Oakland Raiders' Top Needs & Fits in the 2014 Draft

By (Featured Columnist) on January 27, 2014

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For the Oakland Raiders, the journey toward the 2014 NFL draft has already begun.

With a draft pick in every round except the fifth, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie will have a plethora of chances to go out and add valuable assets to this roster.

Analyzing the team's biggest needs, the goal of this slideshow is to provide a little more insight into which NFL prospects would be a perfect fit for this roster.

Using a comprehensive film study session and various scouting reports as a benchmark, it's time to check out some of the top needs and fits for Oakland's 2014 draft.

All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise.

All stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise. 

Wide Receiver

Today's NFL serves as a breeding ground for high-octane wide receivers.

From undersized "speed" guys to big-bodied targets, the Raiders will have a plenty of chances to find themselves a playmaker in this year's draft. The only question now becomes, how long will it take before they find exactly who they're looking for?

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) has the club going after Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fifth overall pick in the draft, while Bleacher Report's Dan Hope has the team waiting until the sixth round to select the speedy Josh Huff out of Oregon.

There's no doubt that the unique skill sets both those guys possess makes them intriguing options. But for my money, the best fit for this team right now is a wide receiver named Jordan Matthews.

Catching 262 passes for 3,759 yards and 24 touchdowns during his career at Vanderbilt, Matthews is an impressive player to watch operate on film.

With great size, a gift for route running and the ability to separate downfield, Matthews would give the Raiders a versatile No. 1 target who has a bit of legacy here in the Bay Area—Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com mentioned Matthews is the cousin of the iconic Jerry Rice.

Projected by NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) to be selected in the second round of this year's draft, the Raiders would have the chance to add an ultra-talented wide receiver on Day 2.

Defensive Line

One of the biggest needs the Raiders have to address during the upcoming draft is their defensive line.

Giving up an astounding 28.3 points per game during the 2013 season, the Raiders have to find a way to generate a consistent pass rush that can help alleviate some of the pressure off their secondary.

Checking out some of the prospects in this year's class who would help the team achieve that goal, the first name you think of is pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney. A dangerous athletic presence, Clowney would instantly provide this defensive line with a shot of adrenaline.

Clearly motivated to show the world what he's got, Clowney told Josh Kendall of The State that he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick. If Clowney winds up getting taken that early, another player worth targeting would be defensive tackle Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh.

Watching Donald on film, you are immediately blown away by his willingness to dominate opposing offensive linemen in the trenches. Ranked as the No. 1 player in college football by Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, Donald continued his exceptional play at the 2014 Reese's Senior Bowl.

Listed as the best interior rusher by Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl of ESPN.com (subscription required) saw during the week of Senior Bowl practices that Donald is a player every Raiders fan should keep an eye on.

Don't take this young man for granted, the hype is real.

When talking to Mike Huguenin of NFL.com, University of North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora compared Donald to Clowney—yes, Jadeveon Clowney.

Despite having an immense level of talent, because he stands at just 6'1" and weighs 288 pounds, there's a good chance the Raiders will have a shot at drafting Donald early in the second round.

Offensive Line

Success for Oakland's offense next season starts by improving their dreadful offensive line.

Using Football Outsiders metrics as a gauge for tears, you'll see that the Raiders ranked near the bottom in both run and pass protection situations this past season.

It doesn't take an NFL analyst to realize that the struggles of Oakland's offensive line are a major concern for the health of this franchise.

The backbone of any successful NFL team, finding competent offensive linemen who can come in and help out from Day 1 has to be a key part of Oakland's draft strategy.

Looking at the group of offensive linemen headlining this year's draft class, there's reason to smile.

Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews, Gregory Robinson and Zack Martin are all impact players who should excel at the next level. But if you cruise past the top-tier talent, you'll find another guy who could end up becoming one of the biggest steals in the 2014 draft.

Alabama guard Anthony Steen is one of those prospects who would be able to come in right away and contribute in a positive manner. An experienced guard who cut his teeth playing under Nick Saban, Steen shows tremendous strength and football smarts whenever you get the chance to watch him on film.

Projected by NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) to fall to between the third and fourth round, Steen would be a monumental value pick for the Raiders.

Cornerback

When the Raiders selected D.J. Hayden in the first round of the 2013 draft, the plan was for this young man to come in and help shore up the cornerback position.

Instead, Hayden struggled to find his groove, playing in just eight games during his rookie campaign—according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Hayden finished the 2013 season with an uninspiring negative 6.6 grade.

Though it's way too early to give up on Hayden, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie would be wise to go out and try to bolster this secondary in the upcoming draft.

Defensive backs like Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett and Marcus Roberson represent just a few names on a deep list of talented cornerbacks entering the draft. If the goal is to add a quality player a bit later on in the draft, Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech is a name worth remembering.

When you put on the tape, it's easy to fall in love with this young man's skill set.

A supreme athlete with fantastic coverage skills, Fuller's draft stock has dipped since he underwent surgery to fix a core muscle injury he sustained last November—according to of The Baltimore Sun, that same injury kept Fuller from participating in the 2014 Senior Bowl.

If Fuller can put his injury woes aside in the weeks leading up to the draft, he would be a wonderful addition for the Raiders on Day 2. 

A player who oozes first-round potential, because of his injuries and the overall depth at the cornerback position, it's realistic to think Fuller could tumble into the third round.

If that turns out to be the case, Oakland would be able to get their hands on one of Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com's (h/t CBSSports.com) top 50 prospects.

Quarterback

According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Raiders have let everyone know they are looking for a quarterback.

Whether they go after a playmaker like Johnny Manziel or as Tafur mentioned, more of a developmental guy like Tahj Boyd, the goal is for this team to find a QB that fits their needs.

Trudging their way through the muddy waters that represent this year's quarterback class, the signal-caller that might be the best fit for this offense is Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

No matter how you slice it, Carr has been one of the most intriguing and scrutinized prospects in this year's draft class. A guy who we all knew had sensational arm strength, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah raved about Carr's exceptional play throughout the entire Senior Bowl process.

A name that has been rising up draft boards as of late, Bleacher Report's own Jesse Reed projected the Raiders to draft Carr in the first round, while Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com has the Raiders nabbing him in the second.

Although he enjoyed lots of success at this year's Senior Bowl, the work Carr's done on tape will be what ultimately determines his fate on draft day. Putting his rocket arm and quick release aside, it's easy to forget that Carr has had his issues dealing with pressure.

Still, as Jeremiah points out, the "maturity and football intelligence" he displayed has already left a lasting impression with various NFL teams.

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