The 2011 NFL draft cannot come quickly enough for me. The draft is without a doubt my favorite part of the offseason. While the 2011 version won’t quite live up to the talent level of its predecessor – for more reasons than one – it certainly stands to bring a few more talented players into the league than some other drafts have. It’s still over two months away, but it’s the perfect time for me to introduce my first complete Raiders mock draft of 2011.
All picks will be subject to change as we move along through the upcoming NFL combine and individual team workouts, but if the Raiders ended up with this class, they may have a better group than they did last year -- if that is even possible.
Round 2 – 49 overall - Stefen Wisniewski C/OG Penn State
Al Davis will trade up if he has to get his hands on this prospect. The fact that Uncle Steve was just named an assistant OL coach only lends credence to the fact that this is going to be the highest lineman taken by the Czar of the Raiders since 2004’s back to back picks of Robert Gallery and Jake Grove.
Wisniewski is a highly skilled, intelligent, and physical athlete who will become the anchor of the Raiders offensive line for years to come. He started every game in 2010 for the Nittany Lions at right guard and every game in 2009 at center. His versatility is evident. Fortunately for the Raiders, who have no first round pick this year, he is an interior lineman and therefore considered less valuable than a tackle. He is the top rated center in this year’s draft on most boards, but is also ranked in the low 50’s overall in terms of the top talent. It will be a close call, but he will certainly be in an obtainable range for Oakland in the middle of the second round.
Round 3 – 81 overall - Curtis Marsh CB Utah State
Marsh is as high as the fifth best cornerback on some boards and as low as the late fourth round on others. So I’m putting him in the third round to the Raiders. Some mocks have Rashard Carmichael going to the Raiders as high as the second round, but I think Marsh is the better fit. Not only does he have the 4.4 Raiders speed, he also has a 6’ 194 pound frame which gives him Raider size and length as well.
He is a bit of a risk after transitioning from running back to cornerback halfway through his collegiate career, but the fact that he shut down Boise State’s top rated wide receiver combination of Titus Young and Austin Pettis in one-on-one matchups in their game against the Broncos proves that he has great potential in a position that turned out to be one of need for the Raiders in 2010.
Round 4 – 113 overall - Thomas Keiser OLB Stanford
At 6’5 244 pounds, Keiser will fit right in with 2010’s acquisitions Rolando McClain and Kamerion Wimbley. Keiser could use another year in college for strength and conditioning purposes, but the Raiders have one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the league with Brad Roll. While Keiser could be considered a liability in pass coverage, he will provide help in solidifying the Raider rush defense on the first two downs and is an excellent pass rusher who could move to defensive end like Kamerion Wimbley in passing situations.
He played defensive end in his first two seasons as a Cardinal before switching to a rush linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme. He registered a total of 19.5 sacks in 38 games played while starting in 27 of those contests. He is considered to be a good fit in the 3-4 scheme for NFL teams, but so are Rolando McClain and Kamerion Wimbley. You know Al Davis has watched this kid’s career under Jim Harbaugh and he will be on the Raiders’ radar.
Round 5 – 145 overall - Chris Hairston OT Clemson
With the addition of Jared Veldheer via the 2010 NFL draft, the Raiders became more average along the offensive line. Still, average is not good enough for a team that expects to compete at a playoff level in 2011. The Raiders may not need a high caliber tackle right off the bat in this draft, but they’d be insane not to take one at some point as Langston Walker is not a long term answer on the right side. 2010 fourth round pick, Bruce Campbell, is expected to take over for Cooper Carlisle on the interior line at some point and Khalif Barnes is a better tight end than he is a tackle.
The 6’7” 333 pound Hairston has the size Al Davis likes on his offensive line and he may be one of the steals of this draft if he lasts until the 145th pick. He has proven himself very durable, starting in the last 21 straight games for Clemson. Hairston was selected first-team All-ACC in 2010 after being named second-team All-ACC in 2009. He was the lone senior and far and away the best lineman for the Tigers this year paving the way for Clemson running backs Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper to combine for over 1400 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.
Round 6 – 177 overall - Virgil Green TE Nevada
I don’t really want to see the Raiders wait this long to pick up a real third tight end for the 2011 offense, but if you’re going to wait you may as well be getting what might be the most raw-talented tight end in the draft since San Francisco took Vernon Davis. While he is not as polished as Davis and played in a weaker conference (the WAC), he has the downfield ball skills, speed, and frame to be a legit receiving threat.
He averaged just under 15 yards per catch for the Wolf Pack in 2010 and reached the end zone five times. Green is a three year starter who runs good routes, has natural hands, and has excellent body control. His biggest weakness is his blocking, but as a third tight end for the Raiders, he will have time to develop that skill. His 6’5” stature would make him a valuable commodity in red zone situations for Hue Jackson’s offense.
Round 7 – 209 overall - Cortez Allen CB Citadel
There are two ways the Raiders could go with this pick, one way is to take a wide receiver with high top-end speed and the other is Cortez Allen, a military minded, long-bodied, and fast cornerback. Allen is considered a poor man’s Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, although he has not been as productive and is not as physical as the Arizona Cardinals 2008 first round pick.
He is considered a mid-grade player with high upside by most NFL scouts. He has good range and great reaction time in supporting on run defense. In college he was typically used in man coverage, which would continue if he is selected by Al Davis. He has exceptionally quick feet and good hip turn, but sometimes opens too quickly or doesn’t turn his head quickly enough, putting him at a disadvantage to opposing receivers. His low-cut tackling would remind some fans of Nnamdi Asomugha and he would rather avoid blockers than take them one-on-one. Overall, Allen would be an excellent late round high character pick for the Raiders.
Follow me on Twitter: Raidersblogger