Raiders in driver's seat for No. 1 draft pick (is that a good thing?)

JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders pick at No. 1 in 2007, is often mentioned as the all-time bust at quarterback. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It's all set up for the Oakland Raiders now.

They control, as the saying goes, their own destiny. All they have to do is lose out.

Wait, what? No, this is not a suggestion the Raiders go ahead and tank the rest of the season, because what professional in his or her right mind would willingly lose games? None that will be around for very long.

But this much is true: Drop their last seven games, beginning Sunday in Arizona against a Cardinals team that also could figure in the race for No. 1 pick -- the prize for having the worst record in the league -- and the Raiders would secure the top draft pick with a franchise-worst 1-15 record.

That's not a bad scenario for a team in full-blown reconstruction mode with two other first-rounders in 2019, those belonging to the Dallas Cowboys (acquired in the Amari Cooper trade) and the Chicago Bears (thank you very much, Khalil Mack).

As it stands now, the current draft order has the Raiders going first, followed by the San Francisco 49ers, the New York Giants, the Cardinals and the New York Jets.

The trick, then?

"We have to nail those picks," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com recently.

"If you're building, you have to build through the draft. You have to do it with your own players."

Davis said he often jokingly reminds Oakland coach Jon Gruden about the last time the Raiders got two first-round picks in a trade: It was for Gruden, when he was sent to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.

In case you forgot, and it's easy to do so, those picks ended up being Phillip Buchanon and Tyler Brayton.

Yes, the Raiders, especially if they get the No. 1 pick, need to nail an exercise that is often a crapshoot.

Because as much heat, and rightfully so, as Oakland takes for one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history in JaMarcus Russell, the big-armed quarterback was the consensus No. 1 pick in 2007. It was just a bad match, in every aspect.

Yes, then-coach Lane Kiffin had another vision, one that saw the Raiders selecting receiver Calvin Johnson No. 1 overall and then getting his quarterback in Trent Edwards in the second round to set up his offense for years to come.

But as the late Al Davis also said, Kiffin vacillated, sometimes pegging quarterback Brady Quinn as his top pick.

"I do realize that you did not want us to draft JaMarcus Russell," the late Davis wrote in a letter to Kiffin in 2008, warning him to step in line lest he be fired (Kiffin eventually was canned). "He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field, that is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team!"

They did not. Russell was 7-18 over three seasons. And the story of his being given blank tapes and DVDs to watch at home and Russell insisting he studied defensive schemes was regurgitated for some reason last week, though it is the stuff of legend.

As are other Raiders draft misses -- and hits.

Because while offensive lineman Don Mosebar had a solid NFL career, the guy selected one pick after him in the 1983 draft's first round was enshrined in Canton, Ohio. A guy by the name of Dan Marino.

And for every Nnamdi Asomugha, selected 31st overall in 2003, there are plenty of Bob Buczkowskis, John Clays, Rolando McClains, Todd Marinovichs and Marc Wilsons, first-round busts all.

More salt? In a four-year stretch from 2004 through 2007, here's a look at who the Raiders got with the first-round pick and who was selected with the next pick: OL Robert Gallery/WR Larry Fitzgerald; CB Fabian Washington/QB Aaron Rodgers; FS Michael Huff/SS Donte Whitner; Russell/Megatron.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Raiders have used a top-five pick on seven players, with differing results -- DL Darrell Russell (No. 2 in 1997), DB Charles Woodson (No. 4 in 1998), Gallery (No. 2 in 2004), Russell (No. 1 in 2007), RB Darren McFadden (No. 4 in 2008), Mack (No. 5 in 2014) and Cooper (No. 4 in 2015).

And the last time the Raiders had multiple first-round picks, in 2003, they drafted Asomugha and Brayton 31st and 32nd overall, respectively. A year earlier, Oakland got Buchanon and linebacker Napoleon Harris 17th and 23rd, respectively.

In Gruden's first go-round in Oakland, he had two first-rounders that netted him Woodson and guard Mo Collins, who went 23rd.

The only other time the Raiders had three first-round picks came in 1988, when they got future Hall of Famer Tim Brown, cornerback Terry McDaniel and defensive end Scott Davis with picks No. 6, 9 and 25.

Gruden, who obviously has experience with multiple first-rounders, had only five first-round picks in Tampa Bay, and he drafted one Pro Bowler in those selections -- cornerback Aqib Talib. The other first-rounders he took: receiver Michael Clayton, running back Cadillac Williams, guard Davin Joseph and defensive end Gaines Adams.

Not exactly a sterling résumé, right?

That's why it is going to have to be a collaborative effort this time around. Because if Reggie McKenzie is still the general manager (Mark Davis said he and McKenzie would talk to formulate his role, likely after the season), McKenzie said his role is to get the players that the coach wants.

And with so many needs on the Raiders' roster -- edge rusher, linebacker, secondary, receiver, quarterback, etc. -- at least they can address it early. And if they lose out, they control the draft.

Defensive ends Nick Bosa and Clelin Ferrell and defensive tackle Ed Oliver would seem to meet that standard.

"There's absolutely no way we're tanking," Davis said. "Because there's no way I want to walk out of there with a loss. No way Jon wants to walk out of there with a loss. It's killing us."

To the point of possibly finding new blood in the draft to sustain what Davis hopes is one last season in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Las Vegas in 2020.

"But I see such a great future, such a grand future for this franchise," Davis added. "It goes back to trying to balance two markets -- not disrespecting the Bay Area and the Oakland fans, while at the same time embracing and looking forward to such a magnificent future in one of the most awesome buildings in the entertainment capital of the world."

With a whole gaggle of picks that Davis and Gruden are gambling on it panning out, no doubt.