The Las Vegas Raiders hold picks 12 and 19 in the upcoming NFL draft and their only glaring need on offense is a high-end wide receiver. You can definitely make your arguments for quarterback but for now let’s continue to assume that the Raiders main focus on that side of the ball is getting the quarterback a weapon to do even more than just complement Tyrell Williams.
The good news is that this draft class may be the most loaded at receiver that we’ve ever seen and the league is already coming off of a historical season for rookie wideouts. That being said, not many are projecting a receiver to go in the top-10 quite yet and that could leave Mike Mayock with his choice of the top option of this class, if not at least top-five, should he choose to wait until his second first round pick.
Maybe Jerry Jeudy would be a top-6 selection in a class that wasn’t so front-loaded with several quarterbacks getting top-10 consideration, an elite pass rushing prospect, defensive tackle prospect, cornerback prospect, linebacker/safety prospect, and four offensive linemen. Because the WR class is so stacked, Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb and the other headliners are a little less valuable early.
But I can only work with what I’m working with so for now let’s take a look at the receivers who’ve been drafted in the mid-first round range over the last decade. That’s what Mayock would potentially be doing if he chooses a receiver in the first and I like historical draft range comps as a starting place for expectations.
Vegas has picks 12 and 19 but I’m going to expand each selection be three in either direction for a slightly wider range. These are the 11 receivers who’ve been drafted between 9 and 22 since 2010:
- Demaryius Thomas, Broncos, 22nd in 2010
- Michael Floyd, Cardinals, 13th in 2012
- Kendall Wright, Titans, 20th in 2012
- Odell Beckham, Giants, 12th in 2014
- Brandin Cooks, Saints, 20th in 2014
- DeVante Parker, Dolphins, 14th in 2015
- Nelson Agholor, Eagles, 20th in 2015
- Corey Coleman, Browns, 15th in 2016
- Will Fuller, Texans, 21st in 2016
- Josh Doctson, Washington, 22nd in 2016
- John Ross, Bengals, 9th in 2017
Okay, so, hmmm... yeah, not great.
Before anyone starts seeing this as a doom-and-gloom post about the inability to find star receivers in this range lately, let me say that this isn’t so bad. Thomas, Beckham, Cooks are quite good, Parker is now worthy to be mentioned among them, and Fuller is fairly useful. But I realize this is not what you are envisioning when you think of the Raiders adding Jeudy, Lamb, Ruggs, Laviska Shenault, Justin Jefferson, or someone else.
I think one of the things people have the hardest time doing sometimes is adequately balancing expectations vs expectations in hindsight. What I mean is that they see this list and they go “But there’s a huge difference in Agholor and Ruggs and that’s what you don’t get, Mr. Arthur! You’re a friggin’ idiot now! Everyone laugh at the friggin’ idiot!”
Except that many people loved these receiving prospects prior to them getting drafted and then for quite a few of them, falling well below those expectations. It’s just a reality of sport and life. The reality is that for some of the receivers who get drafted this year, they won’t be good enough for the pro ranks.
It doesn’t mean that Jeudy or Jefferson or Tee Higgins or Denzel Mims or fill-in-blank can’t succeed at the next level. Only that before, during, and for months after the draft, we’ll have a very hard time separating the next Corey Coleman from the next Odell Beckham. If the Raiders are set on finding that upgrade for the quarterback, they will take multiple shots at securing the right guy.
Luckily, this is a great draft for that.
(Fun note: The top 6 rookies last year in receiving yards were all drafted after the first round, including two in round three, three in round five, plus A.J. Brown at 51 and D.K. Metcalf at 64. Teams can wait on receiving talent a little bit, and they will. Reminder that Vegas has three third round picks.)