It isn't easy being an Oakland Raiders fan. They haven't won a game all season and this week they are playing Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos. There is however one big reason for optimism, next years draft, which will give the franchise a golden opportunity to return to NFL relevance faster than anyone thought possible.
The Raiders are likely to the number one overall pick in the draft and are nailed on to have at least a top five pick. A high first round draft pick obviously has enormous value. In the last draft the Buffalo Bills traded away their first and fourth round 2015 picks to Cleveland in order move up five places to get Sammy Watkins whilst the Rams have only just run out of first round picks from the RGIII trade.
If they play their cards right though the Raiders can do even better than the Browns and Rams did. Not only are Oakland nailed on to have a very valuable pick but the Raiders will likely find themselves in a sellers market. Other teams are going to be desperate to get the Raiders first round pick and if the Raiders have even a modicum of common sense about them will sell high. Why is this?
Strong 2014 draft class
Very quietly the Oakland Raiders 2014 draft class looks to have produced four to five viable NFL starters.
On defense Khalil Mack, first round number five overall pick, is the looking to be the defensive lynchpin that everyone though he was. At guard third round pick Gabe Jackson looks like the sort of offensive lineman who will be a solid starter for a decade or more. Fourth round defensive tackle Justin Ellis looks like a genuine run stuffing two gap defender, and cornerback Travis Carrie has looked promising.
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Most crucially though the Raiders have landed on a viable NFL QB in second round pick Derek Carr. With absolutely no talent around him Carr has looked more than decent in his rookie year. No one is saying that Carr has the talent of a Rodgers or a Luck but he is certainly good enough to start for the next few seasons at the very least.
Quantity over quality
With the starting QB position locked up Oakland can start to improve the rest of the roster. There is barely a position in the team that doesn't need an upgrade. The Raiders need to use the draft to improve all over the field and this is why trading away the high first round pick makes sense.
Quantity after all has a quality all of its own and it is a quality the Raiders desperately need. With the right negotiation a first round draft pick could yield four or five extra second, third and fourth round draft picks for the Raiders and the opportunity to completely reboot the franchise is too good for Oakland to pass up.
Of course saying you would trade a first round pick away is one thing actually doing so is another. However, Oakland are going to have plenty of offers from some very interested suitors.
There are at least five teams; the Jets, the Rams, the Titans, the Buccaneers and the Texans, who are in dire need of a starting quarterback. There are at least six further franchises, the Giants, the Eagles, the Bears, the Cardinals, the Bengals and the Bills, who could conceivably be chasing a QB.
Some of these 11 teams will make big offer to trade up into Oakland's first round pick in order to grab a Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. When it happens the Raiders need to seize this golden opportunity to reboot the entire roster in one go.