The past few years have been rough on the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis’ exorbitant contracts put the team in a cap nightmare, and poor drafting and free agency signings put poor talent on the field. Since taking over in 2012, general manager Reggie McKenzie has put in a lot of work and taken a lot of grief for the rebuilding campaign he is attempting to implement.
In 2013, with little cap space, he had to rely on the draft and bargain free agents to restock his team. For the first time since 2010, the team finally had a first round pick. In order to build up his depth, McKenzie spent a lot of the 2013 draft trading back, acquiring more picks. The biggest was trading back from the 3rd overall pick to the 12th overall pick in a trade with Miami, also acquiring Miami’s 2nd round pick as well to replace the 2nd round pick they traded to Cincinnati for Carson Palmer.
It is safe to assume that this year’s draft will be no different for the Raiders with the 5th overall pick. However unlike last year, the top of this year’s draft contains some elite prospects. Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack are out-of-this-world pass rushers that would boost the team’s sacks. Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Blake Bortles are light years ahead of any signal callers in the 2013 draft.
While the Raiders do want a franchise to eventually take over for veteran stop-gap Matt Schaub. With Houston (1st pick), Jacksonville (3rd pick), and Cleveland (4th pick) all seeking quarterbacks, the top three QBs are likely to be gone by 5. With their recent history of trading up, couple with a deep need for pass rushers, Atlanta is likely to trade up to 2 and grab Clowney.
This leaves Oakland to take Khalil Mack with the fifth pack. Mack is a great fit and a foundational player for the Raiders, but in the interest of continuing an all around rebuild instead of one great player, Oakland should trade back.
There is still depth later in the draft at quarterback, edge rusher, cornerback, safety, and running back; all of which are serious needs for the Raiders. A great move would be to trade first round spots with the Detroit Lions and also get their second round pick. By sacrificing the 5th pick, the Raiders would pick up the 10th and 45th picks. Unless the Vikings (8th) or Bills (9th) or someone else trading up snags Mack, he could still be available at 10 as well. So the Raiders could get the player they want, and also snag an extra pick. That 5th pick makes sense for the Lions as well so they can pick Sammy Watkins to complement Calvin Johnson.
In the event Mack isn’t available, they can still trade back even further. There is great value in the late teens of the draft. Oakland could pick up an offensive lineman or a corner easily. But if Oakland can get to 10, they should just stand pat and pick the best available player on the board.