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Raiders First Round Lay The Building Blocks For Jon Gruden’s Ideal Team

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

The Oakland Raiders first-round picks may have turned some heads but they addressed some of their biggest needs.

While the needs were filled, there are questions around the NFL if the Raiders went with the right players. The biggest need for Oakland was an edge rusher, which is what they got with the No. 4 pick in Clelin Ferrell. Even Ferrell was surprised by the pick, saying “I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t surprised.”

The EDGE out of Clemson was considered to be one of the best at his position but was projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick. The Raiders had two more picks later in the round but it would have been doubtful Ferrell was available at No. 24. From No. 4 to the No 24 pick, three more edge rushers came off the board.

But why Ferrell over Josh Allen, an edge rusher many viewed to the second-best EDGE behind now-San Francisco 49er Nick Bosa?

“He’s a three-down player,” general manager Mike Mayock said, “and we felt like some of the top edge guys may not be ready to set a physical edge. As far as the football piece of it, he fits our scheme, a three-down defensive end, he sets a physical edge, and he’s got big sack production.”

The Raiders run a 4-3 defensive scheme, which would put Ferrell on the line with his hand in the ground which is what his role was at Clemson. Allen played at the outside linebacker spot in Kentucky’s 3-4 defense and there are questions about how his game would translate in a 4-3, hand-in-dirt role he would have been in with the Raiders.

Ferrell made sense for the Raiders because of his fit and it’s a smart pick for the spot the Raiders are currently in. He’s a high-floor player who in the right scheme is an NFL-ready player and Paul Guenther’s defense offers that for the rookie edge rusher.

The Ferrell pick foreshadowed the Raiders next two picks, going with Alabama running back Josh Jacobs and Mississippi State safety Jonathan Abram. Neither pick moves the needle in terms of exciting picks but they filled needs.

Jacobs was used in a committee with Damien Harris with the Crimson Tide so he should have plenty of life left in his legs. He has the skill set that can be used to step in and fill the hole left at running back left by Marshawn Lynch and his retirement. He’s a three-down back who’s physical and runs hard but also can catch the ball out of the backfield, something that can add a wrinkle to Jon Gruden’s offense.

Just like Ferrell and Jacobs, Abram was a reach at the No. 27 pick but addressed a need. Abram will give Guenther some versatility in the secondary, something the Raiders lacked last season. He will primarily play at the strong safety but has the skills to cover the slot receiver or even play as an undersized linebacker who can get into the backfield.

Yes, the Raiders first-round may have been head-scratching but Gruden and Mayock had a plan. They have a clear vision for what they want the Raiders want to be. The 2019 draft set the building blocks for that vision.