Draft day crucial for Raiders

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Draft day crucial for Raiders

ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY ENGLAND/THE PIONEER

ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY ENGLAND/THE PIONEER

ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY ENGLAND/THE PIONEER

Erik Khan,
Contributor

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Tonight’s NFL draft won’t be more important for any single team in the league than the Oakland Raiders.

After last season’s 3-13 finish, the Raiders go into the draft with the fourth overall selection and there are two key players that should be available that can make an immediate impact: Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White.

NFL scouts have deemed the pair the two most coveted wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft class. Cooper led all NCAA wide receivers with 124 receptions, 1727 yard and 16 touchdowns. White wasn’t far behind with 109 receptions for 1447 yards and 10 scores of his own.

This is great news for the Raiders as their most glaring hole on offense last season was their lack of a true number one wide receiver.

When a team finishes 3-13, as the Raiders did this past season, they clearly have more than just one flaw.”

— Erik Khan

A number one wide receiver is extremely burdensome for opposing defensive coordinators and players, as they must account for their presence on the field at all times and often double-team the player.

Last season, the Raiders had just two games in which a receiver tallied more than 100 receiving yards. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the 12th overall pick by the New York Giants in the 2014 NFL Draft, averaged over 108 yards per game while three other receivers also averaged over 100 yards per game.

Quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders second round pick in the 2014 draft, showed flashes of the ability to provide stability at the league’s most important position last season. He could flourish throwing to a reliable wideout like Cooper or White which would lead to significant improvement throughout the entire offense and team.

All successful offenses in the NFL feature a quarterback throwing to a reliable target. Examples include the New England PatriotsTom Brady to Rob Gronkwski, the Denver BroncosPeyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas or Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson.

These teams are all regulars in the NFL Playoffs, a place the Raiders haven’t been since 2001. This void at wide receiver is a key reason why.

Some may argue that the Raiders filled this void at wide receiver by signing former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the offseason, but this is not true. The 49ers found this out the tough way last season as they expected Crabtree to be their main target and he underperformed. Crabtree would serve as a complementary piece to either Cooper or White and would benefit from the attention they would receive.

When a team finishes 3-13, as the Raiders did this past season, they clearly have more than just one flaw.

Enter Hayward native and former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the man the Raiders hired to be their new head coach.

Under Del Rio’s guidance, the Broncos defensive unit finished third in total yards allowed last season. Del Rio’s influence will certainly improve a Raiders defense that finished in the middle of the pack last year.

Where the Raiders have faltered is distinctly on the offensive side of the ball. They finished last in points per game during the 2014 season. Their lack of a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball opens the field up for teammates accounts for this poor output.

Fortunately for the Raiders, that playmaker should be available when they make their selection tonight in either Cooper or White.

When choosing between the pair, the team should draft Cooper. He absolutely scorched what is considered the best defensive conference in college football, the Southeastern Conference.

He accounted for 44 percent of the production Alabama received out of their wide receiving core last season, which is just ridiculous.

The Raiders absolutely need to use this draft selection on one of these men. Both players are extremely complete, polished wide receivers that can step in and make a game changing impact from day one. Up until last season, the Raiders have faltered in the draft process.

This year, the choice is simple. The impact that the Raiders are desperate for should be available.

Oakland Raiders, don’t mess this one up.