Good news, Oakland Raiders fans: The rebuild is on! The trade for Khalil Mack, as bad as it was, was the first step. Trading Amari Cooper to the Cowboys netted a 1st round pick, giving the Raiders something very impressive: Three 1st round picks in 2019. Their own (Top 5), Chicago’s 1st (likely in the 10-20 range), and Dallas’s 1st (likely in the 10-20 range).
Now, the bad news: Jon Gruden historically has not been very good at this drafting thing. When he was in Tampa Bay, Gruden made 61 picks in seven seasons. According to one report, only three of those became Pro Bowlers (Davin Joseph, Jeremy Zuttah and Aqib Talib), but only one of them was a Pro Bowler in Tampa.
(Aside: Making a Pro Bowl is just one metric of how they performed. It’s not the end-all be-all.)
A brief overview of those picks: Joseph, a guard, went 23rd in 2006, and made two Pro Bowls while playing for the Bucs. Zuttah, also a guard, was a 3rd round pick in 2008 and made one Pro Bowl later in his career (with the Ravens). Talib was a no-brainer, an All-American Tampa took with the 20th pick in 2008. While good in Tampa (on the field), Talib didn’t pop until he got to New England and then Denver, and he made five Pro Bowls.
We’re not even halfway through the NFL season, but here’s an early look at players the Raiders could be targeting in the 2019 NFL Draft:
Raiders pick (Top 5, possible #1): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. Right now, Herbert looks like the QB with the most NFL potential. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, he’s certainly got the size and arm strength. He’s struggled a bit the last two weeks as the Ducks have stepped up in class (vs Washington, Washington St.), but his talent is obvious. There’s a tiny chance he stays one more year, as he grew up 10 miles from Autzen Stadium, and perhaps ponders staying to chase a title. But we heard the same about Sam Darnold. As the process plays out and it’s clear Herbert’s going to be the #1 pick, he’ll pick the NFL.
Cowboys pick (Today, it’d be 9th): Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama. The Raiders can’t get to opposing QBs, and are tied for last in the NFL in sacks with seven. It’s like they could use Khalil Mack or something. Williams plays on the interior, and is very disruptive (8.5 TFL in eight games). In a draft loaded on the DL, Williams is probably in the 2nd tier with guys like Dexter Lawrence and Jeffery Simmons.
Bears pick (Today it’d be 15th): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. Through seven weeks, the Raiders are dead last in YPA of opposing QBs (9.0), and 29th in QB rating allowed (106.6). Safety Karl Joseph is on the trade block, and you have to wonder if CB Gareon Conley is, too.