With exactly three weeks until the 2018 NFL Draft, let’s take a look at the Raiders’ biggest remaining needs with most free-agency moves in the rearview.
At this point, these areas of concern will more than likely have to be addressed via the draft. But as we’ve seen with some of Oakland’s moves the past several weeks, you never know what exactly Jon Gruden has up his sleeve.
Here’s the top five, counting down in order:
5. Wide receiver
Moves: Signed Jordy Nelson, released Michael Crabtree, traded Cordarrelle Patterson
Notables: Amari Cooper, Nelson, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton
The lowdown: At the annual league meeting in Orlando last week, Gruden said, “Wide receiver, we’re not done there.” Oakland could feasibly upgrade from Roberts and Holton via the draft, which might be that much more important if Nelson doesn’t return to peak Green Bay form. Cooper is a surefire No. 1, but that’s about the only sure thing for the group at this point.
Moves: Signed Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Wilber
Notables: Cory James, Marquel Lee, Whitehead, Nicholas Morrow
The lowdown: Obviously the big question here is the status of NaVorro Bowman. He remains un-signed, and the Raiders have made it clear they want their middle linebacker in silver and black next season. If he’s elsewhere, Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds are possible picks at No. 10. They might still be even if Bowman returns. We take Bruce Irvin out of this bunch because he’ll exclusively rush the quarterback.
3. Right tackle
Moves: Released Marshall Newhouse, signed Breno Giacomini
Notables: Giacomini, David Sharpe, Vadal Alexander, Denver Kirkland
The lowdown: The Raiders should hope their starting right tackle isn’t on the roster right now. They can do better, probably even in the second or third round of the draft, than anyone currently in line to start there – the veteran Giacomini would likely start if the season began tomorrow. Gruden has singled out the right side (excluding Gabe Jackson) as the offensive line’s clear weakness several times, as if you didn’t already know that. If Oakland wants its offensive front to return to NFL dominance, this is a big-time area of need. Might the Raiders stretch for Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or Texas tackle Connor Williams at No. 10? Time will tell.
Moves: Released Sean Smith and David Amerson, signed Rashaan Melvin, Leon Hall and Shareece Wright, TJ Carrie signed with Browns
Notables: Gareon Conley, Melvin, Hall, Wright
The lowdown: Melvin, 28, thinks he can still be a No. 1 cornerback. Is that possible? Sure, but Oakland wouldn’t be ill-advised in snagging Ohio State’s Denzel Ward at No. 10 if he’s available. Having a top two of young former Buckeye studs might just return the Raiders’ cornerbacks corps to respectability, something it was eons from in 2017. Melvin would still play a significant role, and so too would Hall (more so in teaching the youngsters the intricacies of Paul Guenther’s defense as a former Guenther cornerback). This group, dare I say it, is shaping up somewhat nicely considering last season’s results. But there’s still work to do.
1. Defensive tackle
Moves: Re-signed Justin Ellis, Denico Autry signed with Colts
Notables: Ellis, Treyvon Hester, Eddie Vanderdoes
The lowdown: This wouldn’t even be in the top five if Ndamukong Suh joined the Raiders, but he didn’t even take his scheduled visit. So Oakland is left with a sufficient piece in Ellis, a rehabbing Vanderdoes after an underwhelming rookie season and an unproven Hester. The biggest role a better defensive tackle would play is freeing up space for Khalil Mack on the outside. Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea almost makes too much sense at No. 10 given deficiencies here, but we’ll see if the Raiders go for biggest need in the first round or address the nearly as pressing holes aforementioned.