We Trading Down?

The rummours are increasingly starting to circle that the Oakland Raiders are going to trade the number 5 pick in this year’s draft, as more and more stories have started to emerge that their are four top-tier players in this year’s draft and that the number 5 pick potentially misses this bonanza. I don’t, however, buy this philosophy.

The 4 players the media love are Greg Robinson, Clowney, Mack and Sammy Watkins, but this view is short-sighted. Although a very different player to Robinson, Jake Matthews is equally adept, a better pass blocker but at this point not quite so good at run blocking (and vice versa), expanding my initial top-tier talent pool to 5.

Then we have Teddy Bridgewater, an absolutely sublime talent at QB that is being crucified for his non-game performances – glove gate. There is nothing wrong with Teddy B’s talent, yes he’s a little slim but he can easily put on 15 lbs of muscle, the key to this kid is his intelligence and very smooth style. Personally I think this would be a brilliant pick, for any of the top-5, if its us he’d be even better for a year of learning from Matt Schaub. So that’s at least 6 star-caliber players that are available.

Then I’d add a seventh, Jonny Football….need I say anymore on this kid. I don’t love this pick, and would rather we didn’t make it, but he’d certainly make games exciting.

 

Draft Positions of Need: Safety

In a series of articles, looking at the various positions of need, I am looking today at Safety. This isn’t a position we need to address early, because we have two strong starters, but it is a position I would be keen for us to address in the latter rounds or as an UDFA.

In my opinion Tyvon Branch is a top-10 starting strong safety and one that I expect to show significant improvements this season, as at 27 years of age he enters the peak of his career. Backing him up, however, is a bit of an unknown. Brandian Ross seems to be the club’s long-term possibility, and he has shown glimpses, but he also sucked far to often and at 191 lbs he needs to add some weight (i.e. muscle), which I’m sure he’s doing right now. Shelton Johnson also has some promise, but I really feel he needs to sit back on the practise squad to learn this season. I wouldn’t be opposed to another talent being drafted, as long as its not too early or as an UDFA, although if I’m honest free safety is probably a bigger need.

In Charles Woodson we not only have a very capable FS but we also have a leader on the field, a legend for the young players to learn from and a coach on the pitch. Woodson looked great at times last season, but as he tired the standard of his play accordingly dropped. Now in Usama Young we also have a player I really like, and he needs to come into the lineup more often to help woodson remain fresh, but Usama Young isn’t top-tier standard, and a young talent is probably required here. I’m not completely against the idea that a player I’ve talked about many times before Neiko Thorpe (  https://raidalove.wordpress.com/tag/best-fa/) can’t yet be the answer, but if a real talented player falls into the later rounds, like Dion Bailey, Lonnie Ballentine or Tre Boston, then we should certainly pounce….roll on draft day, its going to be exciting (although rather sadly I think I enjoy the UDFA acquisitions after the draft the most).

Lonnie Ballentine – watch the clips, looks really good http://nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=68818&draftyear=2014&genpos=FS

 

Draft Board

I’m posting a very simple “Top 5” draft board – I’m keeping to the top 5 as the multitude of possibilities draft day trades result in make considering their possibility too many and varied – anyway the top 5 are as follows (and I’m going with best imo available player, as I don’t think we have the pressing needs of recent years):-

1. Jadeveon Clowney – incredibly unlikely to fall to us, this prototype DL would be a dream-come-true for us, but I just don’t see it happening so I won’t write any more

2. Greg Robinson –  we don’t really need an OL, but this kid is one of the best prospects in years, and could start (and excel) and LT now. Believe me Greg Robinson blows Veldheer out of the water. In fact I love the possibility of a Robinson-Boothe-Wiz-Howard-Watson offensive line (on this last point, yes Menelik Watson, I’m really excited about this kid, a fit Watson is going to prove a lot of the doubters wrong in 2014, nice critical peace on Watson in 2014 here http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1999502-what-is-the-oakland-raiders-plan-for-menelik-watson#articles/1999502-what-is-the-oakland-raiders-plan-for-menelik-watson )

3. Khalil Mack – probably the most ready-for-action player in this year’s draft, Mack brings excellence to the OLB position. We don’t massively need Khalil Mack, as OLB is one of the stronger (its all relative reader!) positions on our roster, but players of Mack’s talent don’t come around very often, so to pass on his excellent LB-skills would prove foolish. Mack would be a stud in our D, solidifying a group that already looks like improving dramatically in 2014. 

4. Teddy Bridgewater – this is one of the positions that I think I disagree with most other analysts on, more than any other. To me TB is by far the best QB in this draft, and for that matter probably the best since Andrew Luck (I include RGIII in this), and the window he excels in the most is the mental side of the game. TB is a calm pocket QB, with the ability to run but a skill he doesn’t overly rest upon. TB would be an excellent QB to sit for a season-and-a-half behind Schaub, so he can perfect his skills while adding another 10 lbs or so (as his frame does look a little too skinny at this point for the nfl).

5. Sammy Watkins – an excellent WR, would instantaneously bring big-play abilities to our offence, the reason I have him going at 5 is really just because I think the other 4 are better, no disrespect to Watkins who will rock-th-nfl for sure.  

 

Terrelle Pryor Traded To Seahawks

So that’s it, Terrelle Pryor is now a Seattle Seahawk, and we have an additional seventh round draft pick. This is a strange one, because I always hoped that it wasn’t true that we were looking to trade Pryor, but then I’m kind of happy that we got something for him, as I feared he was just going to get released.

Why am I sad Pryor’s gone? Because I liked the kid and honestly thought he still had the potential to develop into a very dangerous QB. His electric feet and hard work ethic had me convinced that, with work, he could improve his action, but it seemed the team (and most of the fans) had given up on Pryor.

Why am I happy we got a 7th rounder? Yes the pick is in the last round of this year’s draft, and yes it will be a late 7th rounder (only before the 7th round conditional picks), but all the same remember this is a very deep draft and some REAL TALENT will be available in the 7th round or as an UDFA. The benefit of picking up a player in the draft, as opposed to as an UDFA, is that there isn’t the competition to sign the kid if you draft him, they basically have to join you. I bet in this year’s draft some fairly decent WR’s and CB’s will be available in the 7th. 

Don’t Forget C.J. Wilson

Too many reports that I’ve seen regarding the Oakland Raiders free agent signings have forgotten to mention C.J.Wilson. Not only is this DE thought to be outstanding against the run, but he also had a great body of work coming out of college for getting after the passer. Not exactly a marquee signing, but all the same an acquisition that Reggie deserves some credit for (I expect the inside knowledge nudged Reggie).

C.J. Wilson registered 26 sacks at East Carolina, before the Green Bay Packers drafted him and largely decided to use C.J. Wilson as a wall that opposing teams’ running backs could-not-pass. Given the outstanding players that we have already stacked up on the edges of the line – Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley – and their abilities to get after the QB being well known, a good old fashion run-stuffer would not go amiss, hence my initial liking for the C.J. Wilson signing.

Further digging, however, suggested that C.J. Wilson could be so much more than that for us. In college C.J. Wilson regularly caused QB’s problems, something his stats confirm, and under Tuck/Woodley’s expert tuteladge I believe they can extract the best out of his pass-rushing abilities also. Lets be honest he couldn’t really have two better mentors to work with.

Coming out of college, http://www.nfl.com described Wilson as having “good edge quickness and speed”, while http://www.nfldraftscout.com listed him as a big “athletic pass rusher”. Meanwhile, that fountain of sometimes somewhat dubious knowledge and debate, http://www.bleacherreport.com , back in 2010, ran a piece stating that he put up the top bench press numbers at the combine, in a four-way tie with, amongst others, Ndamukong Suh! 

One final note: I was somewhat shocked to read this kid ran a 4.83 40 time, a big strong DE that can run a sub-5 second 40 – I know Al would have loved that from a 300 lb defensive lineman, I know I do.

Running-by-Committee

With free agency making sure that the big boys are coming onto the Oakland Raiders offensive line in 2014, one thing you can be sure about is a much improved running game. Austin Howard, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn specialise in making running lanes, and with Darren McFadden now having the very able Maurice Jones-Drew alongside him, it looks really good for the year ahead.

McFadden is only 26 – his prime – whereas MJD is 29, why 29 is being written off as old I don’t know. What I do know is that a shared workload could benefit them both: (a) keeping DMC healthy; (b) keeping the tread on MJD. Back them up with an explosive Kory Sheets and a powerful but yet untested Latavius Murray and there is some real potential here.

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports/Raiders-Eager-to-See-Latavius-Murray-in-Action-248378391.html

Also whoever is moving the chains for us in 2014, the addition of Matt Schaub means that defences can no longer load up quite so heavily against the running game, creating more space and by default yards! 

The Free Agency Pool Runs Dry…Almost

So we didn’t get Desean Jackson, and most of the big name free agents that were out there seem to have signed up with other teams now. So who’s left?

The simple answer is not much, but as we didn’t spend that Desean Jackson money and we still have a few holes on the roster, at least from a depth perspective, the following could be options:-

DE Anthoney Spencer – a little old, and a little injury prone, but Spencer is an excellent run-stuffing DE, not entirely unlike our own former player Lamar Houston. Let’s face it after Tuck and Woodley we have very little at DE, and with age being a bit of an issue on the new Raida-D rotation will be the key to success in 2014.

LB Pat Angerer – excellent depth, indeed a very capable, not too old, starter. Will come cheap, so would be a great addition.

OG – Wade Smith – this former probowl selection was terrible as a tackle, early in his career for the skins, but has hung around and improved enough to garner probowl recognition at guard, not a long term option but very decent depth.

OC – Alex Mack. I know, but he is one of the league’s best, and his acquisition would allow us to swing Wiz over to guard, a position in fairness he has previously looked a lot more comfortable in. We are one of the few teams with the money to go after Mack, but he’s worth it, he is one of the best players in this league. Imagine a line of Penn/Watson – Wiz – Mack – Boothe – Howard….awesome.

Regarding the non-acquisition of Desean Jackson, to be honest I wasn’t completely sad about that (ignoring any off-the-field issues), I think we’ve got a good young WR pool and didn’t want to see us have to cut Juron Criner of Brice Butler too early. Both Butler and Criner have the tools, or at least some of the tools, required to be an nfl starting WR. The key question at this point is can they develop, and I’m hoping to see this training camp that they can. Criner looks like an ideal red-zone target for Schaub, while Butler has the potential to be a deep-play WR, stretching the field for the benefit of everyone…2014 looks like being REAL interesting.