Continuing in my series leading up to the NFL draft of 2010, I will now take a turn towards the defensive tackle position on the Oakland Raiders' roster. Many people believe that Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma are the odds on favorites to go in the top five of the draft this year. Unfortunately for Oakland, they have theeighth pick, so it is unlikely they will get to draft one of those two guys.But the fact remains that Oakland will need help from the draft in some way shape or form. They currently only have three defensive tackles on staff, along with hybrid end/tackle Richard Seymour.
Whether or not they will look to get one high in the draftremains a mystery. Afterall, longtime starter Tommy Kelly is a former undrafted free agent as is current number two man Desmond Bryant from last season. While William Joseph, who was a first round pick in 2003 (25th overall) by the Giants, saw limited time at the position last year and he has yet to reach his full potential.
But let's start at the top. Tommy Kelly is unappreciated by many Raider fans. There is a constant buzz that the teamneeds to move on from Kelly. From the general thoughts I've gathered during my trips around the different Raiders websites on the internet, the thinking is that Kelly has not lived up to his big-time contract-- onewhich, at the time, made him the highest paid defensive tackle in league history (And yes, the Raiders have been making a lot of people the highest paid at their positions lately).
Kelly'sstats would tend to disagree with thehis critics. In both the 2008 and 2009 seasons,he was in the top five in the leaguein total tacklesat his position. Run defense does rely heavily on the defensive tackle position though and the Raiders run defense has been one of their biggest Achilles heelssince Kelly has been the starter at DT for them. Tackles are supposed to eat up blockers so that the linebackers behind them can get the running lanes filled. Based on the articles and comments I've read and what I've seen watching the team play, he is a large part ofthe problem. Either thator he is in desperate need of help. Afterall, one man alone should not take the fall for a weakness in the entire unit. It will be up the Raiders brass to get him some help this off-season.
That said, the Raiders may have already found Kelly some help last off-season in theundrafted sensation out of Harvard, Desmond Bryant. Bryant looks like the saving grace of this group. He is a 6'5" 290-pounder who ran a 4.92-40 yard dash in 2009. He is one of those Tom Cable favored multi-sport athletes who won four letters in track and three in basketball in high school. He is a member of the National Honor Society and he could possibly be the smartest Raider ever. Bryant recorded 13.5 sacks in 32 game appearances in college. He benched 225 pounds 35 times and boasts 11.5" hands and 35.5" arms.
On top of his intelligence and physicality, he has a tremendouswork ethic as well. He has been working diligently with new defensive line coach Mike Waufle since before the start of the team's voluntary workouts.
He could turn some heads and make a run at an unimpressive position for Oakland. Last year, he came up just three tackles shy of starter Gerard Warren; who wasrecently released as part of the plan to trim the fat from the roster (so to speak). Although he still has yet to get his first NFL sack, Bryant did get his first tackle for a loss last season. Bryant showed flashes of his potential during his rookie campaign and he should be a guy to keep an eye out for this upcoming season. The jury is still out on whether or not he can hold down that nose tackle position that his team desperately needs, but he did hold up well against the double teams last year in my honest opinion. All of these attributes tells me that Desmond Bryant is fully capable of being a starter in 2010.
The current third Raiders defensive tackle on the depth chart is the recently re-signed William Joseph. Joseph has been looking for a home since after the '06 season when he was released from the Giants and their rotating front seven schemes. He may have found that home in Oakland...or maybe not.
He joined the Raiders halfway through the'08 season. Since then he has had an on again-off again relationship with Oakland. Joseph is another of those underachievers on the Oakland squad. In order to make the Raider roster, he is going to have to prove he is capable of decent backup numbers. The type that he put up in New York in '04 when he had 25 tackles and two sacks. Or like in '06 when he had 21 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. He is one of those "maybe we could do better, but this is what we got" type of players. If he plays to his potential, he could be a solid number three guy...if not,the Raiders need to have an apt replacement of theycould be in big trouble. They could look to find that replacement in this year's draft.
Which brings us to the 2010 draft candidates. Like I said at the beginning of the article, the top two prospects will likely be gone by the time the Raiders step up to make their pick. So I'm going to leave their evaluating to the teams who will most likely draft them.
If Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams is still on the board when the Raiders pick, they could reach out and draft him. He is expected to go in the teens in round one, so it would be a bit of a reach but not quite as bad as reaching for DHB at 7 overall last year. In addition to that, although it should be a non-factor when you're trying to build a team, he did play under Lane Kiffin at Tennessee in 2009. Contrary to my own thoughts on the matter, Davis does have respect for Monte Kiffin's defenses, so the fact that Williams played under Monte for a year in college might negate the fact that "Lance" was the head coach at the time. Williams is probably the best suited defensive tackle for the Raiders needs right now. He projects well as a 0 or 1 technique, which is the nose tackle position for the 3-4 and 4-3 respectively.
With the Raiders' release of Terdell Sands, followed by the release of Gerard Warren, they could really use a guy like Williams who can anchor the double teams and become a true force against the run. He showed great awareness during his time at Tennessee and he has shown that he is athletic and quick for a big guy as well as powerful enough to collapse the pocket.
On the downside, he is a larger man at 327 pounds and doesn't always have the gas to play forall four quarters. Before his senior season at Tennessee, he was considered by many to have a questionable work ethic and it has been said, by the "experts," that Monte Kiffin brought the best out of him. If he has already peaked, do the Raiders really want to take a chance on him? The Raiders do have some quality pass rushers to play on longer third down situations, so having a two-down defensive tackle is not out of the question for this team.
Now let's take a look at Jared Odrick, the standout Penn State defensive tackle. He is a leaner defensive tackle (6'5" 304 pounds) who some folks think has the room to bulk up. He is very quick and a good penetrator who can get up field quickly and disrupt things in the backfield. One problem I had with Gerard Warren when he was in Oakland is that, while he would penetrate quickly, he would over-run plays far too often. Odrick on the other hand is very quick and agile, therefore I feel like he could correct a mistake if he did over-pursue the play at the line. He is very fast with strong hands, so he could also track the play down and grab ahold of whomever tries to run past him with one of those big paws. He is also a very focused and active footballer. He has shown great instincts and has played very physical for the Nittany Lions. However, he has struggled against some bigger offensive linemen. It could have a lot to do with his height. Some experts predict that he will translate better into an NFL defensive end, because in addition to his thin upper body, hetends to struggle against the run. While Odrick would be a good pick for the Raiders, he might not be the answer tothe Raiders weak run defense.
The next guy on my list is my favorite defensive tackle sleeper this year- Lamarr Houston. Although he played for a highly publicized Texas Longhorns defense, his 2010 draft status seems to haveflown a little bit under the radar. One of the things I like about the 6'3" 305 pounder is his straight line speed. Normally, I'd say that Al Davis' infatuation for speed is annoying, but in this case, I hope Al actuallytakes a chance onthe speed of Houston. Every time I have seen him play, Ihave been surprised by how nimble, agile, and fast to recover he was.
He often takes double teams, because if you watch his highlight reel you'll notice that not too many guards can handle him in one on one situations; heusually man handles them. Walterfootball.com said in their scouting report that he is not even close to his full potential. He is a multi-sport athlete who Texas had a hard time figuring out where to play. In high School he was a halfback who ran for over 3,300 yards and scored nearly 50 touchdowns.
Houston has good length and big hands. He is good at controlling running lanes and is an excellent pass rusher. During his time at Texas he recorded 136 tackles, 40 for loss, 14.5 sacks, and 65 QB pressures. Unfortunately, one of his downsides would fit right in with the preseason antics Tommy Kelly in thathe often jumps off-sides. He has also earned a reputation for taking plays off at times. That reputation must not bother the Raiders too much thoughas Houston himself said at the NFL scouting combine that the Raiders did talk to him.
And with that, I'm going to give my fingers a short break and allow your eyes to rest up a bit. But don't fret readers, I will be back and bring you more potential draft choices for the Oakland Raiders soon enough.
-- Bret Armstrong, TFDS Guest Contributor