Oakland Raiders Draft Report Part 3: Choosing a Playmaker
Byron Lambert, Rosterwatch.com
Reggie McKenzie’s top priority this May is selecting a playmaker in the first round. One who can contribute immediately. Owner Mark Davis has explicitly stated his displeasure with the mediocrity of the on-field product over the last two seasons. It’s time Reggie fires things up on the field, and with the fans.
In our Raiders Draft Report Part 2, we explained that if the Raiders stay put at five, edge-rusher, quarterback, offensive tackle, and wide receiver are the possible selections. With pass-rusher or wide receiver being the most likely targets.
Barring a miracle, there is universal agreement amongst the scouting world that there is no way the best player in the draft, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, falls to the Raiders at five. If he does, Dennis Allen will run to the podium with the sharpie he keeps in his visor at all times to sign the card himself. Trading up for Clowney defies all conventional logic. Oakland should, instead, try to trade down and accumulate picks.
If unable to consummate a trade, the highlight-reel playmakers most likely to be in the mix when the Raiders go on the clock are OLB Khalil Mack, WR Sammy Watkins, and WR Mike Evans. Reggie needs immediate impact, and these are the guys who can provide it.
Khalil Mack Comes from a small school, the University of Buffalo. At 6’3″ 250 pounds, he’s considered a bit small himself for an edge player. But, his game is real big. He’s often Johnny-on-the-spot. A ballhawk – he’s constantly flying around the football. He moves well in space, and has great ball skills. Most importantly, he brings speed and violence in the pass rush. Mack translates as a stud edge player in the NFL, with the versatility to kick inside and even play a Navarro Bowman-type linebacker role. Von Miller comparisons aren’t outrageous. There is concern about the level of competition he faced in college.
Sammy Watkins is the most explosive player we’ve scouted live at the NFL Combine over the last three years. Our notes from the exclusive PFWA viewing suites inside Lucas Oil Field were that Watkins was “a different animal.” At 6’1″, 211 pounds, he could become a more electric version of Justin Blackmon, although he’s not as polished coming out of the Clemson offense as Blackmon was coming from a pro-style offense. We do not expect the transition for Watkins to be an issue. As a rookie prospect, he may also be considered a smaller version of Cordarrelle Patterson- but with better hands. He will be a dangerous weapon in a creative offense.
Mike Evans At 6’5″, 230 pounds with incredible ball skills and a massive catch radius, Evans is in a class somewhere between Alshon Jeffery and AJ Green. We rate him as an elite prospect with upside in the same stratosphere. He’s a classic number-one X receiver, with prototypical size and plenty of speed. He tested explosively at the Combine, and looked terrific in positional drills in Indy and at his pro day. He dominated elite competition in the SEC. He’s also a safe prospect. Evans is polished, and everything comes naturally to him. His floor is that of an elite red-zone or possession target. Evans is ready to step into a pro-style offense from day one, and contribute in a big way. Double-digit touchdowns as a rookie would not surprise us.
RaiderNation should be thrilled if any of these three names are called on May 8. They all fill General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s biggest need – a playmaker that can immediately change the game. However, there are some realities to the process. Not all three may be available when the Raiders go on the clock.
In fact, it’s very likely that both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are gone at the point. Both players are widely considered top-five talents, meaning there is a high probability they are selected before Oakland picks at five.
Considering Reggie’s moves to shore up the pass rush in free agency, and his appetite to move back within the top ten – and it’s Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M who comes to the forefront as the rookie playmaker most likely to change fortunes in Oakland. We will detail Mike Evans as a prospect in the final piece of this draft series, and why he is a perfect fit in the Silver and Black.
Coming soon, stay tuned.