INDIANAPOLIS – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio isn’t one to volunteer anything that might be useful to the competition. That includes common knowledge.
He dodged a question about his team needs last week, after a month’s evaluation of his own roster.
We can answer that question for him. The Raiders are in desperate need of help at receiver and along the defensive line. They could use additional talent at running back, tight end and cornerback. They need depth at middle linebacker, maybe at free safety.
There are several ways to quench that thirst, from free agency to the NFL draft. The Raiders could have upwards of $60 million to spend on talent, and currently own seven selections in the NFL draft.
General manager Reggie McKenzie could use a repeat of last year’s draft bounty, considered among the NFL's best.
Draft experts are nearly unanimous in their use of the No. 4 overall selection. They think the Raiders will take a receiver. Most believe Alabama’s Amari Cooper will wear silver and black, though there’s growing support for West Virginia’s Kevin White at that spot.
White, Cooper and even Louisville’s DeVante Parker have a chance to distinguish themselves as the class of a deep receiver crop during this week’s NFL scouting combine, where amateur athletes are put through tests of athletic and mental aptitude. The Raiders will have a chance to meet with these players and many others this week in Indianapolis and put them through medical evaluations.
Respected NFL Network talent evaluator Mike Mayock believes McKenzie and Del Rio should put these receivers through the ringer.
“As far as the wide receiver position is concerned, I would expect that at No. 4 that's where they ought to be targeting,” Mayock said Monday in a conference call. “I think they've got to grind the heck out of Kevin White, Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker.”
After watching game tape of these players, Mayock believes the Raiders have a tough choice ahead should they go with a receiver.
"I think Cooper from Alabama has got the highest score,” Mayock said. “In other words, I think he's the safest pick of that group. He’s a really good route runner, had over 100 catches last year, reminds me of some of those wide outs that played on the Greatest Show on Turf with Dick Vermeil in St. Louis. Tory Holt is an example. Cooper is that type of wide receiver, whereas the other two, Kevin White and DeVante Parker, are bigger bodied guys where you can throw it up and they can win jump balls. I would imagine that one of those three guys are going to be their pick, and I think any one of the three could be highly productive.”
Most of the mock drafts predicting the Raiders go with a receiver assume that Leonard Williams is already off the draft board. The USC defensive lineman is the best as his position, and some believe he’s the best prospect in this draft.
There is one, maybe two quarterback hungry teams atop the draft (Tampa Bay, possibly Tennessee), which could allow Williams to drop to the Raiders at No. 4, where he would be difficult to pass up. Some experts believe the Raiders should consider other elite pass rushers at No. 4, including Missouri’s Shane Ray and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory.
There are several predictions floating around the internet, but it’s tough to consider them more than guesses considering how much draft evaluation the Raiders have remaining. Much of that heavy lifting begins this week in Indy, where prospects will separate themselves from the pack.