The Oakland Raiders franchise is in an interesting position. On the plus side, the team has a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr, a defensive cornerstone in Khalil Mack, some exciting offensive weapons, and a dominant interior on the offensive line. Oakland has question marks, however, at most defensive positions, the offensive tackle spots, and running back. It seems like this team could be on the verge of legitimate Super Bowl contention, or it could continue last season's regression and drift into irrelevancy. To do the former, it would go a long way for general manager Reggie McKenzie and new head coach Jon Gruden to nail the team's first-round draft pick, which is 10th overall. Let's take a look at some options for the Raiders at that spot:
The Raiders need defensive talent wherever they can get it, and they might be best served by adding an explosive playmaker right in the middle of the field. Smith had sideline-to-sideline speed and elite athleticism, allowing him to cut plays short whether the offense goes to the left, to the right, through the air, on the ground, etc. ESPN's Todd McShay has stated that Roquan Smith is “the guy [the Raiders] want.”
The Raiders have expressed some mild interest in bringing back NaVorro Bowman, but it now seems that they'll see how the draft plays out before making a move on the free-agent linebacker. If they can get their hands on Smith, they may feel that they can move on from Bowman.
The 2018 draft doesn't have any elite offensive tackle prospects, which could allow the Raiders to have their pick of the litter at No. 10 if they want to go in that direction. Oakland's starting right tackle job looks like it will go to the winner of an underwhelming battle between Vadal Alexander and Breno Giacomini—a decent first-round rookie could probably beat out both of those players. On the left side, Donald Penn is going into his age-35 season and is coming off foot surgery, so the team needs to consider the future at left tackle as well as right.
There's no word on what tackle the Raiders would prefer, but Williams is considered by many to be the top prospect at the position.
Gareon Conley flashed well in his 2017 rookie campaign but was hampered by injuries, and other than him, the Raiders have mostly short-term fliers. Even Rashaan Melvin, perhaps the Raiders' most exciting free-agent signing, is a 28-year-old on a one-year deal coming off his first strong NFL season, which was shortened by injury. Simply put, the Raiders need to inject young talent into their group of cornerbacks.
Assuming Ohio State's Denzel Ward is off the board, Jackson could be a solid pick. He's been tabbed by some as the draft's premier cornerback, and he would create a tandem with Conley that could allow Oakland to stymie opposing receivers for years to come.
Roquan Smith seems to be the more likely linebacker option for the Raiders at this point, but Edmunds could be a great consolation prize if Smith is off the board, and Oakland could even opt for Edmunds over the Georgia defender. Edmunds (6-foot-5, 253 pounds) is a freakish athlete with better size than Smith (6-foot-1, 236), and he can play a variety of positions. If both players are on the board, the Raiders will have a very interesting decision to make.
The Raiders like Justin “Jelly” Ellis—they re-signed him to a three-year, $15 million deal this offseason—but the rest of the defensive interior is littered with question marks. Mario Edwards has had some injury issues through his first three years in the league, and Eddie Vanderdoes had as many bad moments as he had good ones as a rookie last year.
Vea has elite strength and, unlike many behemoth defenders, can make an impact as a pass-rusher. He could become a truly dominant player if NFL coaches can polish his unorthodox playing style. The 347-pounder wouldn't necessarily fill one of the Raiders' top needs, but any top-notch talent on Oakland's unimposing defense would be a big help.