The Raiders were ever-so briefly thought to be a quarterback needy team during this draft season. No, a quarterback desperate-team. But then came Matt Flynn, and a crisis has been at least temporarily averted.
Is Flynn the future? Maybe, probably, or maybe not. As it pertains to this draft as a whole, though, the move to acquire Flynn was much more meaningful than a single quarterback joining a single team. Like the Cardinals — Oakland’s trading partner in the Carson Palmer deal — the Raiders knew there was a very good chance they’d be in a position to select this draft’s best quarterback. Although there’s still a faint chance that could happen, they showed their lack of desire to pursue Smith by finding another solution.
That’s been the theme throughout the top 10. Along with the moves made by Oakland and Arizona at quarterback, the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith. There’s been a dominant effort to avoid Geno Smith, or any first-round quarterback, which is the ultimate commentary on this year’s draft class at the position.
Instead for the Raiders, the early focus will turn to the large men on the interior of the defensive line. After a defensive gutting this offseason which included exits for Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, along with Matt Shaughnessy, Philip Wheeler, and Michael Huff, the priority for a defense that finished 31st in sacks this past season with 25 should be pressure up front.
1. Earlier on in this draft season Sharrif Floyd was a common pick for the Raiders at third overall, and he’s still slotted there in some mocks. But now if they go with a defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei may be favored, and Floyd will fall. Who do you prefer?
Star Lotulelei makes more sense for the Raiders. He’s more versatile and a more proven commodity. The position he fits best is nose tackle, and currently the Raiders don’t have a solid starter at that position.
2. A defensive end is another possibility. If Dion Jordan makes it past the Jaguars, is that an automatic pick? Even if he doesn’t, Ziggy Anash and maybe Barkevious Mingo will also be tempting.
As far as fits for the team, Ansah makes the most sense, as Jordan and Mingo are both considered 3-4 outside linebacker types and the Raiders run a 4-3 base. However, Ansah is also the biggest risk. He has the least production of all the top picks. I don’t see the Raiders taking a DE at the three pick.
3. Then there’s the quarterback question, which again centers around what the Jaguars do. If they pass on Geno Smith, I think the best move for Reggie McKenzie would be to field trade offers and then draft a developmental quarterback after the Matt Flynn trade. Agree? Or do you think Smith is in play for the Raiders?
Smith is not in play for the Raiders. I don’t think they look at Smith even if they trade down in the first round. I agree that they should look to draft a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.
4. Another direction is a tackle, with one of either Eric Fisher or Luke Joeckel almost definitely available. However, selecting one of the draft’s premier left tackles will require moving Jared Veldheer to right tackle. Will the Raiders wait to address their offensive line? If they can somehow get a second-round pick back (Cincinnati has Oakland’s second rounder as part of the Palmer trade), Kyle Long or Menelik Watson would fit in nicely.
It makes no sense to move Veldheer to right tackle. He is one of the better left tackles and he is coming up on the final year of his rookie deal. A move to right tackle would be a waste of talent, and will all but ensure he leaves as a free agent to become a left tackle somewhere else. For that reason, right tackle is what they will look to draft, and none are worth the third overall pick.
If they can trade down in the first round, a guy like D.J. Fluker is a possibility. Otherwise, they’ll be content to wait until the mid rounds to address the position and roll with Khalif Barnes if need be.
5. What other needs should be addressed?