- The biggest need, the hidden need and what else the Raiders should be looking for in the 2019 draft.
Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling are breaking down draft needs for all 32 teams. You can also see every team in a single post here.
Biggest Need: Defensive End
This one is obvious to anyone who watched Oakland’s (lack of) pass rush in 2018. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is known for his double-A-gap and odd front nickel blitzes, but he chooses those selectively and often plays two-deep coverage. You simply cannot prosper there unless your four-man rush gets home.
Hidden Need: Receiving Tight End
O.K., this one isn’t so hidden. Jared Cook is gone, last year’s No. 2 tight end Lee Smith is a bona fide sixth offensive lineman, Luke Willson is a rotational player, and while Darren Waller has receiving prowess he spent last year on the practice squad after being suspended for all of 2017 (substance abuse). Anyone can see the Raiders need a tight end. But it’s important to note: not just any tight end, a receiving tight end. Gruden enjoyed splitting Cook out wide by himself on the weak side, putting all three wide receivers on the other side. That’s a QB-friendly formation because it undresses the defense prior to the snap. It’d be great to find another tight end who can operate alone out wide.
Also Looking For: Left Guard
With Kelechi Osemele traded to the Jets, and 2018 first-rounder Kolton Miller’s height (6' 8") making him more naturally fit to play outside, the Raiders have a hole to fill between prized free agent left tackle Trent Brown and nimble veteran center Rodney Hudson. Who fills it could determine Jon Gruden’s ground game approach. A mobile guard would mean more outside zone runs (which connects to Gruden’s play-action game). A mauling guard, like what Oakland has on the right side in Gabe Jackson, would mean more inside zone runs.
Who They Can Get
They'll probably miss out on Ohio State's Nick Bosa, but Kentucky's Josh Allen should make Guenther just as happy. There will be tight ends available late in the first—Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. might rank higher on some boards, but as far as a Y-iso chess piece Iowa's Noah Fant and first-round darkhorse Dawson Knox of Ole Miss are probably better fits. At guard, it's usually converted collegiate tackles. In the late first, Oklahoma's Cody Ford might still be on the board, and Kansas State's Dalton Risner is a candidate to kick inside.
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