It seems as though the Cardinals are poised to draft quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick, but if they don’t, the Raiders have some options.
The period of time between the end of the free agency frenzy and the draft is the football dead zone. Football fans google their respective teams for news and find nothing. The networks run top ten all-time lists ad nausium. If there is reporting on your team it is nearly always bad. At a time when we all know so much is going on, no news really is good news.
The Dead Zone
This leaves those who report on the league stuck in a vacuum. I often read an article and recognize bits and pieces from other articles, cannibalized artfully as not to plagiarise. I call it baby birding. Little bits and pieces, snippets of news, gathered on the information superhighway. It is plucked, mixed with other salvaged minutiae, digested, then regurgitated to a starving audience.
It has been reported that the Cardinals have a sort of spastic, reeling, knee jerk air about their front office. I have read no fewer than twenty mock drafts that make a rational argument for the Cardinals selecting Kyler Murray.
The problem is that drafting Kyler Murray with the first pick overall is not rational. The Cardinals had to give up a third-round pick and two fifth-round picks to move from 15th to 10th in the 2018 draft just so they could take Josh Rosen. Moves like this make or break front offices; the fact we are even reading mock after mock sending Murray to Arizona is anything but resolute.
Last July, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was suspended for five weeks following his arrest for extreme DUI. In the state of Arizona, a driver is driving under the influence when found to be operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or greater. The state deems a DUI arrest extreme when the blood alcohol level is .15 percent or greater; Keim’s was .19 percent, more than double the legal limit.
Are you playing chess or checkers?
Steve Keim and the Cardinals brass are managing the expectations of their fan base poorly. If they select Murray, many will see this as paying way too much for a quarterback of questionable stature. The Cardinals, a team with pressing needs at multiple positions on offense and defense, will have paid:
(1) first-round pick, tenth overall
(1) third-round pick
(2) fifth-round picks
(1) first-round pick, first overall
If they don’t take Murray after allowing all the speculation and feeding it by shopping Rosen, half of the fan base will feel let down; pick your poison.
What kind of return would justify this investment? What if they don’t?
What happens if we abandon the Kyler Murray goes to the Cards with the first pick paradigm? We re-enter the rational world where the grass is green, water is wet, the sky is blue. For the Raiders, things get less clear and the war room becomes dyspeptic.
The two best players in this draft are Quinnen Williams and Nick Bosa. The Cards take one and the Niners take the other. The Jets then take Kentucky edge rusher, Josh Allen. These three are elite talent that will not just start at the next level, but they will go to Pro Bowls. A precipice exists between these three and the rest of this draft. The Raiders are not interested in Murray; yes, they worked him out recently, but if Derek Carr were in this draft he would be above Murray and Dwayne Haskins. The first pick of the Raiders will address the top need of the Raiders: edge rusher.
But, here is where things get interesting.
If you can’t go big, go long
The next two best edge rushers are Clelin Ferrell and Montez Sweat, two coin tosses. Both are good but neither are spectacular. When you skim the mocks the Buccaneers go for an edge rusher with the fifth pick, the Giants take a quarterback, and the Lions go defense with an edge rusher with the eighth pick.
Hang with me here.
What if Mike Mayock calls New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and throws him a bone? The Raiders trade down with the Giants, sending them their first-round pick, the 2020 third-round pick and 2019 fifth-round pick they acquired from the Jets in exchange for the Giants 2020 first-round pick? If the Giants bite they are playing the long game and that pick could be a pick in the top half of the draft; the Giants get their choice of Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins.
Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other
In this scenario, the Bucs take either Ferrell or Sweat and the Raiders take the other. Nothing gained, nothing lost.
In the pros, Ferrell and Sweat are pedestrian with the possibility of becoming good. Neither is going to remind you of Khalil Mack or Von Miller, and on the opposite end is Arden Key who posted one sack in 2018. In the Paul Gunther base 4/3 with either Ferrell or Sweat playing with their hand in the dirt the Raiders second pick in the first round (24th overall) could pick up a fast and lean Florida State outside linebacker in Brian Burns or Florida Gator Jachai Polite.
It is pretty easy to imagine either blitzing from the overloaded side, but less clear to see how well these guys could hang in coverage. Finally, with their final first-round pick, the Raiders could stay on defense and take whoever is still on the board at defensive back. As odd as it seems they will likely be taking no worse than third amongst all defensive backs.
With the departure of 2018 reception leader Jared Cook to the Saints, it is also possible the Raiders could go tight end with the final of their first-round picks if Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant is there.
If I were a stream of consciousness ranting while pacing back and forth in the war room and using string diagrams to connect names on a board, I might want to keep all that on the down low. I might kick out all the scouts, and lock all the doors. How close are they holding their cards? Mike Mayock was seen eating lunch with his daughter the other day and he had a file folder with him. He was observed taking the folder with him when he went to the restroom. The most frustrating thing about this news dead zone is there is so much going on, and all we can do is guess.
To be clear, if the Cardinals push all their chips to the center of the table to pick an outfielder at quarterback, the Niners then pick Bosa, the Jets take Allen and the Raiders get Williams.
It gets no better than that.