The 2011 NFL Draft is set to begin in under twelve hours. Round one begins at 5:00 p.m. pacific tonight (April 28th), with rounds 2-3 on Friday, April 29th at 3:00 p.m. and rounds 4-7 taking place on Saturday, April 30th at 9:00 a.m. It's been a long time coming, with an offseason marred by labor struggles and the lockout, which means no "real" free agency or trades or anything of that sort in the months leading up to today. Normally, we'd get our doses of NFL action throughout the offseason, but now the draft is the only thing folks have had to look forward to.
The Oakland Raiders have a daunting task ahead of them: without a first round pick they put themselves in a tough position to compete with the San Diego Chargers and the 2010 breakout Kansas City Chiefs in 2011. Oakland has seven picks in the draft, one in rounds two-through-six and two in round seven. Their picks are below:
1. Second round, No. 16 (48th overall)
2. Third round, No. 17 (81st overall)
3. Fourth round, No. 16 (113th overall)
4. Fifth round, No. 17 (148th overall)
5. Sixth round, No. 16 (181st overall)
6. Seventh round, No. 16 (219th overall)
7. Seventh round, No. 38 (241st overall, compensatory pick)
There is buzz that the Raiders may be trying to trade into the first round, though it will likely include future picks to do so. It's made so much harder by the lack of free agency before the draft, because the Raiders don't know how they'll fare in retaining guys like star corner Nnamdi Asomugha, or reliable tight end Zach Miller. If they can't retain those two players, then they immediately become high priority needs. Most have the Raiders mocked as taking a corner in the second round, but the elite talent pool could run dry by then. Some have linked them to being interested in Colorado CB Jimmy Smith, some have linked them to Ras-I Dowling.
Whatever the case, the Raiders should probably find a way to get into the first round instead of being complacent and hoping that offensive line, quarterback, cornerback and tight end issues just sort out themselves. The team considers Richard Seymour their "2011 first round pick", because that's what they sent in exchange for him, but they're not fooling anybody. In 2005, the Raiders traded back into the first round to get Fabian Washington, after giving up the pick in a Randy Moss trade.
They're not a bad team, in fact - they're far from it, but taking such a big loss in free agency and not having a first round pick? It could be very, very bad ... so be sure to keep your eyes open tonight for the first round, the Raiders could very much be in the mix before day two.
The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28th and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare for it - NFL mock drafts, draft