Oakland Raiders

The Raiders’ top needs entering the NFL draft

Cris Carter, right, interviews Southern California's Leonard Williams, during introductions at a pre-draft rally of 2015 NFL Draft prospects, and various league legends at Pioneer Court, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Chicago.
Cris Carter, right, interviews Southern California's Leonard Williams, during introductions at a pre-draft rally of 2015 NFL Draft prospects, and various league legends at Pioneer Court, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Chicago. AP

After years of having their drafts panned, the Raiders can look back on last year’s haul of college talent with glee, especially with their early picks.

Their first-round pick, linebacker Khalil Mack, looked like he might be the best defensive rookie from last year’s class. In the second round, they picked Derek Carr, who has solidified the quarterback situation that had been unstable since the days of Rich Gannon. Guard Gabe Jackson, a third-round pick, also jointed the starting lineup.

Defensive tackle Justin Ellis, a fourth-rounder, and cornerback T.J. Carrie, a seventh-rounder, also made an impact.

The Raiders need another nice haul this week to continue the positive momentum and turn the potential into wins.

Coming off a 3-13 season, the Raiders have several areas that still need to be addressed if the team is to escape the bottom of the AFC West.

Wide receiver

The Raiders have not had a wide receiver with at least 1,000 receiving yards since Randy Moss had 1,005 in 2005.

The Raiders haven’t used the draft to invest in a top-end wide receiver since whiffing in the first-round with Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009, and over the years they’ve passed on top receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson, among others.

Relying on undrafted and late-round picks will no longer cut it. The team signed Michael Crabtree, who joins last year’s free-agent pick, James Jones. Jones quickly became a trusted target for Carr, but the passing game still needs more threats.

With the fourth pick, the Raiders could land a top wideout. But with the draft deep in receivers, the Raiders still could have plenty of options in the second round.

Possibilities: Alabama’s Amari Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White

Defensive line

Getting to the quarterback quickly is a must in a division with Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. And its best if that happens by relying on pressure from the defensive line instead of being dependent on blitzing.

The Raiders were tied for 30th with 22 sacks last season, and aging defensive end Justin Tuck led the team with five.

The Raiders could have to choose between offense and defense with their first pick. The top-rated pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr., and the top defensive linemen, Leonard Williams, could be available at No. 4, and it might be too tempting to pass on one of them. Either would help.

Possibilities: USC’s Leonard Williams, Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr.

Safety

At some point, Charles Woodson has to retire, right?

The future Hall of Famer has been a stalwart in the secondary at free safety, but the second, third and fourth rounds could be areas the Raiders find the player who eventually replaces him.

The team also parted ways with Tyvon Branch, the strong safety who missed much of the past two seasons because of injuries, so depth at safety is a priority.

Possibilities: Fresno State’s Derron Smith, Michigan State’s Kurtis Drummond, Louisville’s James Sample

Cornerback

Cornerback is another position at which the Raiders have signed veterans to fill gaps. While the team waits for D.J. Hayden to fulfill the promise that made him a first-round pick in 2013, there should be plenty of chances in this draft to find help at the position.

Playing in the AFC West means you can’t have enough good corners, and the Raiders could use picks over the next two days to look for help.

Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu might be a steal in the late rounds because he’s coming off a knee injury.

Possibilities: Florida State’s P.J. Williams, USC’s Josh Shaw, Ohio State’s Doran Grant

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones.

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