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Raiders quest for No. 1 receiver could be filled in draft
By JOSH DUBOW
The plan the Raiders had to fill their No. 1 receiver role backfired last year when Antonio Brown ended up getting cut before even playing a game for the franchise.
The Raiders could get a second shot at it in the upcoming, receiver-rich draft with plenty of intriguing options and two first-round picks.
The Raiders have the 12th and 19th picks thanks to the 2018 trade that sent star pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. Several receivers are projected to go in the first round. Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb are considered by many analysts to be the best of the bunch. At least one and possibly more of that group figures to be on the board when general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden make their decision at 12.
"I think the three guys that you mentioned all have different traits," Mayock said. "I think they're all high-level players. There's a whole bunch of wideouts. There's all kinds of flavors and sizes. ... There could be a wide receiver No. 1 in the third round. Fit is really important. I think the cool thing though about Jon's offense, and I think what he showed last year especially with what he did with our tight ends, Jon's adaptable to whoever he has. That's the cool thing."
With team personnel forced to draft from their homes because of the new coronavirus pandemic, Mayock is embracing the challenge. He has white boards with about a thousand magnets on them in his living room and says this process isn't much different to how he prepared for the draft during his time as an analyst at NFL Network.
"For me personally, part of it is kind of what I've done for the last 20 years," he said. "It truly is. I feel very comfortable sitting at my dining room crunching tape, calling college coaches and looking to get any advantage, any information I can on every guy we're interested in."
AROUND THE CORNER
The Raiders brought in several potential starters on defense during free agency led by linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, free safety Damarious Randall and defensive tackle Maliek Collins. The one position that wasn't addressed was cornerback where they are still looking for someone to pair with second-year player Trayvon Mullen. Using a first-round pick at that spot is an option, as well as potentially trading down to add a pick in the second round, where the Raiders currently have no selections.
"I think the biggest mistake that people make is trying to reach for needs," Mayock said. "The board will fall whatever way it falls. If we're fortunate enough to get a corner that would be great."
TO QB OR NOT QB?
Derek Carr took a step forward in his second year in Gruden's offense and the Raiders also added a capable backup in the offseason in Marcus Mariota. But both Carr and Mariota have no guaranteed money on their contracts beyond this season, so the Raiders could look for a younger QB to develop. While using a first-round pick might be a stretch, the Raiders could be in the market for a second-day quarterback like Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts.
If they don't make trades, the Raiders will be busy in the third round with picks 80, 81 and 91. They have their own selection, one from Chicago that came in the Khalil Mack trade, and one from the deal that sent Gareon Conley to Houston. The third round hasn't been kind to the Raiders of late, with only two of their 10 picks (Gabe Jackson, Sio Moore) the past nine seasons starting more than 15 games for the franchise.
"Three picks in the third is just like stealing. If we're doing our jobs the right way, hopefully that's three more starters," Mayock said.
The Raiders struck it big on the third day of the draft last season, grabbing the runner-up for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Maxx Crosby in the fourth round; promising tight end Foster Moreau later in the fourth; then slot receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fifth round. This year the Raiders go into the draft with two picks on the final day, coming in the fourth and fifth round.
"I think a lot of people get fired up and the mock drafts are all about the first round and people scream and yell about who the quarterbacks are, but at the end of the day, to me, the third day is just as important as the first," Mayock said.
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Updated April 16, 2020