ALAMEDA, Calif. — An NFL draft the Raiders devoted months to preparing for and consider a potential franchise turning point is here. If all goes to plan, it will produce multiple Las Vegas household names.
The Raiders own the Nos. 4, 24 and 27 overall selections Thursday evening during the first round, which will take place in Nashville, Tennessee. The draft, which will be televised by three networks, will give Las Vegans an idea of what’s to come when the Strip hosts the league’s premier off-field event next year.
This year, coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will run the draft from the Raiders’ current headquarters in Alameda. The Raiders own eight picks total, including the No. 35 pick Friday.
A potential budding core to the Las Vegas Raiders will take shape during the three-day event, which is the club’s final draft before a scheduled 2020 move to Southern Nevada.
Despite rumors involving former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the Raiders’ future starting quarterback is not expected to be added Thursday. Derek Carr remains the favorite for that role.
It appears far more likely they’ll select a pass rusher like Houston’s Ed Oliver or Alabama’s Quinnen Williams at No. 4; ex-Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa should already be off the board. A trade down also is a possibility.
The team has a number of offensive needs that likely will be addressed later in the first round.
Increasingly, Las Vegas is on the Raiders’ mental forefront. They privately met with several potential first-round picks in the weeks before the draft. They discussed the relocation with some, including details about the team’s future headquarters in Las Vegas. Players currently on the roster have begun to explore homes in the greater Las Vegas area.
Left tackle Kolton Miller, a 2018 first-round pick, began construction on a home there this offseason, he said.
The draft’s fourth to seventh rounds will be held Saturday. The Raiders announced Wednesday that those selections will be revealed from the construction site of their future $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas.
Last year, the franchise traded All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack and former Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper, compiling draft picks while saving cash and cap space. Cooper was dealt to the Dallas Cowboys for the No. 24 overall pick. A larger haul of picks was exchanged for Mack, including the Chicago Bears’ No. 27 choice.
“We have to hit on them, obviously,” Mayock said earlier this offseason. “What I keep trying to tell our staff, from A to Z, is those two seventh-round picks are just as important as the three first-round picks, and the college free agents that we sign after that are just as important. We are trying to build a culture and accountability and talent. We are trying to do all these different things.
“We got (eight) picks, and we value all of them. We need to hit on a high, high percentage.”
From afar, Las Vegas watches and waits.