The Raiders simply cannot miss with their first-round draft pick. Better yet, not missing is insufficient. They've got to nail it with the No. 5 pick.

They need a game-changer. A franchise-lifter. If the past couple of years were indeed the deconstruction of the franchise, as owner Mark Davis said, then reconstruction needs to begin with a cornerstone player. Which means they can't draft a quarterback.

The answer is Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

Jadeveon Clowney, the stud defensive end deemed a rare talent, may not be there when the Raiders select. But his lack of production this past season, whispers about effort, concerns over him being injury prone, should all be enough to scare away the Raiders.

Oakland's offensive line could use Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews. He and a re-signed Jared Veldheer are a formidable foundation. But Matthews may not be there either, and the Raiders haven't selected an offensive tackle in the first round since Robert Gallery in 2004. And when you don't have a franchise quarterback to protect or featured back to feed faithfully, you're perhaps best going for a lineman later.

But Watkins will be there, and he might be the closest thing to a can't-miss for the Raiders. He's 6-foot-1 but he's no one-trick pony.

He's not just a speed guy who can stretch the field, though he can. He's not just a possession guy who can get open underneath, though he can. He's not just a guy you want to get the ball to in space and let him make a play, though he can.

Watkins has his issues. His performance this year, capped with a stunning Orange Bowl, was a bit of a comeback. His two-game suspension for a drug arrest proved to be a fitting start to a mediocre 2012 season. Injuries caused him to miss games, and his production dropped when he did play.

That's worthy of concern even though Watkins more than made up for it his junior season: 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he's not a No. 1 receiver, he'd be a stud at No. 2. He's Percy Harvin with no history of concussions.

The Raiders desperately need an upgrade in talent, and few in the draft are more talented than Watkins. They need a playmaker who can make a difference as a rookie. They need a low-risk, high-reward option to stem the tide of unfruitful high draft picks.

Even if you conclude it's too early to adequately judge cornerback D.J. Hayden a miss, the Raiders' previous six first-round draft picks paint an accurate picture of franchise's woes: Fabian Washington, Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Rolando McClain.

The Raiders can't miss again. Just can't.

Oakland does need a quarterback. But even if Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater falls to No. 5, can he step in right away to lead this team as Andrew Luck did for Indianapolis? Central Florida's Blake Bortles figures to need weapons to play up his many strengths.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel could turn out to be good, and a draw. But he could also turn out not so good. His niche for scrambling and making magical throws could not work too well in the professional ranks.

Plus, the last thing the Raiders need is their starting quarterback making headlines for partying with Drake. The risk is too high even for the potential reward Manziel could bring a team.

The Raiders just need to transition from disappointing to competitive right now. They don't need to go fishing for their next Super Bowl-winning quarterback. This team has too many holes.

For now, they can go with a gap-bridger. A veteran quarterback who has experience with winning and some youngish legs -- Josh McCown, Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez, Matt Schaub. Someone desperate enough to start that he would come to this tormented franchise, yet good enough to possibly make a push for eight or nine wins.

Oakland can then draft a quarterback in the later rounds -- San Jose State's David Fales, Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Clemson's Tajh Boyd -- and let them compete for a backup job. Who knows, maybe one of them surprises you. Maybe you wait a couple years, develop the rest of the team, then go for the franchise guy.

In either scenario, it would be a good thing if the Raiders had Watkins on the receiving end.

Contact Marcus Thompson II at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.