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Raiders shouldn’t gamble in their 1st Las Vegas draft

Bartender — I mean Mike Mayock — make it a Jameson, neat.

I’m not against playing things straight when it makes sense. I also don’t buy the idea that those who won’t risk can’t win.

The Raiders might still be a year or two away from accomplishing the latter in big ways, but that doesn’t mean now is the time to gamble for the sake of it.

Remember. A draw of Ace-King looks like an unbeatable hand. It’s also the most dangerous, even if the card’s back design is that of Tua Tagovailoa.

Holding two first-round picks at 12 and 19 when the NFL draft commences Thursday, the Raiders would be smart to trust the research of general manager Mayock and coach Jon Gruden. Identify players of need. Make the picks. Get better.

I know. Fear not. The Twitter handle and email address are at the bottom of this column. Fire away. I have read it all.

Granted, it’s not a sexy approach. Gruden would likely scowl at the mere thought of it. OK, scowl more than usual. But when you have one playoff appearance in 17 seasons, continuing to add elite players at a multitude of positions can’t possibly be considered foolish. Unless you miss. Which is always a story for another time.

“I think the biggest mistakes people make is trying to reach for need,” Mayock said. “The board will fall whatever way it falls.”

Las Vegas (man, that’s still weird to type when talking about an NFL team) needs a No. 1 wide receiver more than Gruden does a tutorial on connecting virtually. And he supposedly struggles turning on a computer.

They also still desire much help on defense. Patrick Mahomes can cover Kansas City receivers better than the Raiders have in recent times, and he’s the one throwing.

Mayock said linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, signed last month as a free agent from the Bears, will wear the green dot as a main defensive communicator. If you have seen the Raiders defend of late, you know they also need dots of every color of the rainbow. All of whom can play.

The good news: There is perhaps a historic level of talented receivers in the draft — guys who will go in the third round that might own first-round talent.

There are also enough defensive backs that, should the Raiders decide on one at 19 — or even trade back off the spot to get a second-round pick — things should produce a promising rookie in coverage.

The caution to all of this: Doesn’t it still depend on how Mayock and Gruden really feel about quarterback Derek Carr?

It’s draft week, so know that where there is smoke there is usually no fire. Think rubbing two water-soaked sticks together.

But the rumors about moving Carr won’t stop — it’s going on what, two years now? — and few have discounted the theory that the Raiders could either trade up for a quarterback (Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert), hope one of them falls to 12 or consider another like Jordan Love at 19.

If they do take a quarterback in the first round, how quickly would they look to package Carr for picks? Um, likely pretty fast.

Stay the course

None of this might be in their plans, but Marcus Mariota sure adds an element of interest. The Raiders finally have a backup quarterback who could absolutely start in the interim as a rookie learned behind him.

I wouldn’t do it. First, the quarterback class of 2021 is deeper and better overall than what will be available Thursday after the top three options. If losing continues under Carr, not that the team’s record over six seasons falls solely on his shoulders, the Raiders could draft his replacement next year.

Because if the losing continues, they would be more than positioned to do so.

The offense isn’t that far away. Running back — terrific. Tight end — ditto. Line — solid when healthy. Complementary receivers — would be much better alongside a true No. 1.

Carr needs to be better. But far more important spots must be improved, even following some upgrades via free agency.

Stay the course. Trust the research. Keep filling holes.

Take those pocket Jacks in the first round and progress accordingly.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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