Cover 2: What to watch for leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft

Raiders.com writers Eddie Paskal and Kyle Martin share what they're looking forward to prior to the 2019 NFL Draft.

Offseason storyline to follow

EP: It’s all about the draft, and perhaps more specifically, it’s all about those first-round picks, baby!

For months and months, we’ve known those three picks (No. 4, No. 24 and No. 27) existed, but now, we can finally start taking a closer look at the needs on the Silver and Black’s roster, and how those trio of picks will hopefully plug up some of those holes.

Coming off a four-win campaign, the Raiders need to get better across the board, that’s no secret, and Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock seem supremely committed to taking stock of the roster, and evaluating which positions need a little more love than the others.

Look, having three picks in the first round is a rare type of draft capital seldom seen in today’s NFL, and those trio of picks give the Silver and Black an almost endless amount of options of how to play Day 1.

Good teams hit on the draft –the first round in particular – and with the chance to majorly change the look and the feel of the roster, Gruden and Mayock have to find some legitimate playmakers with those selections.

Like I said, the first round is the Raiders’ oyster, so buckle up, this is going to be fun.

KM: Like Eddie, the majority of my answers will revolve around the Draft in late April.

Since the Super Bowl, mock drafts are being published weekly by a plethora of media outlets and sifting through the projections has been my biggest offseason task. It’s anyone’s guess what Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock do during the Draft, but we can start to formulate ideas regarding which direction the Raiders will go.

As Eddie stated, with three first round picks the Silver and Black have the flexibility to trade up, down, or just stay put and draft their guy. We know this is a defense-heavy draft, and there are plenty of pass rushers for the Raiders to choose from, but finding an immediate impact player to help with Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s group is at the top of the wish list. If you check the Mock Draft Tracker, the Raiders are commonly linked to Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, whose raw power makes him a top-tier pass rusher in this draft class.

The overall storyline to follow will be everything leading up to the draft, but there will be several stories worth noting that fall under the Draft umbrella. The news cycle is just beginning to unravel, and it’ll only get more interesting as the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway in two weeks.

What date do you have circled on your calendar?

EP: Thursday, April 25, 2019 – the day our wildest dreams come true.

I kid, but in all seriousness, at this point, we’re just gearing up for the 2019 NFL Draft, Day 1 in particular.

Yes, I do love the Combine – big shout-out to all our friends in Indy – but at the end of the day, everything we do for next three or so months will revolve around the draft, and which players will end the weekend wearing Silver and Black.

We’ve talked a ton about the three first-round picks, and the flexibility that those picks give Gruden and Mayock, but man, when you really sit back and think about it, the first round really does have all the potential to get wild.

If they wanted to, the Raiders likely possess the type of capital to trade up in the first round, but I could also see them moving back from the No. 4 spot if they feel like they can get some better value a little further down the draft board.

The point I’m getting at is this; the first round has the chance to be an absolute movie with all the possible drama, and I for one, cannot wait.

KM: Since Eddie picked the day of the Draft, I’m going to roll with March 13 – the start of the new league year and the beginning of free agency.

I feel like we all get wrapped up in the hype of the Draft – which is understandable – and sometimes forget just how much free agency impacts what happens a month later. Sure, the Draft is how you build a winning team, but if a team can acquire the right players it could completely alter the way a team approaches their draft board.

Whether it’s in free agency or the Draft, the Raiders know they need to remedy the pass rush. Last year, the defense combined for 13 sacks, and while Maurice Hurst Jr., P.J. Hall, and Arden Key showed promise, the defensive line as a whole needs to improve, and in a big way. Defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney, Demarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark, and Ezekiel Ansah are the prominent pass rushers in this free agent class, and if any of them joined the Raiders it could provide aid to an area of weakness.

The point I’m trying to make is that even though we all want the Raiders to draft the next big thing, who the team signs in free agency could affect the way the Silver and Black approaches the Draft.

What are you looking forward to at the Combine?

What are you looking forward to at the Combine?

EP: A little bit of clarity.

Now, I’m not here to suggest that we’ll have all the answers for the draft figured out when we fly out of Indianapolis, but I think it’s fair to say that if everything goes to plan, we’ll have a much better idea of who’s for real headed into draft weekend.

Oh, and I guess I’m a little excited to learn just how tall Kyler Murray is…

Actually I’m ecstatic to see the Kyler Murray Circus firsthand. It’s been a while since one dude has really taken over a draft cycle like young Mr. Murray has, and even though the Silver and Black likely aren’t looking for a quarterback in the first round, you better believe I want to watch the madness unfold firsthand.

Will Murray throw? How tall is he really? How big are his hands? Does it matter? The questions surrounding the reigning Heisman Trophy winner are plentiful, and I can’t wait to watch the whole process in real time.

Also, don’t forget this will be Mike Mayock’s first Combine outside the broadcast booth, so be sure to keep a close eye on him.

That was a long answer to say this – I’m fired up for the Combine.

Bring on the shrimp cocktail.

KM: Eddie knows how much I love evaluation and analysis – I live for it.

Whether it’s the 40-yard-dash, bench press, or how the prospects handle the interview process, I’m eager to learn which players separate themselves during the Combine. As Eddie pointed out, Kyler Murray will headline the event, and the amount of media attention he’ll garner should be excessive. He’s without a doubt the most-intriguing prospect given he’s the reigning Heisman trophy-winner, and was a top 10 pick in the MLB draft.

For the Raiders though, watching how the bevy of talented pass rushers perform during the drills will be on my watch list, and to once again reiterate Eddie’s point, it’ll be interesting to hear Mike Mayock break down his first Combine experience as a General Manager.

I’m also excited to experience the greatness that is a St. Elmo’s shrimp cocktail.

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