We’re back! It’s been awhile, but the weekly Friday mailbags are now back in full swing. We have now entered the second-quarter of the NFL season and that also means that we’re creeping closer to the NFL Draft. Today’s mailbag has a great mixture of both. This week, we take a deep dive into what’s going on in Oakland, the early contenders/pretenders so far this season, breaking down Mizzou QB Drew Lock’s draft stock, and a quick look at a few defensive tackle prospects.
1. Trouble in Raider Nation
From some head-scratching moves this offseason to the Khalil Mack trade, the first season under Jon Gruden is off to a disastrous start. Currently tied for the worst record in the NFL (1-5), there are plenty of things that are going wrong in Oakland. Trade rumors about former first-round picks Amari Cooper and Gareon Conley have surfaced, but the elephant in the room is the cloudy future hovering over their highest paid player on the roster. After a promising 2016 season, Derek Carr has not taken the next steps in his development like management was expecting him to. This has left a huge question about his future with the team going forward.
Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension just two years ago. The contract does have an opt-out clause next season where the Raiders would only have to incur a $7.5 million dead cap penalty next season. This has raised questions on if Gruden will move forward with Carr or if he will want to cut ties with him and bring in his own guy, whether that’s a veteran or a future draft pick.
I don’t see the Raiders moving on from Carr unless his play gets even worse than it currently has been to this point. On the other-hand, Gruden knowing that he’s in this job for the long-haul, may look to ship Carr elsewhere and mold his team from the ground up. Taking that method would not surprise me either. Regardless, the Raiders biggest issue is that they need to decide on what exactly they want to do because the front office seems like they are on completely different pages. There seems to be a lot of confusion on exactly how they want to build up the team.
If the Raiders decide to keep Carr, Nick Bosa would be the obvious best player available on the board. After shipping Mack to the Bears, the team is in desperate need of a pass-rusher that can generate consistent pressure off of the edge.
2. Examining Drew Lock’s Draft Status
Last year, Drew Lock contemplated entering the 2018 NFL Draft, but after careful consideration he opted to return for his senior season. At the time, it seemed like the right decision as many evaluators thought he wasn’t ready for the next level and he wasn’t as talented as the signal-callers at the top of the class. The Mizzou QB entered this season with high expectations and he hasn’t lived up to them to this point. The same flaws that he had a season ago are still evident and the biggest worry that I have about him is his processing speed. Lock seems to always be a step or two slow on his reads when he has to go through actual progressions. His toughest tests this season came against Georgia and Alabama. He didn’t receive much help against the Bulldogs, but he struggled mightily in Tuscaloosa.
3. 2019 NFL Draft Interior Defensive Lineman
Everyone knows about Ed Oliver and how he’s putting together another impressive season. The junior has already declared for the draft and he’s assured to hear his name early next April. The prospect that has quickly ascended up draft boards is Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. He’s most commonly been compared to Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy.
His combination of strength, quickness, polished technique, and hand usage are making him among the top defenders in the country. Last season, he was the primary backup to recent Redskins first-round pick Da’Ron Payne. Now, it was his time to step into the penetrating interior defender role and he has done it to near perfection. As it stands right now, Williams has positioned himself to be an early first-round pick if he has a successful pre-draft process and checks all of the boxes on what scouts want to see from him.
4. Early Season Contenders and Pretenders
There seems to be a three team race for the best team in the league between the Chiefs, Rams, and Patriots. Right now, those teams are in a class of their own. The Chiefs and Patriots are on a collision course for a rematch in the postseason. Over in the NFC, the Rams are destroying the league. The Saints, Vikings, Ravens, and Chargers are also other teams to watch during the next phase of the season.
On the other hand, there’s multiple teams that are in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. The Cardinals, Colts, Raiders, Bills, and Giants are all jockeying for pole position come April. Each team has multiple flaws of their own and they all are easy to see. It will be interesting to watch this fiasco unfold over the next few months and see who ends up with the first overall selection.
Follow Jordan on Twitter @JReidNFL. Check out his other here, such as his article about how veteran QBs should mentor their heir apparent and a deep dive into what the life of an NFL scout is really like.