on their roster.
There are many different directions the Raiders could go with the 14th overall pick. It was difficult to rank them as each player would great addition to the Raiders. As always, I value your opinions and if you have any questions behind my thinking, I will try and answer as many as I can in the comment section.