But before that game can take place, the two teams met on neutral turf in Indianapolis on Friday. At stake? Positioning in the 2018 NFL draft.
The league had its tiebreaking coin toss between the Niners and Raiders on Friday afternoon, and the 49ers were the winners -- walking away with the ninth pick and leaving No. 10 to the Raiders. Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson flipped the coin that came up in San Francisco's favor.
Now that the 49ers and Raiders are locked into their draft positions, Niners reporter Nick Wagoner and Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez take a look at some potential targets for the last two picks in the top 10.
Wagoner: Niners general manager John Lynch has made it clear the organizational philosophy is to fill needs through free agency and use the draft to select the best player available. Still, a need can serve as a tiebreaker of sorts if players have similar grades, which makes nailing down a specific target here before free agency begins a difficult exercise. It's a good bet the Niners will land at least a few notable free agents, with cornerback and the interior of the offensive line among the most likely positions to find starters. With additional needs at receiver, edge rusher and running back, plus the need for depth at almost every spot, the 49ers should be able to plug some holes and set themselves up to take a player with their first pick who not only can contribute right away but also makes sense in the big picture. Winning the ninth pick doesn't change much about their potential prospects, but it does put them in a slightly better position for a possible trade down.
Some 49ers options for pick No. 9: One position we know the 49ers won't be drafting in the first round is quarterback, after trading for and signing Jimmy Garoppolo. But in an ideal world, the quarterback position can still have a profound effect on the team's draft plans. That could manifest in a trade down with a team looking to move up (Arizona? Buffalo?) or in multiple signal-callers going before the Niners' pick and pushing a top talent into their laps. If the latter happened, the Niners would probably love to see NC State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb still on the board. Others who fit the category of crossing your fingers and hoping they fall: Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
It's likely that none of those players will be available when the Niners pick, which means they'd probably be looking at a group that includes Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Boston College pass-rusher Harold Landry, UT-San Antonio pass-rusher Marcus Davenport and Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams. The two linebackers could start immediately, offer Reuben Foster insurance and easily profile as the best player available when the Niners are on the clock. Williams could be intriguing as a Day 1 starter at guard capable of moving to tackle as a long-term replacement for Trent Brown or Joe Staley. A trade down could also net one of these players and bring some receivers, running backs and more offensive linemen into the mix.
Gutierrez: The Raiders entered the day with a 7-6 edge in the all-time series with their Bay Area rivals and lost this, ahem, matchup. But Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was not sweating this contest -- at least, not publicly. “I don’t think it matters much, as far as the player,” McKenzie told reporters Wednesday, per Raiders.com. “Now, maybe trade value, it values a little bit more. ... No, won’t lose any sleep at all.” Perhaps coach Jon Gruden, who rarely sleeps anyway, was on to something earlier in the day when he essentially said the only pick in the past three drafts to truly shine in Oakland has been Amari Cooper, who went No. 4 in 2015. So yeah, choosing between ninth or 10th when it comes to skill level might mean little to McKenzie if the talent level is similar, but should Oakland get froggy and want to jump at a trade offer for the pick, well, 10 carries less weight than nine, right?
Some Raiders options for pick No. 10: As two-time Raiders Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Flores once told me, if you’re picking in the top 10, you don’t have the luxury to draft for a specific need because if you are picking in the top 10, that means you have a lot of needs. And the Raiders, a year after winning 12 games, fell to six victories and have many needs -- especially on defense. With Gruden saying that he thought Bruce Irvin was better as an edge rusher than a traditional outside linebacker and that he needs help in the pass rush, that could mean the Raiders target the likes of Edmunds to fill a potential void left by Irvin putting his hand in the dirt. Or, should Oakland lose NaVorro Bowman in free agency, Smith could be a fit inside, or even a good pairing should Bowman return. Or, Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea could provide an inside push, especially with Justin Ellis a free agent and Eddie Vanderdoes returning from a torn ACL suffered in the season finale. And if the Raiders do choose to trade down, they would stockpile more picks beyond the 11 they already have in hand, including six selections in the sixth round.