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2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. first-round picks for 49ers, Raiders

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2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. first-round picks for 49ers, Raiders originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

No team will change the fortunes of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft quite like the Oakland Raiders, and that much is clear in the latest mock draft from ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

In his second mock draft of the year, Kiper Jr. projected the Raiders would select three different players in the first round than he did a month ago. Oakland has three selections after trading edge rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper, both of whom were first-round picks themselves. 

Meanwhile, the Raiders’ counterparts across the Bay are projected to maintain their focus on the edge. Here’s how Kiper Jr. thinks the first round will shake out for the 49ers and Raiders. 

49ers, No. 2: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

What Kiper Jr. is saying: “Two former first-round picks along the defensive line (Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas) have struggled in San Francisco, but neither has the pure pass-rushing ability of Allen, who had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. Allen would fill a glaring need.”

Analysis: San Francisco ranked in the bottom-third of the league in sacks (37) in 2018. There are options in free agency, but adding a cost-controlled top prospect would help the 49ers preserve their already abundant salary-cap space and allow them to address their pass-rushing deficiency immediately. Allen appears as pro-ready as any player in this draft, and is a strong consolation prize for missing out on Nick Bosa.

Raiders, No. 4: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

What Kiper Jr. is saying: “Expect coach Jon Gruden and new [general manager] Mike Mayock to target a pass-rusher with one of their three first-round picks. Gary (6-6, 283) has some versatility to kick inside and play tackle, but he has a high ceiling as an end. When he’s locked in, he can dominate a game.”

Analysis: Kiper Jr. had Gary seventh on his big board a couple weeks ago, and projected him to be selected ninth in his first mock draft.  Gary said last week he is “the best player in the draft,” and although that confidence probably isn’t why he’s moved in Kiper Jr.’s eyes, the Raiders could certainly use some bravado on the edge after trading Mack just before the season.

Raiders, No. 24: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

What Kiper Jr. is saying: “We know that Jon Gruden loves playmakers — I heard him talk about them for years. And Murphy is one of the best defensive playmakers in this class, a ball hawk who had seven interceptions over two seasons at Washington.”

Analysis: Murphy might have been the best college cornerback in 2018, and he was a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus’ estimation. Kiper Jr. projected Murphy as the third CB off of the board in his latest mock draft, so the redshirt sophomore could represent great value for Oakland if he falls to the back end of the first round.

Raiders, No. 27, Brian Burns, Florida State

What Kiper Jr. is saying: “This match is all about helping the Raiders improve their pass rush, as the 6-5, 235-pound Burns is a pure speed edge rusher. He needs to get a little bigger, but time in an NFL strength and conditioning program should help. “

Analysis: Two edge rushers in Silver and Black? After the Raiders posted the fewest sacks by a team in the last 10 years, that’d be music to Mayock and Gruden’s ears. Last year, Burns recorded three fewer sacks (10) by himself than Oakland’s entire pass rush. 

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