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Will the Raiders add help on the offensive line early in the draft?

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Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals

We’re just a day away from the start of the 2019 NFL Draft where the Oakland Raiders have three first round picks. One of the major questions for fans has been whether the team will use an early draft pick on an offensive lineman, either to replace guard Kelechi Osemele, or as the potential heir apparent to center Rodney Hudson who is slated to be a free agent after the 2019 season.

Regardless of whether or not the team decides to use one of its four early picks on an offensive lineman, there is one key idea to keep in mind given that Tom Cable is the offensive line coach: simply put, Cable loves youth.

Throughout his time with both the Seattle Seahawks and the Raiders, Cable has not shied away from putting young, inexperienced players on the field. Raiders fans saw this in 2018 when he chose to start rookie left tackle Kolton Miller and later Brandon Parker as an injury replacement. This was little more than a continuation of his habits with the Seahawks.

In Seattle, in 2016 and the first half of 2017 the Seahawks fielded the youngest, least experienced offensive line in the entire NFL, as measured by both age and games started. In his first year back in Oakland he stayed on that path, with the Raiders going from having the most experienced offensive line in 2017 to having a starting line that was below the NFL average for starting experience in 2018. This trend is likely to be continued in 2019, as the experience lost with the trading of Kelechi Osemele’s 93 career starts puts the Raiders in position to have one of the least experienced offensive lines in the league in 2019.

Specifically, as it stands now, the Raiders projected starters on the offensive line have a combined 240 career starts. Individually, those break down as:

  • LT Trent Brown - 44 starts
  • G Denzelle Good - 23 starts
  • C Rodney Hudson - 96 starts
  • G Gabe Jackson - 72 starts
  • RT Kolton Miller - 16 starts

That is a combined 251 games started by the projected 2019 Raiders line, a number that would have been below league average in any of the past five seasons. Further, it’s a number that could dip lower if a young player is drafted and inserted at guard to replace Osemele.

Furthermore, the team’s experience on the offensive line is obviously concentrated at center and right guard, as Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson make up nearly two thirds of the projected line’s starting experience. That jumps to nearly 74% of the team’s experience on the offensive line if a rookie is tabbed to start at the other guard spot.

Thus, the fact that Cable has routinely chosen to go young on the offensive line combined with the fact that Hudson is a free agent after 2019 could lead to some interesting possibilities.

I don’t think it likely that Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are ready to watch a repeat of the team’s 2018 offensive line in 2019, but there are some trade possibilities that could make sense, specifically with respect to a couple of linemen Cable coached in Seattle who have slipped on the Seahawks’ depth chart. These two players are 2016 sixth round pick out of TCU, Joey Hunt, and 2017 second round pick out of LSU, Ethan Pocic.

Pocic and Hunt are both highly intelligent with good form, but both are considered either undersized (Hunt) or lacking the core strength to be a mauler in the run game (Pocic), as current Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari tends to prefer from his interior offensive linemen. Thus, it is possible that either of these players - both of whom were multi-year starters at center in college - could be brought to the Raiders in order to put a succession plan in place for the team at center.

Both Pocic and Hunt are familiar with Cable’s system, while both are also young. Hunt turned 25 in February, while Pocic will not turn 24 until after training camp starts this summer.

Combining these facts with the fact that the Seahawks hold only five draft picks heading into Thursday, and it could create an opportunity for the Raiders to fill the guard spot vacated by Osemele by trading a late round draft pick for a former second round pick who is buried on the Seahawks depth chart. For anyone interested in learning more about Pocic, here is a link to his draft profile from 2017 when he was coming out of LSU, as well as a review of his biggest weakness I did during his rookie season over at Field Gulls.

In short, the Raiders will be doing something to fill the void created when they traded Osemele, the only question is exactly what they will do.

Poll

How would you prefer the Raiders address the guard spot left open by trading Kelechi Osemele?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Use a Day 1/Day 2 pick
    (356 votes)
  • 39%
    Use a Day 3 pick
    (380 votes)
  • 3%
    Undrafted free agent
    (37 votes)
  • 7%
    Trade for a player like Pocic or Hunt
    (69 votes)
  • 13%
    Sign a former high draft pick like Chance Warmack or Luke Joeckel
    (129 votes)
971 votes total Vote Now