There’s a level of unpredictability to every team in this week’s NFL draft, starting with the Arizona Cardinals and the No. 1 pick.
But no team has more options, and seems like a looser cannon, than the Oakland Raiders.
Thanks to the reputation that Jon Gruden set in his first year as Raiders head coach, we expect Oakland to do something crazy. Anything seems on the table. Then give the Raiders three picks in the first round, some mystery at quarterback and a lot of holes to fill, and it seems like anything is possible. Not to mention that they already let their scouts go home early to presumably avoid anyone learning their plans.
“We are wide open to moving up, we are wide open to moving back,” Gruden said, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair. “We are wide open to just sitting there and taking a guy that falls to us.”
Raiders using high picks from two huge trades
The Khalil Mack trade might end up going down in infamy, as might the Amari Cooper trade, but we also haven’t seen the players the Raiders get back from them.
The Raiders have the fourth, 24th, 27th and 35th picks in the draft. The 24th pick came from the Bears for Mack, and No. 27 was from Dallas for Cooper.
It might not be as easy as seeing who the Raiders take with those picks and using them to evaluate both trades. Oakland seems ready to move up or down from any of their picks. The fact that they have a new general manager, Mike Mayock, who we know from his NFL Network analysis but is a wild card as an executive, makes the Raiders even tougher to figure out.
As Bair pointed out, the Raiders made six trades last year.
“That’s why we are opening up the lines of communication with all the teams around the league,” Mayock said, according to NBC Sports Bay Area. “I keep telling our guys, and you guys have heard me say this before, we need to be nimble, and nimble means depending on what the situation is to be able to react quickly according to the situation and make the right decision.”
A team like the Raiders, coming off a 4-12 season with a depleted roster, usually would move down and stockpile picks if possible. Though, moving up doesn’t seem crazy either.
Raiders could go in many directions
The Raiders have sent mixed messages about Derek Carr this offseason. They called Carr a franchise quarterback. They also met with Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins, two quarterbacks expected to go in the first round on Thursday night. Perhaps that’s due diligence. But teams with no interest in quarterbacks don’t often ask for meetings with the top quarterbacks in the draft.
If the Raiders don’t move up to take Murray, or use their later picks to move up to the middle of the first round to grab another quarterback who slips, they could go in just about any direction in the draft. There’s not really a position the Raiders couldn’t use, even after being active in free agency. They need pass rushers and linebackers and defensive backs and offensive linemen (though that might be the team’s best unit) and a running back and some more pass catchers, even with Antonio Brown on board. Tell yourself any story about the 2019 Raiders draft — moving up to take Murray, moving down to get even more picks, staying put and taking someone who won’t be mocked to them anywhere — and it wouldn’t be too unbelievable. Anything would fit.
Last year, Gruden came in and turned everything upside down, making moves that were surprising and ridiculed endlessly. And yet, the Raiders seem even more unpredictable this year, with a lot of draft ammunition and a many different ways to use it.
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