By Sam McPherson

Once upon a time, Gil Brandt was a key part of the brain trust behind the Dallas Cowboys’ amazing run from 1966 to 1985, when America’s Team made the playoffs 18 times in 20 seasons.

Today, he’s merely a “senior analyst” for NFL.com, but his words this week ring true: ” …  this Raiders roster needs A LOT of work … “

So forget the big win over the Kansas City Chiefs and ponder the future of this franchise come springtime: What should the Oakland Raiders do with their impending high draft pick in 2015? And does it matter if they get the No. 1 overall pick or not?

As Brandt notes, the Raiders have a lot of needs, so it might make sense to trade out of a top draft position and stock up on picks in order to replenish the roster. And this isn’t the NBA, so “tanking” for the top selection in the draft really doesn’t make sense.

(Besides, that’s when football players can actually get hurt the most: not a good idea.)

When we considered the roster-holdover question three weeks ago, it looked like the Oakland bunch might go 0-16. But now they’ve “dropped” to No. 2 in the draft order behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

This week’s mock draft from CBS Sports also highlights the challenge for the Raiders: The top two picks are projected to be defensive linemen, and the third and fourth picks are quarterbacks.

First, defensive linemen are not sexy—nor do they revitalize a fan base. Second, Oakland doesn’t need a QB.

Regardless of where the Raiders finish, they should consider fielding offers for their high draft pick. Many teams are desperate for a quarterback, for example, and they won’t get near the top of the draft to get Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. The New York Giants and the St. Louis Rams need QBs of the future, but both have won enough games this year to miss the chance to draft one.

The Chicago Bears, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs also are good teams that could use an upgrade at the position—they could be viable trade partners, too.

As for the defensive linemen available, even if Oakland wanted Randy Gregory or Leonard Williams, drafting them too high means vastly overpaying for them. The Raiders need to be smart here and choose a pathway that makes both financial and performance sense for the team in 2015 and beyond.

In the end, there aren’t any obvious choices for Oakland at the top of the draft—meaning they’d get better opportunity and value by trading down for more picks, both in 2015 and 2016. The tough part is that other teams will recognize this, too, and then they will attempt to low-ball the Raiders into a bad deal.

Whether it’s General Manager Reggie McKenzie running the show in the spring or something else, the Oakland organization will need to be very smart about the upcoming draft—or doom the franchise into several more years of mediocrity.

Remember what happened the last time the Raiders had the top pick in the draft? They used it on perhaps the worst No. 1 overall pick ever in NFL history: Quarterback JaMarcus Russell. 

At the time, Oakland was coming off four straight losing seasons, and that ill-fated decision led to eight more non-winning seasons since. The Raiders cannot afford to make that kind of mistake again.

For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.

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