With the No.4 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders have a chance to select a potential star player for years to come. While the Raiders have a lot of needs, it appears they’ve narrowed their pick down to a handful of players.
If Oakland looks to upgrade their offense, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Kevin White are the likely candidates to be taken fourth overall. A defensive selection would likely mean taking USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, though there’s a chance general manager Reggie McKenzie may consider taking outside linebacker Dante Fowler from Florida.
Drafting what the team needs most would end with either Cooper or White in Oakland in Week 1. The Raiders were arguably the worst offensive team during the 2014 season. They ranked last in total offense, averaging just 282.2 yards per game. The Raiders didn’t score more than 14 points in a game until Week 6, and they were held without a touchdown in three of their 16 games.
Rookie Derek Carr, who was drafted in the second round in 2014, started all 16 games at quarterback for the Raiders. He showed some promise, throwing 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But the 24-year-old might have fewer weapons at his disposal than any signal caller in the league. Oakland didn’t make any significant offseason upgrades to an offense that is switching to an up-tempo attack under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Last year’s team didn’t have one receiver that topped 700 yards, and running back Darren McFadden, who led the team with just 534 rushing yards, signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
While the Raiders were particularly bad on offense, their defense still needs a lot of help. They ranked 21st in yards allowed, and no team surrendered more points than Oakland. The Raiders signed linebacker Malcolm Smith and defensive tackle Daniel Williams this offseason, but that might not be enough for the team to draft based on need, instead of taking the best player available.
Williams, who was born in Bakersfield and spent three years at USC, could be a major addition for Oakland’s defensive line. The Raiders ranked second-to-last a year ago with just 22 total sacks. Williams was a First-Team All American in his last two seasons with the Trojans, totaling 13 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss in 2013 and 2014.
Cooper was the nation’s best wide receiver last year, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards for Alabama. He is considered by many experts to be the No.1 prospect at his position, but White has surpassed him on some draft boards after an exceptional performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. White caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards in his final season with West Virginia, but his blazing speed (4.35-second in the 40-yard dash) at the combine dramatically raised his draft stock.
Most mock drafts have both Cooper and White still available at No.4, but there’s a chance Williams won’t be around when the Raiders are ready to make their pick. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely take Jameis Winston first overall, Williams could go to the Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars, which has forced Oakland to explore the possibility of trading up to No.2 in the draft. If Williams is taken within the first three picks, the Raiders could consider drafting Fowler, who totaled 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in 2014.
Drafting a defensive player first wouldn’t necessarily prevent the Raiders from landing a wide receiver who could make an impact next year. USC’s Nelson Agholor won’t be a first-round selection, but could be a bargain if he falls to the third round. Michigan’s Devin Funchess also has some promise at the next level, and may somehow slip to the third or fourth round.
Oakland hasn’t taken an offensive playmaker with their No.1 draft pick since they selected Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009. The Raiders took linebacker Khalil Mack with the No.5 overall pick in 2014.