Oakland Raiders: Do's and Don'ts in First Round of 2014 NFL
Yahoo Contributor Network
By Brian J. Flores
1 hour ago
COMMENTARY | Unlike some other teams that experienced a similarly disappointing 2013, the Oakland Raiders actually have the resources to drastically improve this offseason.
For the Raiders to have a successful offseason, they will need to maximize the value of the over $60 million in cap room available. I have previously addressed whom the team should target during free agency, both on the offensive side and the defensive side of the ball.
Just as important as how the Raiders spend this money is how they use the 5th overall pick.
Like Oakland, the teams picking in the top four have plenty of needs, so it is especially difficult to predict who will still be available when the Raiders are on the clock.
There is a clear division between those players worthy of the 5th overall pick and those that are mostly media hype. The Raiders' first-round picks have been anywhere from questionable to just plain bad over the last decade. They can't afford to miss again.
If this offseason is going to be a success, the team must get this year's pick right.
DO: Select DE Jadeveon Clowney
After a strong start to the season, the Raiders' defense faded badly as the season progressed. This was due in part to the offense's ineffectiveness, but also because of the defense's inability to get off the field.
There were several times throughout the season where a defensive stand would've placed the team in a position to win, but they didn't have a playmaker to make it happen.
Sometimes a defense succeeds because of scheme and overall efficiency, but sometimes the team just needs an individual to go 1-on-1, beat the guy across from him, and make a big play. Clowney can be that player.
DON'T: Select QB Johnny Manziel
For all of his highlight-reel plays, Manziel is nowhere near polished enough to prove he can be an NFL quarterback.
Oakland finds itself in a unique position. The Raiders already have a quarterback with incredible athleticism but who's undependable from the pocket in Terrell Pryor.
If the team was seriously considering using this style of quarterback, they'd just stick with Pryor. However, the San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur and CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair have reported that Pryor is more and more unlikely to return.
The Raiders have already begun to realize that the athletic "playmaker" quarterback with an unreliable arm doesn't work, so it makes no sense to pick this same player in the draft. Selecting Manziel would be redundant.
DO: Select WR Sammy Watkins
In a draft that will have several intriguing wide receivers, Watkins is head and shoulders above the rest. He's arguably the most dynamic playmaker available on either side of the ball.
He's an interesting pick because he'd be added to an offense that wasn't as bad as the team's record would suggest. As I mentioned in a previous article, the Raiders' offense was actually quietly effective, and at times even dangerous, with Matt McGloin under center.
During his six starts, the Raiders led the NFL in passing plays of 20+ yards, and McGloin led all quarterbacks in passes of 25+ yards, all without a true number one wide receiver.
Watkins has the ability to be that number one and would help the offensive to be consistently effective.
DO: Select OT Jake Matthews
Matthews is both the least exciting and the safest option.
This is exactly the type of player the Raiders need. He's not flashy. He's not going to show up on too many highlight reels. He's just going to go out every game, do his job, and consistently perform at a high level.
It's been reported that the Raiders are likely to resign Jared Veldheer. Matthews would then be added to a group that includes Stefen Wisniewski and Veldheer, creating a very solid O-line to build an offense around.
DON'T: Select QB Blake Bortles
Every year heading into the draft, there are a few players that seem to come out of nowhere and suddenly become must-have, can't-miss prospects. Bortles is this year's prime example of this phenomenon.
While Bortles certainly put up some impressive stats at the University of Central Florida and is an impressive athlete, the notion that he should go top 10, much less 5th overall, is misguided.
The Raiders can't afford to risk their first pick on yet another risky prospect with potential.
DO: Select QB Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater is the only quarterback option that warrants being picked 5th overall.
Although there are plenty of intriguing quarterbacks in the draft, the reality is that they're all a long way from being an effective starter in the NFL.
Though Bridgewater is by no means a guaranteed success (no pick ever is), he is by far the most NFL-ready. He exhibited the touch, accuracy, and smart decision-making to make plays at Louisville that the Raiders have completely lacked since the retirement of Rich Gannon.
Bridgewater would give the team the quickest route from draft pick to NFL starter.
DO: Consider Trading The Pick
With the crop of players available at the top of the draft, there are several options that could immediately improve the team. But with so many holes, the Raiders need to try to select as many top-level prospects as possible.
This doesn't mean that the team should be especially eager to trade the pick, but there is always a team that falls in love with a particular prospect. They could look to move up in order to secure the selection.
It's possible that the Raiders feel a player is a true difference maker, in which case they should take him if he's available. But if the Raiders find a buyer willing to part with a mid-first-round pick and a high- to mid-second-round pick, they need to seriously consider making the trade.