It’s hard to believe there are only two days left until the draft, yet here we are. People are saying this is without a doubt the most heavily scrutinized draft class ever. It will also be the most heavily attended draft by prospects in the history of the draft with 27 players expected to attend. Make sure you check in with your boys here at Thoughts From The Dark Side because we will be busy typing away to bring you the most current events as they happen. Without further ado, I present my final version of the TFDS complete Raiders’ mock draft.
Update: Due to the recent unfortunate incident with Marcus Cannon, I’ve decided to change this final version of my mock draft. All condolences to Cannon and his family during this troubling time: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/42765717/ns/sports-player_news/
Round 2 – Pick 48 – Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
I think the best thing for the Raiders to do in light of the Cannon situation is to trade back into the first round at the tail end and draft Colorado CB Jimmy Smith. Smith is really a very rare and special specimen and if it wasn’t for his off the field issues he would probably be rated in the top twenty players available. Given the circumstances, he is where he is. What would it take to get into the first round? Next year’s first rounder and this 2010 second rounder. Is Smith worth it in the long run? I really think so. He’s got what it takes and he is so physical. Not NFL level shut down yet, not Patrick Peterson, and not Nnamdi Asomugha, but give him some time with Rod Woodson and see what happens. Smith has had no record of off-field issues since 2007, but he did skip the Senior Bowl and switch agents. The trade into the first round for a cornerback could change their strategy. Cannon would’ve been the best fit for the Raiders where they were picking before, but Smith just makes a whole lot more sense now. Therfore, I've also change my sixth round pick to conpensate for the change in plans.
Round 3 – 81 overall – Stefen Wisniewski, C/OG Penn State
The farther Wiz Jr. slips on the draft boards, the more likely he becomes a Raider. In my first two mocks, Wisniewski was the 48th overall pick, but he keeps sliding down at this point so the Raiders may be able to get him in the third. Some say the Raiders will trade up into the first round, but frankly, they really don’t need to. (Note: Now they need to, to take Smith, but I still see them coming up for Wiz J. as well) I see a trade for them happening here in the third round to take a stab at Wisniewski; and oh darn – what’s the worst that could happen? If he isn’t able to replace Gallery at left guard, then he is certainly capable of becoming a more powerful center than Samson Satele. Wisniewski has extraordinarily sound technique, but like I said, he’s going to have to work on his strength. Some think he is a zone blocking purist, but I think he is a tremendous football player who can do more than people give him credit for.
Round 4 – 113 overall – Taiwan Jones, HB Eastern Washington
People say this kid is going to skyrocket up the boards on draft day and could go as high as round 2. But since the rankings all have him as an early fourth rounder, I’m technically not off my rocker putting him here. HB is not a position of high priority for the Raiders this year, but wide receiver is, and this is a guy who can fill both the scat tailback position that the Raiders need as well as lining up on the outside of some formations and learning the route tree. The Raiders do indeed have other pressing needs, but Jones is going to be too explosive to pass up if he comes anywhere near this position in the draft. He’s already drawing comparisons to Tennessee Titans’ halfback Chris Johnson without even playing in Division I in college.
Round 5 – 148 overall – Virgil Green, TE Nevada
Green has officially made it into all three of my mock drafts. That doesn’t mean that the Raiders are going to draft him, it simply means that I hope they do. In my opinion, Green gives you great value as a fifth round pick and once he becomes acclimated to playing in the big leagues, he could be yet another versatile weapon in the Raiders’ offense. Green has awesome speed, great hands, and a body that bulk can be added to. I know a lot of you are like, “Bret – where’s the defense?” but you can’t deny that if the defense is able to keep Nnamdi Asomugha, then they are in really good shape. Perhaps they need a nickel cornerback, but I’m not taking offense to your criticism! You got Zach Miller to be the all around guy with Brandon Myers as an extra blocker and Virgil Green as a guy who they certainly could have used last year when Miller was ailing from a foot injury throughout the middle of the season.
Round 6 – 181 overall – Derrick Newton, OT Arkansas State
Newton should be floating around in this area of the draft. Here's a kid that is not going to come in right away and make an impact, but I think you are getting a lot of value here in round six from Newton. He's not the top pick of the draft at his position, but he was a standout tackle right tackle in the Sun Belt conference during his time at Arkansas State. He's got the long arms that people covet on the outside of the offensive line, but he needs to work to get stronger in the upper body so that he can put those long arms o good use. He's agile, quick, and has a nice kick-slide that helps him get a leg up on the competition. 2010 first team All-Sun Blet, 2009 second team -- I think you pair him up with Bruce Campbell and let these two guys get their NFL hands dirty together, possibly as soon as this coming year.
Round 7 – 219 overall – Marc Herzlich, LB Boston College
This guy is a huge sleeper in this draft. He’s had an unfortunate career so far, after winning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008. His 110 tackles, 13 for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns off six interceptions his junior season were outstanding to say the least. Had he left for the NFL after that season, he no doubt would have been a first round pick. He stayed because he was enjoying the collegiate experience. In May 2009, doctors discovered a rare form of bone cancer in his left leg called Ewing’s Sarcoma. He underwent surgery to have a rod inserted in his leg along with seven months of extensive chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation to rid him of the cancer completely. He returned in 2010, played all twelve games, but just wasn’t the same player as before. He’s certainly worth taking a flyer on at this point in the draft though because if he can get back to near 90 percent of the player he was before, he could make a huge impact for a team at the next level.
Round 7 – 241 overall – Josh Gatlin, CB North Dakota State
Start with some strong picks to help the offense and get some good value on defense late in the draft. Sounds like a solid strategy for a team in the position of the Raiders this year. Gatlin is a 6’1” 196 pound cousin of an Olympic sprinter. That sounds like a guy who can play cornerback for Al Davis any day of the week to me. Gatlin had five picks in 2010 and stands out in man to man coverage. He was recently quoted in an interview saying, “When I go up against another receiver, I want to lock them down, and erase them.” He says he wants to become known for his physicality at the next level. Gatlin has been training at Velocity in Minnesota since after his final game in college. If you’ve heard that name before, it’s because it’s the same place where Larry Fitzgerald and Dwayne Bowe got ready for the next level. Gatlin is low risk – high reward.