Oakland is among the Top 5 potential landing spots for former West Virginia Mountaineers star signal-caller Geno Smith, and for good reason. For one thing, the team has the third overall pick, and nine times out of ten, when a team is picking in the Top 10, an upgrade is needed under center.
Carson Palmer, 33, is expected to restructure his bloated contract or pack his bags and this could be the right time for the Raiders to give Terrelle Pryor a chance to become the starter. An open competition is expected in Oakland. Only time will tell who will be featured in the battle.
2. Pass Rusher
Based on the Raiders’ recent additions (Pat Sims, Vance Walker, Jason Hunter, Nick Roach, Kaluka Maiava and Kevin Burnett), it’s looking increasingly likely that at the very least the Raiders will be running the 3-4 front pretty heavily—if not exclusively in the upcoming season.
The team finished next-to-last in the league in sacks last season and if Oakland decides to pass on Matt Barkley and Geno Smith (or he’s already taken), look for the team to upgrade its front seven in the first round with the addition of Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd or Dion Jordan.
In addition to trading down, Oakland also faces a few other options with the No. 3 overall pick at various positions (see below).
3. Defensive Back
Dee Milliner—almost lost a lock for the Top 5—is the consensus top defensive back in this draft class and would provide a combination of size, speed and strength not seen from the position in a while in Oakland.
There’s also no No. 1 CB in this secondary and Michael Huff needs to switch back to safety, although there’s a good chance that he will end up in a new uniform in 2013. Trading down would be Oakland’s best option in terms of acquiring the most talent, maximizing value and addressing the most team needs as possible, but if the Raiders move down even just a couple of spots, they will miss out on Milliner.
That move might be worthwhile since this team has so many needs to address and this is a deep cornerback class, but Oakland must fix its secondary with at least a couple of additions through the draft.
4. Defensive Line
Oakland’s defensive line looks a lot better after adding Sims and Walker (not to mention the three other linebackers) on the open market, but the Raiders could use another stout 3-4 defensive end or nose tackle for depth and added flexibility. Tommy Kelly’s future is also uncertain and it doesn’t appear that Richard Seymour will be back in 2013. Desmond Bryant was also signed by the Cleveland Browns.
If Floyd and Lotulelei end up elsewhere, look for the team to address its defensive front in the middle rounds this April.
5. Offensive Line
If Luke Joeckel (or Eric Fisher) is available at the third spot, the Raiders might be tempted to pull the trigger. Right tackle Khalif Barnes and left guard Cooper Carlisle were each recently re-signed, but their performances were less-than-impressive last season.
Don’t bet on the team making a move for either of the top two offensive tackles, but it’s a possibility. There’s a strong chance Oakland will look to add depth to its offensive line in the mid to later rounds in April.
6. Wide Receiver
Tight end Brandon Myers led the Raiders with 79 receptions for 806 yards and four scores last year. He’s now with the New York Giants. Fullback Marcel Reece finished second on the team with 52 catches for 496 yards and a score. ‘Nuff said.
Though Denarius Moore had a solid second season (51 receptions for 741 yards and seven scores) and Rod Streater showed signs of potential (39 catches for 584 yards and three TDs), Darrius Heyward-Bey (41 receptions for 606 yards and five TDs) is a free agent and the only other player on the team that had more than 20 catches last season was running back Darren McFadden.
Fortunately for Oakland, this year’s draft class is loaded with tons of depth and talent at the position.
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Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!