The Raiders Realist
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FSM Presents: The Raiders Realist – It Is Drafty In Here, Close Those Sliding Doors

Franchise Sports Media


“The longer our trail of regrets, the more we tend to value the importance of making wise decisions.”

– Bob Santos


The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

The 2021 NFL Draft is two weeks away, which is enough time for everyone with an opinion to hone in on why theirs is right, why everyone who disagrees is an idiot, and why we all wonder how Mel Kiper Jr. became an ‘expert’ in making guesses about the futures of professional football players. Or, for me, to play an all-time favorite sports clip.

I personally have never put too much stock in mock drafts other than to evaluate how group think sifts these young men out and sorts them. For such an exact science, you rarely have an understanding of why certain guys are meant to be where they are. What you do have is much more of a clear fear of being the person who dares to stand in their beliefs and, like a game of musical chairs, finds themselves the odd person out when the music stops.

So since I really do not care for this, instead, I thought it would be fun to have a little exercise in what a team might look like if the Raiders had taken players who generally were in a consensus to be mocked to them. In other words, if the consensus of the talking heads got their way, would the Raiders on paper be a much more competent team, having been built over the last four years? I chose four because that would ensure every player drafted is still potentially under their rookie contract right now. I am also limiting the picks to the first four rounds because I have other things to do.


Alright, let’s hop in the DeLorean and go back in time.


The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: Getty Images

2017– Round 1, Pick 24. The Raiders started the first draft after their great run to the playoffs in 2016 with a head-scratcher, taking Gareon Conley. Head scratcher because Conley was the second-best corner at Ohio State (foreshadowing) and was dealing with a sexual assault case. Among the players mocked to them at this pick were WR John Ross and DE Taco Charlton, but the very general consensus was another corner, current Green Bay Packers starter Kevin King.

Round 2, Pick 56. Disaster alert! The Raiders took hybrid corner/safety Obi Melifonwu at #56 overall. The overwhelming choice for this pick was linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

Round 3, Pick 88. Double disaster alert! At number 88, Eddie Vanderdoes was the pick. The mocks were varied, but the general idea was a running back with a split between Clemson RB Wayne Gallman and Toledo RB Kareem Hunt here.

Round 4, Pick 129. The last of the 2017 picks were offensive tackle David Sharpe. Of the limited mocks beyond three rounds still available, the player most frequently tabbed to the Raiders here was defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.

So for 2017, instead of Conley, Melifonwu, Vanderdoes, and Sharpe, the Raiders have Kevin King, Raekwon McMillan, Wayne Gallman (because Kareem Hunt was drafted by the Chiefs two picks prior), and Larry Ogunjobi. This is like going to a used car lot and trading in a 1998 Saturn and getting a BMW in good condition in return.


But I digress, we’re on to 2018.


The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle

Actually, before I jump in, I have to admit, I was tempted to just look up current general manager Mike Mayock’s mock of the 2018 NFL Draft and just slot them in, but that was derivative, so I just folded him in with the others instead. So here goes.

2018- Round 1, Pick 10. Remember, initially, the Raiders were slotted at #10 overall before trading down with the Arizona Cardinals five spots and taking offensive tackle Kolton Miller. While there were some mocks that had guys like cornerbacks Denzel Ward or Jaire Alexander here, the overwhelming choice at this spot was the top-rated offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame.

Round 2, Pick 41. Once again, the Raiders traded down in the actual draft, moving back 16 total spots to #57 and selecting defensive tackle P.J. Hall out of Sam Houston State. This was an intriguing spot, with no clear pick. Players mocked here included eventual Raider Maurice Hurst, linebacker Malik Jefferson from Texas, and University of Pittsburgh offensive tackle Brian O’Neill. Jefferson is the guy simply because of the first-round mock of an offensive tackle to them.

Round 3, Pick 75. Interestingly enough, the Raiders traded this pick as well. Only, they packaged it to move up 10 spots in the draft to take offensive tackle Brandon Parker out of North Carolina A&T. Of the mocks I have seen, the split is between safeties Terrell Edmunds from Virginia Tech and Texas A&M’s Armani Watts. Well, Edmunds was taken in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, so we’re going with Watts here.

Round 4, Pick 110. Big yikes alert! With this pick, the Raiders took cornerback Nick Nelson from Wisconsin. The mock pickings after three rounds are slim, but the man at this point is cornerback Holton Hill out of Texas.

So this year, instead of Miller, Hall, Parker, and Nelson, the Raiders end up with Mike McGlinchey, Malik Jefferson, Armani Watts, and Holton Hill. As incredible as this is to say, somehow, even with two of the four players not even currently on the Raiders roster and the jury still very much out on Brandon Parker, they would have been worse off with the replacements. McGlinchey has been nowhere near as good as Miller the last two years, Jefferson is not on an NFL roster, and both Watts and Hill are backups in Kansas City and Minnesota respectively. This was an awful draft outside of Kolton Miller and the value of Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, yet evidently, it still could have been worse. My head hurts.


2019 felt like the tipping point for the Jon Gruden roster construction. The trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper in 2018 netted two additional first-round picks for this draft, giving the Raiders three picks in the first 27 spots. A real opportunity to get young, club-controlled foundational pieces to build off of.


The Raiders Realist
Photo credit: Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

2019- Round 1, Pick 4. We took Clemson’s defensive end, Clelin Ferrell. Which was not what many fans expected, to say the least. The hands-down consensus here was EDGE rusher, Josh Allen, from the University of Kentucky. The names Devin White, Quinnen Williams, and Rashan Gary had been floated, but the reality was Allen was the guy. Many thought this was a bit of a slam dunk, even if not an ideal position fit, until rumblings started about a surprise. And it was.

Round 1, Pick 24. Interestingly enough, this is the first pick where projection and reality match up. The Raiders drafted running back Josh Jacobs, which was precisely what the general consensus at this pick was. The desperate need for a running back coupled with Jacobs being the only back deemed as worthy of a first-round draft grade synchronized this choice.

Round 1, Pick 27. With the third and final choice of round one, the Raiders took safety Johnathan Abram out of Mississippi State. Opinions varied wildly on this one, with a few having Jacobs land at this pick instead of #24, along with players such as tight end Noah Fant out of Iowa and cornerbacks Rock Ya-Sin from Temple University and Byron Murphy from Washington. But ultimately, the narrow choice was another cornerback, Greedy Williams from LSU.

Round 2, Pick 35. The Raiders moved back twice in the actual draft, first to #38 and eventually to #40, before selecting Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen. There was a bit of a split here with Fant and Mullen being mocked here. But the narrow margin actually ended up going to Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown. This A.J. Brown. Damn.

Round 4, Pick 106. There was no 3rd round pick because it was traded to acquire a wide receiver from the Pittsburgh Steelers. You know who. In the fourth round, defensive end Maxx Crosby out of Eastern Michigan was drafted. There is no consensus on this, so I default to a player closest to who the Raiders actually selected in TCU defensive end Ben Banogu.

Instead of Ferrell, Jacobs, Abram, Mullen, and Crosby, the Raiders end up with Josh Allen, Jacobs, Greedy Williams, AJ Brown, and Ben Banogu. It is a fascinating trade-off to wonder how Allen would have been deployed under former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, what A.J. Brown would do in Jon Gruden‘s offense, and if Greedy Williams could perform like Trayvon Mullen has in Silver and Black.


The hope was that the 2020 draft class would help the Raiders make the jump to playoff status. And well, offensively, they did. But I am not sure it was because of the picks made in the draft. Defensively, well let us just check the picks.


The Raiders Realist
Photo credit: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

2020- Round 1, Pick 12. It was almost a certainty the Raiders were going wide receiver with this first of two picks in round one. The question was, which one? There were three players, all seemingly in the running: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, and Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III both out of Alabama. Ultimately, despite Lamb being the consensus mock choice and the general choice as the #1 overall receiver in this class, the Raiders selected Ruggs.

Round 1, Pick 19. Let’s get negative! In what was seen as a huge reach, the Raiders tabbed Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with the 19th overall pick. In a move that paralleled what the team did in the 2017 draft, Las Vegas went took the second-best corner from Ohio State at a spot that was seen as too high for the player. Among the players mocked here most often were Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell, Utah corner Jaylon Johnson, and LSU corner Kristian Fulton. But the guy who had a narrow consensus was LSU linebacker Patrick Queen.

Round 3, Pick 80. There was no pick in the second round because when you trade a generational defensive talent away like Khalil Mack, it is important to somehow include a second-round pick with him. Unreal. At pick 80, the Raiders drafted hybrid running back/wide receiver Lynn Bowden out of Kentucky. Some of the names mentioned were Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliott. Still, the slim consensus was University of Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson.

Round 3, Pick 81. The Raiders went back to back with Bowden and South Carolina wideout Bryan Edwards. Among the names floated here were Utah running back Zach Moss and corner Terrell Burgess, as well as Auburn corner Noah Igbinoghene. In this instance, the narrow consensus was for Georgia offensive guard Solomon Kindley.

Round 3, Pick 91. Frequent swindler of the Raiders in the draft and trades and on the field, the New England Patriots moved up, and the Raiders actually drafted at #100 overall, taking Clemson safety/linebacker hybrid Tanner Muse. At number 91, the Raiders were mocked, generally speaking, to take LSU offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles.

Round 4, Pick 121. In actuality, Las Vegas gambled to move up 12 spots and selected Clemson guard John Simpson. There actually is no consensus pick for this spot, so we will just keep Simpson slotted here in his place. Easy enough.

For this most recent draft, instead of Ruggs, Arnette, Bowden, Edwards, Muse, and Simpson instead, the Raiders end up with CeeDee Lamb, Patrick Queen, Tyler Johnson, Solomon Kindley, Saahdiq Charles, and John Simpson. I imagine the tenor of this past offseason and upcoming is a lot different if there was not one but two young guards and a tackle in-house ready to step in and play on the offensive line in 2021 and beyond.

Lamb does not give the Raiders the pure vertical speed to threaten the defense but is a much more consistent and reliable wide receiver and much closer to the #1 receiver than Ruggs is currently. Queen would have been a day one starter on the 2020 roster, and the potential of Edwards is offset by Johnson, who flashed ability on the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Considering the Raiders got absolutely nothing from Bowden and Muse (with Bowden no longer on the team), a three-headed lineman monster seems like a much better roster option currently.


You can never handicap a roster year to year, let alone 3-4 years with Jon Gruden running a team, but for the purposes of this exercise, let us imagine what these changes would do for the roster.


Starting offense:

QB-Derek Carr

RB-Josh Jacobs

WR-CeeDee Lamb

WR-A.J. Brown

Slot WR-Hunter Renfrow

TE-Darren Waller

OT-Mike McGlinchey

OG-Richie Incognito

C-Andre James

OG-Solomon Kindley

OT-Saahdiq Charles


Denzelle Good would be very much in the mix for a spot, but my goodness, I have to think the Raiders would have thought twice about the purge of the offensive line. On paper, that is not a good offensive line at all. Wayne Gallman paired with Josh Jacobs is not as good as Jacobs and Drake but costs about $6.5 million less. Lamb instead of Ruggs is an upgrade. A.J. instead of John instead of Antonio is a giant Brown upgrade. Paired together with Darren Waller, suddenly Carr has a dominant receiving corps, and the skill positions are suddenly top 6-7 in the entire league. They would just have to keep him upright.


Starting defense:

DE/LEO-Josh Allen

DT-Larry Ogunjobi

DT-Jonathan Hankins

DE-Yannick Ngakoue

LB-Patrick Queen

LB-Nick Kwiatkoski

LB-Cory Littleton

CB-Kevin King

CB-Greedy Williams

FS-Karl Joseph

SS-Jeff Heath


The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune

On paper, this defense looks much better. Allen and Ngakoue are reunited from their lone year together with the Jacksonville Jaguars when they combined for 18.5 sacks in 2018. You know, just 2.5 sacks less than the 2020 Raiders had combined. The key here is Ogunjobi, an absolute no doubt improvement in the pivot for the Raiders defense. Queen, Kwiatkoski, and Littleton are a young, fast base linebacking corps, perfect for what current defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has done historically in his Cover 3 defense.

King and Williams are an upgrade over Mullen and Arnette, mostly because of Arnette’s recorded struggles. That is not to say he could not improve in a new system in just his second year. Safety would still need to be addressed as both Joseph and Heath are fringe starters at best and stop-gap type players.

So, there you have it—a long exercise in the futility of the draft. The Raiders roster does look better, but better is relative. Coaching, injuries, and execution all matter on the field. Just as much is general availability. The Raiders since 2017 have drafted far too many players that either did not play at all (Lynn Bowden), not very much (Obi Melifonwu, Eddie Vanderdoes, David Sharpe, Nick Nelson), or not very well (P.J. Hall, Gareon Conley, Johnathan Abram, Brandon Parker). That is far too much red ink for a team whose colors are supposed to be Silver and Black.


Thankfully, the past is not always prologue. But I cannot blame other Raiders fans if they make like former President George W. Bush, who infamously said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

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CJ Baldwin – Franchise Sports Media

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