On your marks, get set, do nothing! That’s the current plan put forth by the NFL and the NFLPA. Since there is no activity and I’ve had nearly a week to digest what went down last weekend, I feel comfortable getting out the old grade book and giving this Raiders’ draft class a grade. Some are shying away from the whole grading thing, saying things like, “Oh, we won’t know for three more years…” but I say to heck with all of that. I’m going to break it down because that’s how I roll.
First, I’d like to point out that I expected more offensive linemen after the first two guys were taken on day two. Here I am thinking "All right, they got two solid guys in Stefen Wisniewski and Joseph Barksdale, now they have five picks left on day three and can add a guy like Marcus Cannon, or David Mims." But it seems that the team had other plans, so I have to knock down my grade for not adding enough depth to the weakest point on the team.
But the two that they did pick up are both likely to become starters as rookies -- Wisniewski at center and Barksdale at the right tackle position. Wiz has very few weaknesses in his game and, sitting here thinking about it, it’s hard to even pinpoint a single weakness that he will have at the center position in particular. Some would argue that he is not a power style blocker, but I say he is when he is playing center; perhaps not if he is playing guard. Barksdale has the makings of a Pro Bowl right tackle right off the bat. He is a gifted big man that I would love to have if I were a line coach. The biggest problem he is going to face is his horrible habit of quitting before the whistle. That’s something that can most certainly be coached out of him.
Overall the Raiders did a nice job of addressing the team’s needs. When the process of evaluating the draft class began, I really thought that they would need to address the Will linebacker position, but the closer the draft got the less I thought it was going to be of concern. In my final mock draft, I went from them taking a linebacker with their fourth round pick to taking a linebacker with their seventh round pick. Why? I’m glad you asked. It’s because Travis Goethel is thought to have been given the nod at the position. In addition, they have Trevor Scott -- “one of the best 11 players on defense” last year according to former defensive coordinator John Marshall -- Quentin Groves, who started last year, Thomas Howard, who may return, and Ricky Brown, a guy who plays with a ton of heart and has good instincts.
So, the team opting not to draft a linebacker does not surprise me at all. In fact, I think it was a good choice and would have been a waste of a draft pick. So I give them bonus points for that.
Late in the draft, they decided to take receivers with their last three picks. Well, one wide receiver and two tight ends. Or one wide receiver, one tight end, and one tweener might be the best way to put it. I was disappointed because I have lobbied for Nevada Wolf Pack tight end Virgil Green since February and there he sat to get taken as the first pick of the seventh round. The Raiders passed on him in the fifth and sixth rounds to my distress. So I have to knock my overall grade down for that. And to be honest I don’t really know much about either David Ausberry or Richard Gordon. I’ll have to take the wait and see approach with these two guys.
A player who has grown on me since the draft is fifth round choice, wide receiver Denarius Moore. Some may think that he is a Lance Kiffin product, but this is not true. Moore was at Tennessee before Kiffin arrived and after he departed. So if anything, Kiffin was a blip on the Moore radar. Moore is a little smaller than I like to see wide receivers, but he has phenomenal hands and can adjust to the most horribly thrown passes. It reminds me of Austin Powers -- Moore could be Chaz Schilens’ mini-me. Ironically, whether this new possession receiver sees a lot of field time probably hinges on whether or not Schilens can stay healthy for more than a month. Thus far, Schilens has not been able to do that, and if that remains the case next season, Moore could end up seeing significant time on long third downs.
I love the Taiwan Jones pick in the fourth. I know some people will say that the Raiders did not need another running back, but my colleague, Levi Damien, and myself have been talking about how they need a scat back style of running back for well over a year now. I really think Jones is the right man for that job. And as NFL Network's Charlie Casserly pointed out: who is the speed guy when Darren McFadden is out with injury? Now it's Taiwan Jones. Not only does he have that blazing speed, but he is shockingly powerful for his size. I think it's an impressive pick and I like what Hue Jackson said: "We play in a division with Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. Now we have Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Taiwan Jones, so we are one better."
Another thing they did well was address the secondary. Yes, people started shaking their heads at the pick of Demarcus Van Dyke. Yes, he was probably taken too high in the draft. But the more I learn about the young man, the more I like about him. He has to add about 20 pounds to his frame to play as physically as the Raiders would like him to, which will take some time. But Stanford Routt took six years to develop and now he has made himself a lock to start no matter what happens with Nnamdi Asomugha. Van Dyke has the right tools in his game and he’s got the right teachers at the next level in Rod Woodson – who declared Van Dyke the guy he wanted according to Hue Jackson – and Willie Brown. Both are in the NFL Hall of Fame for playing in the secondary, and both were also instrumental in the development of Nnamdi Asomugha. Van Dyke has no excuses for failure.
I think the steal of the Raiders draft came in the fourth round, when they selected CB Chimdi Chekwa out of Ohio State. This is a guy that I expected to go much higher. Head Coach Hue Jackson speculates that he landed where he did because of doubts about his surgically repaired wrist. In my opinion, Chekwa is a very versatile secondary player. I think I started a rumor in my draft write-up about Chekwa when I said that he is a guy who can move back to play safety if they need him to. I believe that -- but to set the record straight, Coach Jackson has plainly stated that the Raiders like his abilities in man-to-man coverage and will call him a cornerback until further notice. If free safety Michael Huff ends up not re-signed, that notice could come sooner than even Jackson expects.
For last year, I give that class an A-plus. They may go down as one of the best draft classes ever selected by the Raiders. Mr. Davis and his staff did an excellent job with that class and I was excited from the time the draft was over. I didn’t know much about Jared Veldheer, but I was high on Rolando McClain, Lamarr Houston, Jacoby Ford, and I thought they got excellent value on Bruce Campbell in round four. I also like the potential of Walter McFadden (still) and Stevie Brown was better than expected.
In 2011, I give the Raiders a B-minus. I don’t think it’s as good of a class this year and I don’t think it’s because of the lack of a first round pick. Odds are they would have blown it if they had it anyway. I’m glad they traded it for Richard Seymour. I wasn’t as excited this year when the draft was over and the final three picks had me scratching my head a little bit. I don’t know much about the tight ends, but I’m high on Wiz Jr., Barksdale, and Chekwa. I think they got the most value out of the Chekwa pick. I like the potential of Denarius Moore and I think Demarcus Van Dyke could turn out to be better than expected.
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