It's that time of year again...where everything is a lie or misinformation.
Completely unknowable is where Oakland will go with the 14th pick on Thursday night, and that's just because of the nature of the slot.
Two monstrous trades have already come about in the past 10 days, and thankfully Oakland isn't a part of either them. It's time like these that hitting on Derek Carr will pay off for Reggie and his draft staff. Throw in bonus hits like Mack and Cooper and you've got a nice brew effect that leaves the BPA strategy intact.
Names that have flown around are purely speculation at this point...but they include the following prognosticated pick divisions:
Division I - Hope they fall to No. 14
1. RB Ezekiel Elliott - Ohio State
2. CB Vernon Hargreaves III - Florida
3. DE Shaq Lawson - Clemson
4. OT Ronnie Stanley - Notre Dame
5. OLB Myles Jack - UCLA
Division II - Likely to be there at No. 14
1. CB William Jackson III - Houston
2. CB Eli Apple - Ohio State
3. DT Sheldon Rankins - Louisville
4. ILB Reggie Ragland - Alabama
5. OLB Darron Lee - Ohio State
6. OLB/EDGE Leonard Floyd - Georgia
7. OT Jack Conklin - Michigan State
8. OT Taylor Decker - Ohio State
Division III - Dropped off since March
1. CB Mackenzie Alexander - Clemson
2. EDGE Noah Spence - Eastern Kentucky
3. DT Robert Nkemdiche - Ole Miss
Division IV - Wild Cards
1. WR Corey Coleman - Baylor
2. WR Laquon Treadwell - Ole Miss
3. S Keanu Neal - Florida
4. DT Vernon Butler - Louisiana Tech
5. S Vonn Bell - Ohio State
Division 1 Commentary:
Basically, Division I is loaded with players who have Top 10 level talent, but may fall for whatever reason. Elliott is the consensus top rusher in this draft, but rumblings of a party habit may sour him out of the Top 10. If he makes it to No. 14, it'll be interesting if the Raiders want to take him outright, or, more likely in my opinion, engineer a trade down. Hargreaves seems to be a player that a lot of analysts think will fall to 14, but with the production throughout 36 straight starts at Florida, it's clear the guy can play at a high level -- however, this author remembers his positively horrid performance vs. Michigan in his final Bowl game as a Gator...Harbaugh's disciple ate him alive, did VH3 just cash it in?
Rounding out Division I are two defensive monsters in Shaq Lawson and Myles Jack. In recent news, Jack's medical rechecks leave mixed reviews. It only takes one team in the Top 13 to put aside those concerns for a clear cut athletic talent like Jack. Strong enough to play either OLB spot, but fast as a SS/FS, his versatility and intelligence will be monumental to any NFL club that adds his services, assuming his knee remains in tact for the next half decade. As for Shaq, his medicals came back positive for most teams, nobody questions his motor or competitiveness and the production was consistently high. I imagine he's atop Reggie's board should he drop to No. 14, but honestly, don't think he'll make it that far....still, said the same thing about Mack.
Last but not least is the highly talented OT Ronnie Stanley. Does he have talent? Yes. Does he have experience? Yes. Are there some questions about his heart and motor? Yes. While Tunsil is the clearcut monster OT of this class that should go in the Top 5, the reviews on Stanley are mixed. His tape flashes the traits of a top blind side protector, but his attitude and willingness to scrap it up are still in question. Scouting circles are split on his projection into the pros, and some don't like Roc Nation altogether, Stanley's representation. Regardless, at No. 14, and with Penn back for a few years, a kid like Stanley would be invaluable insurance for the coming years in front of Derek Carr. Also, Stanley's from Las Vegas...a possible destination for the Silver and Black.
Division II Commentary:
In Division II lies the conundrum that McKenzie eluded to in his draft PC a couple of days ago...picking at No. 14 is lot different than picking in the top 5. The War Game scenario gets more complex the further you go down the board. Hopefully, Oakland plays it like the Panthers did a few years back and just gets the best damn guy on their board. All the typical names are here, Apple, Jax III, Lee, Floyd, Ragland, Rankins. Any one of them would be a solid addition, but how much risk are the Raiders willing to take on?
The two tackles, Conklin and Decker....most lean toward Conklin in the Oakland community, bigger, self made, tested better athletically etc. etc. However, Cleveland is eluding to Conklin at No. 8...so maybe Stanley is expected to be taken no later than No. 6 by Baltimore.
Reggie and Co. may go outside the box on this pick if a topper doesn't fall to No. 14. A trade down would be likely, but have a feeling the market at No. 14 will only develop on Thursday night depending on how the Top 13 pick it. The interest at the moment has to be relatively low...and no doubt that has Reggie grumbling a little bit. The value of this draft lies in the 25-60 range. The Titans have it stacked in line with the depth of this draft, Reggie would love to do the same.
If you put a gun to my head on the Div. II names, I'd say Reggie is leaning cornerback, the popular pick lately has been William Jackson III. A contentious choice considering Oakland's history with Houston defensive backs. The Apple has soured a bit since Feb/March, I always am wary of college teams so loaded on one side of the ball that there's talk the starting 11 will all go in the top 150...clearly, as a unit, they're stellar, but picking somebody out of that group to shine in the pros is the difficult part. Was Apple really that dominant?...or just a byproduct of Urban Meyer's loaded defense...a defense that didn't win the National Championship last season.
Floyd, Ragland and Lee are all interesting prospects. Ragland draws comparison to Rolando McClain, a former Raider draft bust...the guy is large, smart but he doesn't chew up the ground in pass coverage like Ben Heeney or even Malcolm Smith...Lee does however, the guy can flat out fly, but he's incredibly young and needs more time to mature as a football player, but ability-wise, at LB he may be right up there with Jack, and he's 100% healthy. When you talk Floyd among Raider Nation, you get differing views, is he big and talented? Yes. BUT, where the hell are you going to play him? OLB, DE, ILB -- the guy lacks the production you want to see out of a Top 20 pass rusher, but physically, he's impressive -- could be pure silver, or could be another Vernon Gholston, buyer beware. FWIW, Reggie's group brought Leonard Floyd in for a private visit to Oakland a while back.
Division III Commentary:
The Big 3 who have the talent but are slipping due to off-the-field issues or having a rocky draft season. Most notably in the draft community, Alexander is starting to slide as scouts are not buying his overconfident act. Young and talented, but you wonder about ability to make big plays and create turnovers. Spence was a former Ohio State blue chip recruit, who let drugs buy him a ticket to Richmond, KY. He's an elite pass rushing prospect with need to develop against the run...his off-the-field stuff will remain a blemish, the interview performances he laid down will also be a determining factor in how much teams will trust him as a pro. Oakland certainly has a locker room community to keep Spence in line. Spence also had a stellar Senior Bowl week.
Nkemdiche should be the consensus top DT in this class, but his tape is so woefully inconsistent I can't imagine any team dropping a Top 15 pick on him. The Raiders need an inside pass rush talent, however, as Mario Edwards Jr.'s future seems to be up in the air.
Division IV Commentary:
Adding Reggie Nelson is a huge safety blanket for the draft squad in Oakland...however, that doesn't change the fact that Oakland needs an infusion of young talent at the safety positions. Neal has been the sexy pick in the Top 30 of late, though his coverage skills are inconsistent, his ability to affect the game through his tenacity and toughness (he can hit) give him an edge. He's not afraid to enforce against the run, but he's still young, and needs to develop against the pass. Likely he'll start at SS in the pros. Vonn Bell is a ballhawk type with a strong ability to get turnovers. He had a huge 2014 season with 6 INTs, but he lacks the pure physicality to truly affect the game in a much more physical NFL. Likely a Day 2 guy, but his knack to create plays will be big for him if he goes in the 1st.
BPA in scout circles could also lead to WR at No. 14. While it isn't a direct position of need, Treadwell or Coleman are tremendous talents. It's a passing League...and with Denver being so talented in coverage, more weapons for Oakland is only going to make them more potent...and for all their accolades in 2015, the Raiders were 16th Overall in Passing Offense and 14th in 3rd Down efficiency, having strong able receivers is a must in the NFL.