Oakland is on the cusp.
Whether it be perennial playoff contender, or underwhelming disappointment, could depend on their level of success in this year’s draft.
Their largest need is at running back, incumbent starter Latavius Murray either needs help or a replacement. There is only one straight-away replacement in this year’s draft, but Ezekiel Elliot is not likely to be on the board once Oakland picks.
Moreover, the two best running backs who played for a major college football program in 2015 — Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette — aren’t draft eligible this year, but will be in 2017.
Oakland could stand to add something more at cornerback as well.
The consensus top three defensive backs, too, are unlikely to be there when the Raiders pick — most expect Jalen Ramsey to San Diego, Vernon Hargreaves to Tampa Bay, and either Eli Apple or Mackensie Alexander taken just before Oakland does at 14.
Which would probably leave them with William Jackson III, or Artie Burns.
Inside linebacker is one area that Oakland has a clear need to upgrade on defensively, and there are a few to choose from. Reggie Ragland, who’s a thumper who has enough quickness to get to the boundaries as long as he has some help around him.
Scooby Wright III is the other top option, though is dissimilar to Ragland. Wright is a coverage linebacker with superior quickness and agility, as well as ball skills.
The two project to complement one another very well, though the likelihood of both joining Oakland in a 3-4 defense is tough to project with exceeding confidence.
The Raiders could add a wide receiver with ease at the 14th pick, something that has probably been floated quite a bit in their meetings this year. Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard and LaQuon Treadwell lead the consensus opinion for the top three receivers.
Shepard is an elite playmaker, who possesses size and quickness that he packages with excellent hands and adjustment traits. As pure receivers go, Sheppard has it all, and is my top wide out in this class.
Coleman made plays in college, but lacks any one football trait that projects exceedingly well to the NFL level.
Treadwell is a player whose tape tells the full tale. He’s faster than his 40 time says, and has great football instincts. He blocks well, though NFL perimeter players aren’t usually asked to do much of that, and his proven determination and level of physicality he plays with, makes him an ideal number one receiver candidate.
Defensive tackle is an area where Oakland carries two high-level run stuffers, but they lack a true pass rusher.
There’s a guy who played in Louisville Kentucky the last few years, and he’s probably an ideal fit for what Oakland needs to do, and at the time of their pick.
Sheldon Rankins is a 6-foot-1 interior lineman who is a pure pass rusher in the mold of the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald. He plays with the desire to hit the ball carrier on every down, which is rare in college football, and even in the NFL.
If not for his smaller stature, Rankins might be a top-5 candidate.
Final round one prediction
The Raiders try to move up with the Buccaneers while hunting for Elliot. It’s a trade that works well for both sides, but Tampa Bay is too scared that Oakland is going to pick Hargreaves.
The deal breaks down, but Oakland selects a value pick in Rankins at 14th overall.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.