As a franchise that has spent the past decade selecting in the top-five of the NFL Draft, the Raiders are in uncharted waters this offseason as they will have to wait until the 14th overall pick to make their first round selection barring a trade. They have nailed his first round pick the past two years bringing in Pro Bowlers Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. But without top-five pick, it will be a tougher task to find the same success this time around.
One thing Reggie McKenzie has going his way is the Raiders enter the 2016 NFL Draft without any major needs to fill giving them flexibility to select the top overall player on their board and draft for depth. Even with no glaring holes on the roster, there are some positions the Raiders could look to upgrade and improve the depth with their first round selection.
With the resigning of Donald Penn, the Raiders will retain both of their starting offensive tackles as well as Menelik Watson. But keep in mind, Penn is approaching 33 and the Raiders helplessly watched as his play declined throughout the 2015 season. On the other side, Austin Howard and Menelik Watson have shown the ability to anchor the right side of the offensive line, but neither player has been able to consistently stay healthy.
Drafting an offensive tackle would give the Raiders a talented player they could groom behind Penn to be their future left tackle as well as increase the overall depth at the position. Some prospects to keep an eye on as potential fits are: Ronnie Stanley, Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin.
With the addition of Sean Smith, the Raiders may have finally solved their longtime cornerback problem. So why then would the Silver and Black even consider selecting a cornerback in the first round? The answer was pointed out by Sports Illustrated's Peter King. Since 2008, the number of defensive snaps in the NFL on which five or more defensive backs were on the field has increased every year. Per Pro Football Focus, that percentage has jumped from 43.4% in 2008 to 63.4% in 2015.
Investing in another cornerback to pair with Sean Smith, David Amerson, T.J. Carrie, and Neiko Thorpe would help out a pass defense that ranked 26th in passing yards allowed (4,140) according to ESPN. Prospects that could be on the Raiders radar include Vernon Hargreaves III, Mackensie Alexander, Eli Apple, and William Jackson III.
Latavius Murray finished as the AFC's second leading rusher with 1,066 yards on the ground. But the Raiders as a team ended the 2015 season ranked 28th in the NFL with 1,457 rushing yards. One thing is clear, the Silver and Black need to increase their depth at running back.
With the devaluation of the position, the only running back I see the Raiders considering in the first round is Ezekiel Elliott. If I am Reggie McKenzie, I would call in that pick in faster than the speed of light as the Raiders would be getting a top-five talent in the middle of the first round. Elliott would combine with Murray to give the offense a true duel threat out of the backfield.
After the Raiders used their 2015 first round pick to select a stud in Amari Cooper, the team turned around and signed Michael Crabtree to a four-year contract extension worth $35 million. It seems the coaching staff also likes the impact Seth Roberts can have in the slot. Crabtree isn't getting any younger and adding more weapons for Derek Carr can only help his development. After an offseason focused on upgrading the defense and offensive line, no focus was spent on the offensive skill positions.
If Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson are available when the Raiders pick, I would imagine the team would at least consider selecting one of them. Imagine what the Raiders passing game would look like if Treadwell or Doctson were paired with Cooper and Crabtree.
The Raiders front-seven is loaded with pass rushers as Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Mario Edwards Jr, and eventually Aldon Smith should wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Dan Williams and Justin Ellis provide value for the run defense, but do not get after the quarterback like Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins can.
Rankins has the explosiveness and quickness that Aaron Donald possessed when the Rams drafted him in 2014. Another potential fit could be Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson who finished among the nation's leaders in tackles for loss (25.5) and sacks (12.5). Either player would increase the Raiders pass rush while allowing the team to rotate players and keep their defensive lineman with fresh legs.