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Double-down: Ranking each position if the Raiders used both first round picks on it

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Vegas has picks 12 and 19, would it make sense in any realm to use both of those on the same position?

NFL: SEP 09 Broncos at Raiders Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are not many examples of this. I know because I did some research. I’m not going to claim that I did exhaustive research — I had plenty of energy left by the time I was done searching Pro-Football-Reference for a little while — but I went through plenty of motions to get here.

You’ll see the results of some of those motions at the bottom of the article in notes, but here’s the most relevant find to the premise at hand.

In the 2000 NFL Draft, the New York Jets held picks 12 and 13 and neither of those picks were their original first rounder. That was pick 18, which they kept and used on quarterback Chad Pennington.

Pick 12 originally belonged to the Carolina Panthers, but they lost it to Washington (as well as their 1999 first rounder) because they signed defensive tackle Sean Gilbert. Oh what different times those were. Washington then traded it to the San Francisco 49ers, along with their original first rounder at pick 24, to move up to 3 for offensive tackle Chris Samuels. The Jets then sent pick 16 (acquired from the New England Patriots as compensation for them signing Bill Belichick ... oh what different times those were) and pick 48 to move up to 12.

That’s how New York general manager Bill Parcells managed to wind up with pick 12: Lose Belichick to the Patriots — oh what would the Jets do now to undo that deal? — and package that with a second rounder to go up and get defensive end Shaun Ellis.

But that’s not all...

In one of the most stunning trades in Jets history, Keyshawn Johnson left New York yesterday when he signed an eight-year, $56 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In exchange, the Jets received Tampa Bay’s two top draft picks, giving New York an unprecedented four first-round selections.

Parcells also traded his top receiver, the first overall pick four years earlier, to the Bucs in exchange for picks 13 and 27. Tampa Bay only had pick 13 because of an earlier trade in which they sent their 1998 second rounder to the San Diego Chargers for their 2000 first rounder.

Put another way, Bill Parcells sent Belichick to New England and Keyshawn to Tampa Bay, helping determine the next four Super Bowl champions. Great Job, Bill. (He left the Jets the following year.)

Those are historical sidenotes that I’m having trouble leaving out of the piece because they are so interesting to me but the short story is that the New York Jets ended up using four first round picks in 2000: Ellis at 12, Pennington at 18, and tight end Anthony Becht at 27. With the other pick they received from the Buccaneers, Parcells opted to double-down to fight off what issues he had with a pass rush that featured a team-leading 5.5 sacks by outside linebacker Mo Lewis and a defensive end grouping completely void of talent by selecting John Abraham at 13.

Shortest story: In 2000, the Jets picked back-to-back defensive ends in the first round.

Ellis played 11 years with New York, making two Pro Bowl rosters and averaging seven sacks per season. Abraham played 6 years with New York, making three Pro Bowl rosters during that time, and one first team All-Pro roster. He averaged 9 sacks per season and then had quite a few more successful campaigns with the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals.

The Jets are far from being the Patriots but the double-down strategy paid off if we’re just looking at individual success of these two players. It was also not foreign to Parcells, who in 1999 used both of the Jets first two picks (they didn’t have a first rounder though) on guards. He also needed some more receivers after trading Keyshawn, so Parcells used his next two picks after the first round on wideouts.

One of those receivers was Laveranues Coles, so again it seemed to work well. If you need something, why not double your odds? (This is anecdotal evidence in the smallest of sample sizes! Don’t believe my lies!)

The Las Vegas Raiders hold picks 12 and 19 in this year’s draft. In his first year as GM, Mike Mayock held picks 4, 24, and 27, and he held where he was. He didn’t double down on a position, though you could say he doubled down on pass defense. Actually, if you look all the way down to round four, Mayock spent five of his first six picks on pass defense: two pass rushers, two cornerbacks, one safety.

Under those guidelines, it would be easy to find many examples of a double-down or triple-down strategy. In terms of looking for two players at the exact same position getting drafted by the same team in the first round, you won’t find many examples other than Ellis and Abraham. And the Jets needed a record four first round picks to do it.

Will Mayock double down on a position with 12 and 19? Almost certainly not. But if he did!!!!

!!!!

!!!!

You might rank the positions to do it at as such, from least sensible to most sensible when you weigh these factors:

  • Positional value
  • 2020 Raiders needs
  • 2020 draft class

From least sensible to most:

Doubling Down on Special Teams

If there was a team to do it ... the Raiders drafted punter Ray Guy 23rd overall in 1973 and kicker Sebastian Janikowski 17th overall in 2000. Only three kickers and two punters have ever been drafted in the first round. These are both positions that could be addressed between now and the start of the season but not in the first round.

Doubling Down on Tight Ends

The position itself makes for an interesting argument ever since the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez duo revolutionized the Patriots offense. Strangely enough though, most top 10 picks at tight end have been 1980 or earlier. Last year, T.J. Hockenson became the highest drafted tight end (8th overall, Detroit Lions) since Vernon Davis in 2006. However, this class is one of the worst groups of draftable tight ends we’ve seen and Las Vegas has no need after signing Jason Witten to pair with Darren Waller.

Doubling Down on Interior Offensive Linemen

Another draft class, maybe this makes more sense. But this class has very little in the way of projected first round talent at center and guard. The Raiders could draft Cesar Ruiz, Netane Muti, Taylor Biadasz, Shane Lemieux — there’s a lot of names being tossed around but little consensus on how many, if any, of these interior linemen will go in the first round. Generally speaking, not a bad idea perhaps to bulk up inside. For 2020, for a team with Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson, it makes even less sense.+

Doubling Down on Offensive Tackles

A totally sensible move in some scenarios. However, this draft has four premier tackle prospects and it is possible that all four are gone before Vegas picks at 12. Even if they managed to get the fourth-best one of those players they’d probably be reaching at pick 19. And they’d also have two backups since Kolton Miller and Trent Brown both still exist.

Doubling Down on Running Backs

In most years I might put RBs at lower priority than TEs, but the TE class has no first rounders and there are at least a couple of interesting guys at RB. The Raiders wouldn’t have a place for them over Josh Jacobs, but I could justify it by having insurance at the game’s most fragile position. In this scenario, Vegas takes both D’Andre Swift and perhaps J.K. Dobbins or Jonathan Taylor or Zack Moss, giving Jacobs carries and using lots of 2-RB sets.

This would be pretty pointless though and send Twitter into a hellscape from which it will finally never escape.

Doubling Down on Linebackers

Grouping all the linebacker positions together, I don’t see a need to go crazy here. The Raiders signed Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski and that’s about maxing out your positional value in a 4-3. If the team did end up adding someone like Kenneth Murray or Patrick Queen in the first round, that makes some sense. Both would be highly unnecessary! No surprise! Doubling down is rare!

Doubling Down on Safeties

The top-ranked safeties in this class are Xavier McKinney and Grant Delpit, by most accounts. I don’t know how well they would play together, or how they’d fit in a secondary with Jonathan Abram, Lamarcus Joyner, Jeff Heath, and Erik Harris. At least with safeties, maybe there’s some positional fungible-ness to work with here.

Doubling Down on Defensive Tackles

Right now the Raiders have Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins, P.J. Hall, Kendal Vickers, and they signed Maliek Collins. On a scale of 0-10, I would place the need for defensive tackle around a 5, leaning towards a 4. However, if you could convince me that Derrick Brown falls to 12 and Javon Kinlaw falls to 19, and you’re describing a defensive line with Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Brown, and Kinlaw, then we wouldn’t be talking about “needs” at all. We’d be talking about a foundation.

Doubling Down on Quarterbacks

Yes, we finally got here and I don’t regret this placement whatsoever. Las Vegas has Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. They’ve even got DeShone Kizer and Nathan Peterman in case they need a QB3 or a player to step in as QB2 if need be. But hypothetically speaking if a team chose to believe that the most valuable commodity in the NFL was a great QB on a rookie contract, then what’s to stop a team from making multiple attempts at it?

Theoretically a team could draft two of these players: Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jalen Hurts. Let’s say it’s Love and Hurts just for the hell of it.

Then with those two players they could decide that after careful consideration, Love is deserving of a starting position right now, Hurts is a valuable commodity to develop behind him, and Carr is expendable. Then after one season, if Love looks the part, Hurts is traded. If Love doesn’t look the part, maybe Hurts has already taken over, and Love is traded. This is all speculation of course, and it could also be that both quarterbacks are bad. Or the mere presence of another QB prospect pushes both players into their worst timeline because they’re always looking over their shoulder. Or they’re confused as to who is the real QBOTF. Or any other number of scenarios.

BUT ... Nobody thinks it’s asinine when a team uses two first round picks to acquire one quarterback and those trades happen all the time. Why should we think it’s asinine to use two first round picks to acquire two quarterbacks? Especially given what I posited earlier, that a great QB on a rookie deal may be the most valuable commodity in the NFL.

Using two first round picks on two quarterbacks in the same year would be a highly criticized and ridiculed move at the time of the draft — especially if it was made by a historically-poor team, which a number of franchises are used to being classified as — but if the team came away with one really good QBOTF then what would it matter?

This is in no way a move I’m suggesting for the Raiders. I am simply defending the concept. They should not do this.

Doubling Down on Edge Rushers

This could be the best double-down move in general but this first round leaves something to be desired after Chase Young goes in the top three. Mayock could potentially grab K’Lavon Chaisson and then perhaps Yetur Gross-Matos, A.J. Epenesa, or other. This is not necessarily the biggest need because of Ferrell and Crosby’s presence but also if they just went all-in for pass rushers, it is less open to criticism than an overabundance of most other positions.

Doubling Down on Cornerbacks

If the Raiders could use the first pick on Jeffrey Okudah then corners would be the most likely double-down and the most valuable to Vegas. Or maybe any team. Good corners are harder and harder to find as the league strives to each more passing yards for its quarterbacks and Jon Gruden would easily have a place for two high-profile players to develop there. Even without Okudah, there’s a sensible path here.

The team could take C.J. Henderson and Trevon Diggs, throw them into the fray with Trayvon Mullen, Eli Apple, Nevin Lawson and co., see what happens. Successful picks are often so random, this would hopefully help guide the Raiders to at least one really good cornerback on the defense.

Doubling Down on Wide Receivers

It makes the most sense for Vegas and it makes the most sense for this draft.

While I don’t think that the Raiders need to find the next Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins to be successful, I don’t think it would hurt to bolster the weapons for Carr or whoever the quarterback may be in the season after next. This receiver class has plenty of prospects who can make passing the football very exciting, which is simply not a skills that Tyrell Williams or Zay Jones or Nelson Agholor possess. I don’t even need to name the prospects, you’ve heard about them many times before and will again.

Especially if they’re booking a trip for two to Vegas.

Sidenote:

  • In 2003, the Arizona Cardinals drafted WR Bryant Johnson 17th overall and WR Anquan Boldin 54th overall, making a solid case for not avoiding a position just because you had already made one early move. If that wasn’t enough, in 2004 they drafted Larry Fitzgerald.
  • On the other hand, the Detroit Lions drafted Charles Rogers 2nd overall in 2003, Roy Williams 7th overall in 2004, Mike Williams 10th overall in 2005, and Calvin Johnson 2nd overall in 2007.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Reggie Williams 9th overall in 2004, Matt Jones 21st overall in 2005, both as receivers.
  • In 2019, the Atlanta Falcons drafted two offensive linemen in the first round, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.
  • The Tennessee Titans took three offensive linemen in the first round in four years: Chance Warmack, Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin.
  • In 2010, the San Francisco 49ers drafted tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati in the first round.
  • In 2006, the New York Jets selected offensive linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in the first round, both potential Hall of Famers.
  • The Raiders selected guard Mo Collins 23rd overall in 1998, then guard Matt Stinchcomb 18th overall in 1999.
  • From 2011-2014, the Houston Texans selected J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney in the first round. From 2015-2019, the 49ers selected Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Nick Bosa, the latter three in the top 7. NY Jets 2011-2015: Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams.
  • Washington is potentially going to draft DE Chase Young. They’ve taken a defensive lineman in the last three first rounds: Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Montez Sweat.
  • Give me more examples, my research officially got exhausted