The Raiders can’t afford to gamble in this year’s NFL draft, which begins Thursday.
With a roster thinned by two years of salary cutting, Oakland needs to avoid its draft mistakes of the past and start stockpiling young, elite talent.
If Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie can’t find a willing partner to trade his No. 3 overall choice for extra picks in this draft, he can’t afford to strike out with the first first-round choice he’s had since joining the franchise.
Because a mistake would be a huge setback for McKenzie’s rebuilding project, don’t expect the Raiders to reach for a surprise at No. 3, such as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, West Virginia wideout Tavon Austin or BYU’s raw but talented pass rusher, Ziggy Ansah.
As Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami noted, if McKenzie can’t move out of that third spot in Round 1, he will make a safe pick.
“I think McKenzie will first and foremost aim to be reasonable with the No. 3 pick – he’ll want somebody who affects the line of scrimmage (where the Raiders got destroyed last year), somebody who can play right away and somebody who doesn’t come in with any health or behavior red flags,” he wrote.
Though Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has most often been mentioned as a possibility, the Raiders could go for an offensive tackle, either Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah recently wrote there is a “lot of buzz” that the Raiders will specifically draft a left offensive tackle – which likely would mean Fisher, since Joeckel has been projected by many to be the No. 1 overall choice of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Though the Raiders already have a solid young left tackle in Jared Veldheer, Oakland could solidify its offensive line by moving Veldheer to the right side. Or, perhaps, though Fisher is labeled a left tackle, he could be moved to the right side and Veldheer could stay put. Either way, the Raiders would have a pair of young tackles to anchor the line for many seasons to come.
It’s a strategy the 49ers have used, with Joe Staley and Anthony Davis the bookends for one of the best offensive lines in the league.
In fact, Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group projected such a scenario in his most recent mock draft, in which he has McKenzie selecting Fisher.
“If the Raiders truly want to mimic the 49ers’ rebuilding, they’ll fortify the line,” he wrote. “And Fisher’s alma mater is the same as 49ers left tackle Joe Staley’s.”
Fisher is big, at 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, and some scouts like him even better than Joeckel.
The scouting report on Fisher by CBSSports.com says: “Fisher is a smooth mover in any direction and does a nice job breaking down in space to handle speed rushers, showing the eye discipline to mirror defenders. He has added ‘good’ weight the past few years and plays with a strong frame and core.
“Fisher is a fiery competitor and plays with more pop than expected, delivering power in the run game. But he looks comfortable in pass protection and has worked hard to improve his technique and instincts at the position.”
If the Chiefs should take Fisher, the Raiders could grab Joeckel. With either, they’d be taking a safe building block in a low-risk, high-reward move.