“You’re on the Clock”: It’s a Gruden World After All (2019 NFL Draft Part 4 of 6)
The “You’re on the Clock” segments are draft analysis series that are put together by HTN contributor Matthew Watson to provide you with some preparation and intrigue before the big night. In this series, Matt provides his thoughts on the top 5 draft slots in the 2019 NFL draft, including depth chart analysis, prospect reviews and team strategies. The series begins on April 15th with the Arizona Cardinals and the #1 draft selection and finishes on April 25th with a summary and final thoughts. Feel free to leave your own comments on the post with your own thoughts about each pick!
Fourth Pick: Oakland Raiders
All the signs point to: Quite literally everything
Matt’s Maneuvers to consider: Draft Dwayne Haskins, Draft Quinnen Williams, or trade down and collect more first-round draft capital.
2018 Season Recap
The Oakland Raiders had a wild ride last season. After years of mediocrity, the ownership decided to go all in and signed head coach Jon Gruden to a 10-year deal. Gruden, who was a fan favourite analyst for ESPN and Monday Night Football decided to return to his old stomping grounds in Oakland. Jon’s greatest coaching accomplishment was winning Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland is hoping that he can bring the same magic to Oakland for the next decade.
Gruden’s first season in Oakland didn’t amount to much, but this was expected. Oakland is in a highly competitive division with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Therefore, making it out of the division, let alone facing these dynamic offenses 4 times in a season, can prove quite the challenge.
Jon caused quite a stir when he approved the trades of defensive star Khalil Mack and number one wideout Amari Cooper for future draft picks. Raiders fans became very upset as the team only won 1 game in the first half of the season and many felt that Gruden’s ego and “old-fashioned” coaching style were damaging the team beyond repair.
However, there were signs of hope. In the second half of the season the Raiders defeated the Cardinals, the Broncos, and more impressively, the Steelers. They also managed to play within a touchdown of Kansas City and got better efforts from both sides of the ball. Troubled quarterback Derek Carr finished with over 4,000 yards and Pro Bowler Jared Cook finished with almost 900 yards receiving. However, the 2018 season was accepted as a platform to spring-board the franchise and the off-season moves by Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock clearly indicate as such.
The Raiders made a massive splash by acquiring elite wide receiver Antonio Brown after his temper tantrum with the Steelers required a change of scenery. The Raiders waited patiently for the market for Brown to take a dip and then stole the dynamic player for just a third and a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft. The plan appears to be to pair Brown with newly acquired deep threat Tyrell Williams to allow the Raiders to stretch the field. They also shored up an offensive line by making Patriots standout Trent Brown the highest-paid offensive tackle in the league.
The 26th ranked defense in football was in desperate need of a facelift and received it with safety Lamarcus Joyner and linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. There are still many holes on the defensive side of the ball, but at least this is a start.
The Oakland Raiders are in the unique position of essentially being in control of their own destiny in this draft. They have three first round picks at No. 4, 24 and 27 as well as a second round pick at 35. They have a brand new general manager in Mayock and are looking to make a splash as evidenced by the Antonio Brown trade. So what exactly should the Raiders do at No. 4? The answer: Nobody knows.
There are still so many issues on both sides of the ball and so many intriguing options to consider at the No. 4 position. The Raiders could trade up and try to get a better prospect, they could trade down and accumulate even more draft capital, or they could stand pat and take the best player to suit their needs.
I am going to eliminate one of these options right away. I believe the Raiders would be absolutely insane to try to trade up in this draft. First of all they will, at worst, pick the 4th best player in the draft and there is no clear cut prospect that is leagues above the other options. Secondly, assuming the Cardinals go all in on Kyler Murray, one of the top defensive prospects will be available at the 4th pick. And lastly, if anything, the Raiders need more draft capital, not less. Therefore, let’s assume that the Raiders play this smart and don’t trade up.
If the Raiders trade down, they could take advantage of an outstanding class of defensive prospects in the middle of the first-round. A quarterback needy team like the Giants, Denver, or even possibly Cincinnati could trade up for a quarterback like Dwayne Haskins.
Speaking of Dwayne Haskins… The Raiders have shown a lot of interest in the Ohio State product, and with good reason. Haskins is considered by many to be a top-3 quarterback in this draft, has a big strong arm and thrives on launching the deep ball. Could you imagine Dwayne firing away with new wide receivers Brown and Williams as they are sprinting down the sidelines? I think Jon Gruden might be doing that right now. Depending on how comfortable the Raiders are with Derek Carr as their starting quarterback, they could be looking to take a look at Mr. Haskins at number four. It is vital that Gruden has a quarterback he favours and who he can trust for this rebuilding process to become a success.
Now, the final opportunity here is to keep Carr and look to upgrade on the other positions of weakness. Upon review of the depth chart, three areas of need jump out at me- edge rusher, a starting cornerback, and a playmaking tight-end. If you can name one edge rusher on the Raiders team right now, congratulations! You are either a huge fan or an NFL roster wizard because none of the names on paper mean anything to me. The Raiders will need to get at least one and hopefully two additions on the edge in order to give their secondary a chance against Patrick Mahomes, Phillip Rivers and… Joe Flacco? (Ok, they might be ok with him). Gareon Conley impressed in his second season at cornerback with 37 tackles and 3 picks, but there is a gaping hole across from him at the second cornerback spot. And finally, the Raiders let Jared Cook walk at the end of the year and will need a new starter at the position.
The fourth overall pick seems a little high for a tight-end or a cornerback and both star edge rushers are expected to be taken at No. 2 and No. 3. So what does that leave the Raiders? Why only the beast considered by many to be the best talent in the entire draft- defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. And why not? The Raiders could use some more help beside Jonathan Hankins and they would be getting an amazing talent. You could draft for need at the next three picks and maybe pick up a second pass-rusher later in the draft. Quinnen is an absolute wrecking ball in the middle of the defensive front, and interior pressure will be just as important for a Raiders team that needs help on all levels of the defensive group. In addition, drafting the consensus best player in the entire draft class is always a solid move, and this opportunity rarely comes as low as #4 overall.
In classic Raiders fashion, Gruden and Mayock decided that they couldn’t trust any of their draft scouts and sent their entire scouting team home the week before the draft. So for all we know they could draft a consensus third round selection at #4 overall and call it a day. Ever since Jon Gruden took over the team there have been nothing but surprises in Oakland. However, that being said, I believe that when the #4 pick is on the clock this evening the Raiders will draft Quinnen Williams, Dwayne Haskins or trade down.
We cannot know for certain which will lead to the better outcome for the Raiders’ future, but one thing is for certain. Barring surprising future developments there will not be another opportunity in the near future for the Raiders to draft at least 3 players in the first round. They should make the most of this opportunity and I am both nervous and excited to see what Oakland decides to do with the pick. Jon Gruden has been involved in nearly every aspect of Raiders personnel since he joined the team and will no doubt have a major influence on who gets picked Thursday night. There is no other team whose decisions in this draft have more impact. Buckle your seatbelts football fans. It’s a Gruden world after all.