ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. releases his first mock draft of 2019

It’s a new year, and the first wave of mock drafts for the 2019 NFL Draft are slowly filtering out. From what we’ve seen so far in our first Mock Draft Tracker, the majority of analysts have the Raiders targeting several pass rushers with their three first-round picks; however, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has a different take, which is reflected in his first mock draft of 2019.

In a draft class loaded with talented pass rushers, Kiper doesn’t have the Raiders selecting a single one in the first round – surprising. With the No. 4 overall pick, the ESPN draft analyst has the Silver and Black selecting cornerback Greedy Williams out of LSU. In two seasons at LSU, Williams totaled 71 tackles, one-and-a-half tackles for loss, eight interceptions, and 19 passes defensed. While Williams is talented, I find it hard to believe Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock won’t select a pass rusher with the first pick.

Even though the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and New York Jets are ahead of the Raiders in the draft order currently, even if they selected the top three pass rushers, there would still be a bevy of gifted defensive linemen worth selecting. Time will tell what Gruden and Mayock decide to do, but I suspect they go with a defensive linemen.

Here’s Kiper’s breakdown of who the Raiders will select with their three first-round picks:

No. 4 Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

“It's tough to predict what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will do with three first-round picks in this class, but fixing an aging defense should be a priority. The Raiders have needs across the board, including at pass-rusher -- they had a league-low 13 sacks in 2018. But with Bosa and Allen off the board, I'll go with a corner. Gareon Conley came on strong at the end of the season, but there's a hole across from the 2017 first-rounder. Williams is a big, 6-foot-3 corner with long arms and lockdown potential. The comp I've made for him is Aqib Talib.”

No. 24 Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

“Can you name the Oakland player with the most receiving targets in 2018? It was ... tight end Jared Cook. And yes, Gruden traded top wideout Amari Cooper, but this roster needs pass-catching upgrades. Brown is going to be one of the fastest prospects in this draft. He can run every route, and he's tremendous after the catch. Size is the question, as he's only 5-foot-9, 168 pounds. He is more in the mold of John Ross, who went in the top 10 in the 2017 draft, than a typical No. 1 receiver. But he can be a downfield threat for Derek Carr.

No. 27 Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

“I don't have another Round 1 edge rusher left on my board, so I'm moving on to tight end with the third Raiders pick of the first round. I mentioned Cook earlier, and he's a free agent, so this is going to be a need for Oakland. Smith had 44 catches and seven touchdowns for the Crimson Tide this season, and he is a really good player. He needs to improve as a blocker, but I expect him to test well at the combine. The Raiders have a ton of cap space, so they also could address the position in free agency.”

The Raiders certainly need to add a dynamic wide receiver in this draft, and Brown – the cousin of Antonio Brown – is one to keep an eye on, as well as the pair of Ole Miss wide outs, D.K. Metcalf, and A.J. Brown.

As far as the tight end position goes, Jared Cook is an unrestricted free agent, and if he were to return I don’t see much of a need to draft a tight end, considering Cook was one of the NFL’s most-productive tight ends in 2018.

This is just the first of many mock drafts Kiper will release, and I’m interested to see what changes he makes as the Draft gets closer. You can view his full mock draft, here.

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