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Oakland Raiders' draft needs: Zach Mettenberger a smart pick


Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.

The Oakland Raiders had an aggressive offseason after an inauspicious start. After allowing Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston to leave in free agency, general manager Reggie McKenzie was able to bring in a number of veteran players, including Maurice Jones-Drew, James Jones, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Matt Schaub.

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The offseason acquisitions addressed a lot of the Raiders' needs, which should allow them to focus on taking the best player available with their 10 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. I wouldn't be surprised if the Raiders follow last year's strategy and trade down in the first round to accumulate more picks. With so much depth in this year's draft, the opportunity -- if presented -- to acquire more young talent could really help the team build for the future.

Here are four positions of need for Oakland -- and some prospects who could fill them.

1) Wide receiver

Third-year pro Rod Streater has great size and playmaking ability, but neither him nor free-agent acquisition Jones is a true No. 1 receiver. If Clemson star Sammy Watkins falls past the No. 4 overall pick, there's no way he gets past Oakland at No. 5. The 6-foot-1 pass catcher has the skill set to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

But if he's off the board, the Raiders can take solace in the fact that this year's class is incredibly deep at receiver. A player I like early on Day 3 is Bruce Ellington from South Carolina, who could be an interesting slot player in this offense. The former two-sport collegiate athlete (basketball) has a combination of toughness, instincts and ball skills that I think will translate well at the next level.

One wild card with the fifth-overall pick: Mike Evans. If linebacker Khalil Mack and Watkins are both off the board, I wouldn't be surprised if the Raiders took the Texas A&M standout in the first round.

2) Quarterback

The Raiders traded a sixth-round pick for Schaub, and let's hope for the team's sake they get the 2009 version, not the one who threw a pick six in four consecutive games last year.

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They've moved on from Terrelle Pryor, and while second-year pro Matt McGloin is still on their roster, they still don't have a legitimate long-term solution under center. Both Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel have been discussed as options, but I think the Raiders will elect to wait at least until Round 2 before selecting a quarterback.

Oakland could use the 36th overall pick on LSU's Zach Mettenberger, who has the ideal size for the position. Although he's coming off a knee injury, the former Tiger is a pure pocket passer with plenty of arm strength.

3) Pass rusher

Tuck and Woodley will bring a positive veteran presence to the defensive unit, but both are short-term solutions. The Raiders need a young dynamic pass rusher who they can build around for years to come. I think Mack could be that guy. The Buffalo defender would provide the unit with an explosive edge rusher capable of producing double-digit sacks as a rookie.

But if Mack is off the board at No. 5, I think Oakland could opt for Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence on Day 2. The Raiders would likely have to use the 36th overall pick on Lawrence, as most teams have him ranked in their top 40.

4) Inside linebacker

Oakland hasn't yet recovered from missing on former first-rounder Rolando McClain. Ironically, the top inside linebacker from this year's class is C.J. Mosley -- another Alabama product. The two players' alma mater is about all they have in common; Mosley's leadership, motor and toughness are outstanding, but the same couldn't be said for McClain when he was coming out of college.

Taking Mosley at No. 5 might be a bit too early, but in a trade-back scenario, he'd be a good fit with the Silver and Black.

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So what will the Raiders do with their first-round pick (No. 5 overall)? Here's what NFL Media's analysts see happening, according to their mock draft projections (click here for full mock drafts):

Daniel Jeremiah: Khalil Mack
Bucky Brooks: Blake Bortles
Charles Davis: Jake Matthews
Matt Smith: Johnny Manziel
Chase Goodbread: Jake Matthews

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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