With the 2017 NFL Draft less than three weeks away, the rumor mill is churning out some interesting gossip regarding the Oakland Raiders.
The weight of the world is on the shoulders of the Oakland Raiders right now. With so much talent on the roster and a move to Las Vegas lingering large on fans’ minds, this team needs to start winning now to keep interest up over the next couple of years.
The Raiders didn’t do themselves many favors during free agency, failing to address most of their biggest needs. Apart from the additions of Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson, not much progress was made. They did, however, lose a number of contributors, including their starting running back and a couple of key depth pieces on defense.
If things are going to get better soon, Oakland must put together a strong showing during the 2017 NFL Draft. They’ve currently got eight picks to work with, including an extra seventh-round selection. GM Reggie McKenzie has built some outstanding draft classes in recent memory, and must work more of that magic this April if this team is going to get over the hump.
Luckily for us, the latest rumors give us a decent idea of the team’s plan for draft day. So here they are—five Raiders draft rumors you need to know as we work our way through the early parts of April.
Since the middle of March, there’s been a lot of talk about Marshawn Lynch un-retiring to join his hometown Raiders. While there are a number of hurdles that still stand in the way of this coming to fruition, the Silver and Black are working diligently to make something happen.
Even if Lynch and the Raiders can come to an agreement, the Seattle Seahawks still have to make it work on their end as well. They own his rights, which means they’d likely be expecting some compensation in order to send him back to Oakland. However, if a deal can be figured out, the addition would be huge for the Raiders after Latavius Murray jumped ship via free agency.
Lynch is only interested in coming out of retirement for his hometown team (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). At this point, it seems like there’s too much smoke for there to not be fire even with the looming move to Las Vegas. If I had to guess, I’d say Beast Mode is a Raider before the draft arrives. It would be a great move for the franchise, both from competitive and PR standpoints.
4. Oakland Showing Significant Interest in Joe Mixon?
Now let’s imagine a scenario where things don’t work out with Lynch. The Raiders are essentially left with only replacement-level players at running back, with DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard and Taiwan Jones all vying for touches.
That’s not a great situation to be in. The Raiders absolutely need a more secure starter before the 2017 campaign gets under way. If that’s how it plays out, the team is almost guaranteed to add an early-round running back to the mix. Could that player potentially be Joe Mixon?
Well it’s no secret the Raiders have shown interest, even bringing the Oklahoma product in for a visit (via ESPN’s Adam Caplan). A number of teams are doing their due diligence with Mixon, whose draft stock plummeted after a video from 2014 was released a few months back of him punching a woman. The only reason we’re even talking about him is because he has Day 1 talent.
If they liked what they heard from Mixon, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders kept him on their draft board. Missing out on Lynch would make their need for a starting-caliber running back all the more dire. If he’s still available on Day 2, you better believe some teams (possibly even Oakland) will consider pulling the trigger.
3. Small-Schooler Jordan Morgan a Late-Round Target?
It’s not often we hear about potential NFL Draft picks coming out of Kutztown University. However, in the case of Jordan Morgan, it appears as though the former Golden Bear could wind up hearing his name at some point during the 2017 NFL Draft.
According to SportingNews.com’s Kristian A. Dyer, Morgan has earned the attention of a number of teams. Among the interested are Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and, you guessed it, the Raiders. He also has a workout scheduled with his hometown Philadelphia Eagles in a couple of weeks.
As Dyer mentions, the Kutztown product has received significant interest due to his size and athleticism, both put on display at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. However, there are obvious concerns surrounding the Division II talent—level of competition being one of them. All in all, though, the physical potential appears to be present with Morgan.
Especially with a need for more depth at offensive tackle, targeting Morgan in the later rounds isn’t a bad idea for the Raiders. They could use more options behind the injury-prone Austin Howard, especially with the solid yet unspectacular Marshall Newhouse currently penciled in as his backup.
With two seventh-round picks, the Raiders are doing their due diligence on late-round prospects. Morgan is an intriguing option, but he’s not the only guy garnering early attention from the Silver and Black.
Johnathan Calvin, formerly of Mississippi State, has also earned the Raiders’ attention. As a matter of fact, he’s already put together a visit with Oakland—among other teams (via Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline). The other teams who have scheduled visits with Calvin are the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, and Seahawks.
Calvin is a solid edge rushing prospect who led the Bulldogs in sacks in 2016, notching seven on the year. Although not an overwhelming talent by any means, he showed enough bend and ability to work his way around offensive tackles to warrant a late-round look. Adding him via undrafted free agency could also be an option for the Raiders.
Adding more defensive end talent isn’t a priority for Oakland. However, it’s never a bad thing to look for more options at one of the NFL’s most important positions. Even with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin already wreaking havoc off the edge, looking at sleepers like Calvin isn’t a bad thing.
Even with two quality, highly paid starters at cornerback, the position is in need of assistance heading into 2017. Sean Smith and David Amerson may be a solid starting duo, but the Raiders can’t count on just them if they plan on improving upon their 24th-ranked pass defense.
While the Raiders could go in a number of directions on Day 1, cornerback is considered a realistic option. It’ll likely come down to who’s available and who Oakland likes, but it appears Kevin King could be a candidate to be the No. 24 overall selection (per ESPN’s Mel Kiper via Raiders.com). Here’s what Kiper had to say about the potential fit:
“Oakland, when you think about where they are with their secondary, cornerbacks with that kind of skill set… because a lot of eyes are on King,” said Kiper. “He showed ball skills, he showed awareness, he showed great anticipation,” Kiper added. “He would tackle, he’s lean, but he’s tall, he’s long, and he would throw his body around.”
Following the recent injuries to top cornerback prospects Sidney Jones and Fabian Moreau, King has seen his stock rise–and it’s well warranted. He’s got the size NFL teams love at cornerback without losing any of the speed or athleticism. It became clear during his time at Washington that he’s capable of being a playmaker at the next level.
Again, there are plenty of ways the Raiders could spend their first-round pick. However, if they truly are interested in making an upgrade at cornerback, King may very well be the answer. The former Husky has all of the makings of a potential star.