With three weeks to go before the Raiders make their first pick in the draft, NFL analysts are all over the yard as to whom Oakland will take. There’s no consensus.
But the interesting thing is that every player penciled in for the Raiders in every mock draft makes sense to some degree.
Among one sampling of 17 mock drafts, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is tabbed the most, at four times, followed by: Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack (3), Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson (3), Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (3), Central Florida QB Blake Bortles (2), South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (1) and Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater (1).
Unless Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie decides to reveal his thinking – which isn’t going to happen – the Raiders will no doubt keep their fans guessing right up to the moment when commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium to announce their selection.
The case for Watkins is perhaps strongest, considering the needs of the teams above the Raiders in the draft order and Watkins’ potential impact. McKenzie says the Raiders need playmakers, and Watson would make an instant impact on Oakland’s ability to score and combine with James Jones, Denarius Moore and Rod Streater to give the team a deep and able receiving corps. Watkins has been touted by some as the best wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson, who became Megatron with the Detroit Lions.
Then, there’s quarterback. Though Oakland has veteran Matt Schaub and second-year player Matt McGloin, few believe in either – which means the Raiders are still looking for the franchise quarterback they’ve been missing for years. So, a case can be made for Bortles, Manziel and Bridgewater – though it’s uncertain which of those players the Raiders like best. Even Schaub recently said he wouldn’t be surprised if Oakland selects a quarterback, because of his age (32) and the fact the team needs to look to the future.
And, the selection of an elite defender such as Clowney or Mack also makes perfect sense. If either is as good as billed, he could be the foundation of a new defense for seasons to come.
Robinson, too, is attractive because the consensus is he could be an All-Pro caliber player at his position and dominate for years to come – though with the Raiders investing so heavily in free agency in players such as Donald Penn, Austin Howard and Kevin Boothe, and with Menelik Watson set to get an opportunity to start in his second season, offensive tackle seems to be less of a need position. If the Raiders take Robinson, it would be because he’s the most talented player available.
And that’s one of the things that makes this draft so hard to predict: we don’t know how McKenzie and his staff have evaluated this group at the top. If they go for the best player available, Oakland’s choice may not be any of these seven players.