Should the Raiders trade up to get an elite player in the draft?

The Oakland Raiders are run by a man in Reggie McKenzie who values building a roster through the NFL Draft rather than through free agency (as many fans learned this year). That typically means it’s more likely that the Raiders will trade back in the draft and accumulate picks than trade up in the draft at the cost of picks.

But as we saw with Connor Cook last year, it’s not like trading up is completely out of the range of possibility for McKenzie.

So that raises the question, is there anyone in this year’s draft that might be worth trading up for. Anything can happen in later rounds, but what most Raiders fans want to know is whether McKenzie could trade up in the first round and grab an elite talent.

The short answer is that this scenario is highly unlikely for the reasons noted above.

But let’s talk about it anyway. Why? Because it’s the offseason and sometimes the topics that are the most interesting to talk about are the ones that aren’t very likely to happen.

First off, one has to wonder if there is even a talent in this year’s draft that would be worth trading up for. I mean, sure, Myles Garrett would be a great addition to any team but getting from the 24th pick to the first pick in the draft would take this exercise from the unlikely to the nearly impossible.

So is there anyone who could fall far enough that the Raiders could actually trade up without mortgaging their entire future?

Reuben Foster is a name that immediately comes to mind, especially given his combine drama. He’s a guy who could get picked just inside of the top ten, which is an area that’s ripe for a guy to fall into the teens where the Raiders might actually be interested in trading up to.

But is inside linebacker really a position you want to trade up in the first round to get? It’s an important position but normally you see trade ups happening for things like quarterbacks or pass rushers. Foster is a great talent but might not play the right position for the Raiders to trade up and get him.

But the Raiders already have a quarterback and two pass rushing specialists in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, so what position has an elite talent and is worth trading up for?

When looking at the top end of the first half, one name jumps off the screen as fitting this scenario: Malik Hooker.

No, safety is not traditionally a position that you see a lot of teams trading up for. And yes, some mock drafts have Hooker going as high as second, which would put him out of the reach of Oakland. This makes a long shot trade up even less likely.

But, in the perfect storm, it’s not crazy.

First off, while teams don’t often trade up to get a safety, this is a special situation. One of the biggest problems with the Raiders defense last season was that Ken Norton, Jr. was trying to run a Seattle style, single high safety with an aging Reggie Nelson.

The reason that style of defense has worked for the Seattle Seahawks is because of a guy named Earl Thomas.

Thomas is an elite talent who is able to cover more of the football field than most safeties in the game. His ability to cover so much open space is what allows the Seattle defense to be so dominant. If Ken Norton, Jr. and the Raiders are intent on running the Seahawks defense, they need their own version of Earl Thomas and Malik Hooker could be that guy.

Now, as for the draft position. This one is completely out of the hands of Oakland. With some thinking Hooker could be taken second overall, McKenzie will have to get lucky in order for Hooker to fall within his range. But if Hooker does fall out of the top ten for some reason (maybe someone freaks and takes a QB way too early causing an unexpected run on quarterbacks?), McKenzie should really start thinking about what it would take to trade up and get Hooker.

But just how much would it cost? Let’s say Hooker falls to the number 12 pick. According to the Draft Trade Chart, the Raiders would need to give up their second and third round picks just to get Hooker. That’s a pretty high price to pay considering this is considered such a deep draft that you might be able to get three defensive starters in the first three rounds.

The only way this works is if the Raiders look at trading future picks. Maybe Oakland’s scouts have determined that next year’s draft is not anywhere near as talented. If so, giving up a pick or two in 2018 wouldn’t be nearly as painful to endure.

Not surprisingly, no matter how closely you look at the situation, it seems rather unlikely that the Raiders would trade up in the first round. But if they did, Malik Hooker is the guy who makes the most sense from both a talent and a need standpoint.

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