The Raiders addressed their top position of need, yesterday, by trading the Texans for QB Matt Schaub. In doing so, they have given themselves extreme Draft flexibility.
While the Raiders have need for depth and long-term solutions at every single position, their free agency strategy has bought them some time by signing productive, older vets who can hopefully give them another year or two of top production.
At the number 5 position, the Raiders could draft a top quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Derek Carr. They could go with an elite wide receiver, like Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. They may be in a position to get one of the best defensive players in DE Jadeveon Clowney or LB Khalil Mack. Or perhaps they will further address their offensive line by taking a top OT like Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews.
But the Raiders don’t need to draft any of these players. In fact, they’ve addressed each position well enough that we can pencil in starters at each. Some even have good depth, something that we couldn’t really say at any point last season.
Here’s a look at who I project as the starters as of now:
Left tackle: Donald Penn
Left guard: Khalif Barnes
Center: Stefen Wisniewski
Right Guard: Mike Brisiel*
Right Tackle: Austin Howard
Backups: OT – Menelik Watson, Khalif Barnes, Matt McCants. OG – Tony Bergstrom, Lamar Mady, Kevin Boothe
*Note: There are some rumblings that Mike Brisiel may retire. As of now, however, he’s penciled in at the right guard position
Other Offensive positions:
QB: Matt Schaub, Matt McGloin
WR: James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Brice Butler
FB: Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale
RB: Darren McFadden, Latavious Murray, Kory Sheets
TE: Mychal Rivera, David Ausberry, Nick Kasa
DE: Justin Tuck
DT: Stacy McGee
DT: Antonio Smith
DE: LaMarr Woodley
Strong: Sio Moore
Middle: Nick Roach
Weak: Kevin Burnett
CBs: Tarell Brown, DJ Hayden
Safeties: Tyvon Branch, Charles Woodson, Usama Young
As you can see, both the offense and defense look very different than a year ago – especially the defense, where the basically the entire defensive line is new.
However, because of McKenzie’s plan, the Raiders have addressed every position of true need early in free agency – the worst case scenario is that they go into the regular season with most of the lineup above (it seems likely at least a couple of guys will get injured).
The best case scenario is that McKenzie has a much better draft than his last two would indicate and he’s able to locate and draft some truly impact players, which would bump a vet or two into more of a backup or rotational role.
Because he has some flexibility and because he still has need for better depth at every position, McKenzie has real flexibility in the draft this year. Perhaps the best solution for him would be to trade down, get more picks and try to increase the chance that he comes out f the draft with a number of impact players.
It seems likely that the fifth overall position will have some demand o it. There are a number of players that are considered elite – many of which were mentioned above – and some of those players would be solid targets for teams that feel they have a better shot at the post season this year.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the draft, which is now only a month and a half away. This is an extremely important draft for McKenzie, who must have a solid draft to show the team is making progress under him.
Thanks to his free agent spending plan, he’ll have the ability to go with the player he thinks is the best in almost every round.