Updated April 11, 2020 - 2:44 pm
After a flurry of free agency activity reeled in nine players and addressed needs at linebacker, defensive line and secondary, the Raiders created tremendous flexibility for themselves in the 2020 draft.
They have five picks in the first 91 selections, including the 12th and 19th picks in the first round.
No longer dealing with multiple gaping roster holes, they can narrow their focus to wide receiver and additional help in the secondary while remaining true to their draft board with their remaining picks. By eliminating desperation, they can let the draft come to them rather than reaching on players to fill positions.
They now have the option of either trading up into the top five or 10 for a must-have player or, more likely, trading down at various points in the draft to accumulate more picks.
After extensive research trying to separate fact from fiction, a difficult task given how teams do their best to keep their draft plans secret, here are three plausible ways the Raiders could use the 19th pick, which several other teams covet, to improve their roster.
Trade with Lions for third overall pick
Conventional wisdom has the Raiders staying put at No. 12 and drafting the best wide receiver available among Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Henry Ruggs. All three represent a major upgrade and can complement a Raiders offense poised to be one of the most explosive in the NFL.
On the other hand, with the wide receiver prospect pool as deep as it’s been in years, the Raiders could wait until day two to address that position. If so, they can be aggressive with their two first-round picks to move up to secure a must-have player.
The Lions are in need of an infusion of talent and could be open for business at No. 3. The Raiders could seize the moment by sending Detroit their picks at 12 and 19, along with one of their three third-round picks and their second-round selection in 2021 to get possession of the third pick overall.
Once there, they’d have their pick among coveted quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and Justin Herbert of Oregon and linebacker Isaiah Simmons of Clemson.
Chances are the Raiders only make a move like this if coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock are fixated on Tagovailoa or Herbert as the future face of the franchise. If so, Derek Carr, the presumed starter in 2020, immediately becomes a valuable trade asset, perhaps for a 2020 second-round pick, with recently signed Marcus Mariota taking over as the starter and serving as the bridge to either Herbert or Tagovailoa.
Trade down with Vikings
While the conversation always circles back to quarterback for the Raiders, there are strong signals they are satisfied with Carr and are eager to supply him with a full assortment of offensive assets. Gruden has overseen two drafts and three free agent periods, and other than the signing of Mariota, who lost his job with the Tennessee Titans, he hasn’t dabbled much in the quarterback world.
Remember, for all the smoke about the Raiders and Tom Brady, when it got down to it, it was never a legitimate option. By staying put at No. 12 and reeling in either Jeudy or Lamb, Carr would finally have an offense that is stout across the board.
The attention immediately turns to pick No. 19, where a slew of promising prospects can be had. Understanding the multiple choices available to them and wanting to add a second-round pick to their draft capital, the Raiders could seize on the various needs of the Minnesota Vikings. By dangling picks No. 19 and No. 159 (fourth round) and agreeing to swap third-round picks (Raiders get pick No. 89 and the Vikings get pick No. 80), the Raiders would get the Vikings’ first-round pick at No. 25 and their second-round pick at No. 58.
At No. 25, the Raiders would be in position to add one of their coveted targets from this group — Alabama safety Xavier McKinney, Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs and linebackers Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma and Patrick Queen of Louisiana State.
In the second round, they’ll be in position to add another starting-caliber player — perhaps LSU safety Grant Delpit, Michigan edge rusher Josh Uche, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall or, if the Raiders are eyeing a developmental quarterback, maybe Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.
Stay put and draft best available player
The Raiders under Gruden and Mayock have displayed discipline in putting this team together, and that has put them in position to take another big step in 2020. Yes, there is motivation to add a second-round pick, but there are other ways to make that happen that don’t include making one of their first-round picks available.
While there will always be speculation about the quarterback, by playing their draft cards right, the Raiders can finally surround Carr with what would be his most complete team. Carr could take it from there, and chances are by this time next season he would have solidified himself as Gruden’s unquestioned quarterback.
As it currently stands, the Raiders are in a strong position at No. 12 to bring in one of the top three wide receivers in one of the deepest wide receiver classes in years, plus add an impact safety, cornerback or linebacker at No. 19.
In this case, standing pat could be the best approach.