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Vetting potential trade partners: Raiders

2/26/2014

We're still months away from May's NFL draft, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking at the many possible permutations of how things could shake out.

The St. Louis Rams aren't having an open auction for the No. 2 overall pick like they did in 2012, but general manager Les Snead has already indicated a willingness to move it. Without a pair of clear-cut top quarterbacks, the market may not be in a hurry to make a move which could leave the Rams waiting until they're on the clock before making a deal. As the combine approaches along with pro days, prospects will become more valued and the market could crystallize.

Free agency is also likely to have an impact on potential trade partners as teams fill needs in other avenues. For now, we wrap up our series on potential trade partners with the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders are always something of an enigma when it comes to the draft and hold the fifth pick this year.

Why Oakland makes sense: Let's get to the logical stuff in a moment, but we can start here: it's the Raiders. While things may not be as unpredictable as they once were when it comes to the franchise, anything is still possible when it comes to Oakland.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the simple football-related reasons. First and foremost, Oakland falls into the same category as Jacksonville, Cleveland and Minnesota among teams picking in the top 10, which is to say it needs a franchise quarterback.

Incumbent quarterback Terrelle Pryor has had some good moments, occasionally flashing the ability to change games with his arm and legs but there hasn't been enough consistency there for the Raiders to outright commit to him for the long term.

Just like the Browns and Jaguars, the Raiders are likely to have their favorite of the top quarterbacks, but it's far from a guarantee they'll have a shot to draft one. If Houston takes a quarterback, that would narrow the choices to two and there would exist a real chance that all of the top three are gone before Oakland comes on the clock at No. 5.

Beyond that, if Oakland does want a quarterback, its best chance to get the guy it wants may come down to making a move up. In the event Houston surprises and drafts South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a trade with the Rams would guarantee the first crack at quarterbacks.

Then, of course, there's Clowney, who could also be of interest to the Raiders. Oakland tied for 18th in sacks in 2013 with a modest 38 and defensive end Lamarr Houston led the team with six and he's scheduled to become a free agent. So the need for pass-rush help is there, too.

For the Rams, the Raiders fit perfectly into a potential sweet spot for a trade down. A move three spots down the board could garner an additional second-round pick and perhaps something else but also leaves them still in position to add a top offensive tackle like Auburn's Greg Robinson or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

If the Rams did business with Oakland, sitting at No. 5 after any scenario in which the first two picks would be some combination of Clowney and a quarterback or two quarterbacks would guarantee the Rams a shot at one of Robinson, Matthews or Watkins and likely more than one of them.

Atlanta or Cleveland is often considered the ideal trade partner for the Rams because of ties between the general managers, but Oakland would be a great fit in maintaining the Rams' chances at adding a pick and ensuring they'd land a top talent.

Why Oakland doesn't make sense: As ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez wrote last week, Oakland has needs all over its roster. While the Raiders need a quarterback, the sheer amount of needs they have means they might not be in position to make any move that would require them to give up picks.

As it stands, the Raiders have seven picks with two in the seventh round and none in the fifth. They could add more with compensatory picks but those can't be traded. The Raiders showed a willingness to make a move last year when they moved down to add picks and selected cornerback D.J. Hayden. But again, that was a move down in the order, one intended to get more picks so they could fill more holes. That could again be the team's strategy this year as it looks to add more talent all over the roster.

For the Rams, any move down means surrendering the chance to draft the exact player they want. While a move to No. 5 would absolutely still land them a top talent, it might also take them out of the running for the player they truly covet, whoever that might be. Even if you operate under the assumption that Jacksonville and Cleveland would want to address quarterback needs first, that's no guarantee and other teams could move up in a trade to get a player the Rams might want as well.

That isn't to say a move to No. 5 would take the Rams out of the running for a player they might want but it might take away their chance at their first choice. At some point, quality will become a priority over quantity.