As the saying goes: "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
Such appears to be the case with the Raiders' 2020 NFL Draft outlook. A month ago, it looked like the Raiders might get a top-10 pick from the Bears as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continued to struggle and the losses kept piling up.
But wins over the Giants, Lions and Cowboys later, and the Bears now sit at 7-6 -- a better mark than the Raiders -- and dreams of picking before double digits have evaporated.
Not to worry, though.
The Silver and Black still are projected to have two picks likely in the 14-19 range, which means they'll have their pick of some talented, potentially franchise-changing prospects, many of whom will play for their conference championships this weekend.
As the Raiders prepare for a critical Week 14 battle with the Titans at Oakland Coliseum, let's look at some guys who could be wearing silver and black next season who are playing for conference glory this weekend. (It goes without saying the Raiders would love to have guys like Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Joe Burrow and the like, but they'll be well off the board, so they are not mentioned here).
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Let's start here, shall we?
Derek Carr has enjoyed a fine season for the Raiders -- a career-year in some respects -- but two straight clunkers in a row and the hordes are at the gates. Head coach Jon Gruden now has two seasons to see whether or not he believes Carr is the guy to lead the franchise as it transitions to Las Vegas. If he isn't, Gruden could look to take the future leader of the Raiders in the first round.
Enter: Oregon's Justin Herbert.
Herbert has all the physical tools you want to see in an NFL quarterback. He's 6-foot-6 with great mobility and a rocket arm. There are times when Herbert pops and you see why NFL scouts love him. Then, there are times -- too many of them -- where his footwork is bad and his decision-making questionable.
Herbert is completing 67.5 percent of his passes this season. He's thrown for 31 touchdowns and only five interceptions, although two of them knocked the Ducks out of the College Football Playoff race. He's been hampered by the staff turnover in Eugene, Or., and the decision to go from the spread to a pistol-heavy scheme. He needs coaching, and who better to do so than Gruden?
Justin Herbert can't be stopped!
The @oregonfootball QB throws a TD in his first play after leaving the field with an apparent knee injury. pic.twitter.com/yHhZrPb9iT— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 3, 2019
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
We've talked about Lamb before so let's keep this quick
He's one of the two best receivers in a loaded class. The Raiders desperately need help at wide receiver no matter who the QB is. He's got incredible hands, is great at making defenders miss and is a solid route runner. NFL scouts still would like to see how he does against more press coverage, but if he's on the board when the Raiders pick, he should be their man.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Here's another guy we've already dug into a bit, and a guy who more than likely will be long gone by the time Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock turn in their cards.
Still, the Raiders are in serious need of a long-term solution at linebacker. Simmons is a linebacker/safety hybrid, who is exactly the type of player that is need in today's wide-open NFL. He can run sideline-to-sideline to chase down running backs, he can cover tight ends (a must if the Raiders plan to catch the Chiefs atop the AFC West), is a solid tackler and can play some safety if called upon.
Once again, he'll likely be gone, but the Raiders would love to have him.
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Since I expect Simmons to be drafted in the top eight, let's go to another linebacker the Raiders could look at.
Murray led the Sooners in tackles last season, and most people assumed that's because Oklahoma's defense was one of the worst in the FBS and he was just cleaning up everybody's mess. While that might have been true, Murray has shown that he's one of the top linebackers in college football this season and a key reason why the Sooners no longer are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to defense.
He's a sideline-to-sideline backer with decent cover skills who looks to be the future in the middle of some NFL team's defense.
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Remember two weeks ago when the Raiders were raving about what a game-changer Jets safety Jamal Adams is? Well, the next great LSU safety looks to be just as talented.
Delpit can do it all: cover slot receivers, play the run, play the deep pass. He has great ball skills and is a sure tackler. Pairing Delpit with Johnathan Abram might be too hard to pass up.
Bradlee Anae, Edge, Utah
The guy trying to make Herbert's life hell Friday at Levi's Stadium could be a solid Day 2 pick for the Silver and Black.
Anae is quick off the edge and is great at using his hands, making him a solid selection. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior might not bring instant impact, but Maxx Crosby wasn't supposed to either. He's been productive at the college level, has a great motor and would be a good fit in the Raiders' edge rush rotation.
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Trayvon Mullen is pretty, pretty good. The Raiders have a decision to make on the other side of the field. Will they bring Daryl Worley back? Or is it time to move on.
The top cornerback in the draft might be a nice place to start. Fulton is a great cover corner with exceptional athleticism. Cornerback might not be the Raiders' top need, but a Mullen-Fulton pairing would be pretty tasty.
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Best of the rest
There are a number of other prospects putting in on the line in Championship Weekend who will hear their name called come April.
Oakland, as stated, is in need of wide receivers. Keep an eye out of Clemson's Tee Higgins (we've talked about him) and LSU's Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase.
Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall will have his work cut out for him going against Higgins and Clemson's receivers.
LSU edge K'Lavon Chaisson will be tasked with impacting the SEC Championship Game against a stout Georgia offensive line.
The Raiders have the Titans and a playoff run on the brain, but Friday and Saturday might be a good time to lock in and watch some potential future Raiders go to work.