Offense? Defense? Raiders seek both

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As of Tuesday, the Las Vegas Raiders had seven selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, including four of their original selections and another three acquired via trades.

And this will be one of the most important drafts in franchise history.

It is Jon Gruden’s third season as head coach, it’s Mike Mayock’s second season as general manager and most importantly, it’s the first season the Raiders will be in Las Vegas.

See “Expect many moves in NFL Draft”

“I think it’s important because they’ve got some picks and you gotta make hay when you got a chance,” said William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich. “I think they did a good job last year and I think they’ll do a good job this year, too. I don’t think they’re all that far off.”

William Hill has the Raiders’ win total set at 7 1/2, while they are 30-1 to win the Super Bowl. Bogdanovich said there hasn’t been much action on the win total, as people are reluctant to tie up their money while sports remain locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other hand, it hasn’t stopped bettors from making Las Vegas the second-most attractive team to win the Super Bowl, behind the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. How ironic, as it’s Kansas City the Raiders have in mind when it comes to the NFL Draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday.

Las Vegas, along with everyone else in the AFC, will be chasing Kansas City and its lightning quick offense led by Patrick Mahomes and speedy wideout Tyreek Hill. So while ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper recently said the Raiders are “desperate for a quarterback” and it’s a “win-win” to pick Utah State’s Jordan Love — a developmental signal-caller who could learn from Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota — it makes more sense for Las Vegas to find a new star receiver and strengthen its defense.

It seems clear to this point Gruden and Mayock like what they have in Mariota, who was signed to a one-year deal in March to back up Carr, the team’s starter the past six seasons. So, for the Raiders’ sake, as long as they’re content with Carr and Mariota, they can grab their wideout at No. 12 and begin strengthening their defense afterward.

Mayock, during a recent conference call with the media, said his living room is “the ultimate low tech” with five giant white boards and “probably 1,000 magnets with names on them all over the place.” He believes there are roughly 20 receivers who have the potential of going in the first three rounds, but there are three names that have Raiders fans salivating: CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III.

All three possess a specific skill set that could evolve Las Vegas’ passing game, but Mayock insisted he and Gruden are not looking for the best fit, they’re looking for the right one.

“I think they’re all high-level players, there’s a whole bunch of wideouts,” Mayock said. “There could be a wide receiver No. 1 in the third round. I think the cool thing though about Jon’s offense, and I think what he showed last year especially with what he did with our tight ends, Jon’s adaptable to whoever he has.”

Speaking of tight ends, the Raiders enticed Jason Witten out of retirement. The 11-time Pro Bowler signed a one-year deal in March and adds a wealth of experience to the offense.

The bigger dilemma for the Raiders is what they do after their first choice. While they have five picks in the first 91, they don’t have a draft pick between 20 and 79, as they have the 80th, 81st and 91st picks.

Owner Mark Davis has been adamant about building the defense, and it starts with an athletic secondary that can challenge the Chiefs.

Damarious Randall, a first-round pick of the Packers who spent the past two seasons with the Browns, is now with the Raiders and is expected to bolster the defensive backfield.

“When he came out of college he had kind of that corner, free safety versatility,” Mayock said. “He will be competing for the opportunity to play with John Abram and those other guys on the back end.

“We love the fact that he can drop down and cover the slot and man-to-man. But initially, we’d like to see him at free safety, and I think that’s his best position.”

The cornerback depth after Jeff Okudah and CJ Henderson falls off, and both of them are expected to go before Las Vegas’ 12th pick. If that’s the case, and a diluted field of corners remains, don’t be shocked to see the Raiders trade away their second first-round pick for a couple of second rounders, possibly to Green Bay, which is also looking for a top-tier receiver and could find one at No. 19.

“We’re running through every possible scenario that we could be looking at,” Mayock said. “We won’t know until draft night or day two or whatever. I think we’re always open to something that makes sense for the Raiders.”

About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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