Today is the start of the actual activities for the 2012 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Today, the first group of players will get their measurements and weigh-ins, which are all important to scouts to know what kind of shape the player is in and what type of frame the player has.
The Draft, and by extension the Combine, are of lesser importance this year for Raiders fans with the Raiders low amount of draft picks – they currently have only two of their 7 draft picks remaining prior to the Compensatory picks being awarded. Therefore, instead of examining who the Raiders will be looking at in the draft – because I honestly have no idea – we'll instead look at the Raider's top 5 needs and whether the team is likely to address them in the draft or free agency.
Cornerback is definitely the Raiders' biggest need position since the release of Stanford Routt. There are not many good options on the roster right now. The top cornerbacks may be second year players Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke. Michael Huff could be a starter at cornerback – Coach Jackson was planning on moving him there from safety – but it's unknown if the new regime sees him as a corner or a safety. Plus with a salary of $8 million due this year, it's not even a lock that he'll still be on the roster.
There is newly signed, former Green Bay CB Brandon Underwood but he isn't expected to push for a starting spot and will more likely provide depth and special teams play, if he makes the final roster. Chris Johnson is owed $3.5 million and is a likely roster cut at this point. I would imagine Lito Shepphard doesn't thrill anyone, either. Others on the roster right now include Curtis Taylor and Terrail Lambert – yeah, I've never heard anything about them, either.
I expect the Raiders will attempt to get a veteran CB that can be a starter and put the other starting position up for grabs to be earned in camp by one of the mentioned players, above. I've heard Tracy Porter mentioned as a good candidate and it makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, he's not going to be as expensive as some of the other CB's on the market and two, he's worked with Allen before - Allen was the secondary coach for New Orleans for their Super Bowl run of 2009.
Linebacker appears to be the next biggest need. This is especially true if the team does transition to a 3-4 because more linebackers, by definition, are needed. Quentin Groves was moved to a backup position last season and isn't expected back. Rolando McClain has been underwhelming at best. Kamerion Wimbley is due $11 million this season and may face a restructure-or-be-cut scenario. Wimbley has not been bad, by the way, but he isn't worth $11 million. Aaron Curry is another prime candidate for restructuring as he's due $7 million this season, but the general consensus among those who follow the Raiders is that he's likely to do so. The Raiders were very high on Travis Goethel last season and he's due back from IR, so that's a positive – but probably the only one. I would imagine the Raiders will address this in both free agency and the draft as they need a lot of new bodies in camp to provide a spark, here.
Defensive tackle is the next biggest area of need. Yes, the Raiders chose to keep Richard Seymour for the season, guaranteeing his $15 million contract for the year. But he isn't expected to stay around past this season and the Raiders need a replacement. Plus, he's a streaky player and he's only getting older – he's not able to play at a high level for sustained drives. Tommy Kelly's performance has not been anywhere close to his contract and he's a one man penalty machine. If Allen is serious about cutting down penalties, he's got to be able to bench Kelly if he continues to jump offsides. John Henderson is going to be cut. Desmond Byant is a bright spot as a backup but he's probably better as a defensive end, not a tackle. Earlier this offseason, the Raiders signed a reserve/futures contract with Travis Ivey who is a true Nose Tackle. He's 6-4, 325 so he has the right size for a NT but it's anyone's guess if he has the ability. I expect the Raiders to address DT needs in both free agency and the draft, as well.
Quarterback is the next need for the Raiders – backup to be exact. As the Raiders learned last year, your team is one play away from starting Kyle Boller if you don't have a good backup. I would expect them to address this need on the free agency market. They aren't going to want two unproven QBs on the roster and the 3rd QB spot will be Terrelle Pryor. They need a more seasoned and polished #2 QB. Good options would be Chad Henne, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, David Garrard or Dan Orlovsky.
Wide receiver is my final position of need. The Raiders have a likely solid starter in second year player Denarius Moore but there isn't a great option to start across from him. Ideally, the Raiders will sign a free agent like Marques Colston who could be a #1 option and put Jacoby Ford into the slot position but it seems unlikely they will be able to get a player of his caliber. I expect them to bring in some free agents that can compete for positions, though.
Safety isn't currently a position of need but it could become one. If the Raiders do not retain Tyvon Branch by signing him to a long term contract or a franchise tag, then safety will be an issue for the Raiders. If they do lockup Branch, it will then depend on what happens to Michael Huff, as discussed in the paragraph on CBs.
The next biggest needs for the Raiders - but that fall outside the top 5 - are backup running back (unless the team is going to roll with McFadden, Taiwan Jones and Rock Cartwright, which seems unlikely), and Offensive line (specifically Center unless the plan is to move Wiz from LG and Right OT. RG is a concern as well as Carlisle is getting older and Bruce Campbell has yet to show anything.).
For a team that went 8-8 last season, it still has a lot of question marks. And with a new GM, new head coach and almost entirely new coaching staff almost every player in every position will be up for review. If the Raiders can hit on some undervalued free agents or rookies , drafted or not, they have a nucleus of strength in some of the most key positions and could push for playoffs again this next season. However, it's more likely that 2012 will be a rebuilding and transition year and a serious push will not be made until 2013, at the earliest.
You can follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews
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Pro Football Focus have already done the work for you on Satele. They grade every player, for every play, every game, all season. Believe it or not Satele had more positive plays and less negatives than Wiz. No surprise that Barnes was also rated a liability in their system...
@DevonRaiderUK interesting ... overall I thought that the play of the line was one of the highlights of last season .. if not THE highlight ... MASSIVE improvement. 25 sacks given up or something like that .. pretty damn good, especially as Palmer is a statue.
@oaklandraider They also grade pass blocking as part of their system for the running backs overall grade. And Michael Bush off the top of my head graded about 2nd in the NFL. Not saying that he is the sole reason why pass protection was so good, but you have to weigh up other factors like Boss staying at home, Campbell not being a deep drop QB etc. I wont be that unhappy if Satele is starting Centre next year - he wont cost us the earth that's for sure. One thing I do like about him is that he is as tough as old leather and dont miss many games. Both Carlisle and Barnes need replacing tho' IMO. Allen has to have a good long look at Bruce Campbell. That big, that strong, that fast, somebody set him loose pleeeeaaasse. He has all the physicals to be a starting LT and yet cant even get a shot at RG or RT over the aging under-achievers we have there. I say play him and play him from pre-season game 1. Let him make the mistakes he's going to make as soon as possible. His technique will soon improve with the experience, and let's face it if he played with 1 arm behind his back he couldn't get any worse than Khawiff.
@Harder2000 I wasn't happy with the coaching change but hopefully it'll mean that one or two players will get looked at from a fresh perspective, and that some players who were automatics might not be so. I feel with Campbells quickness he still may be a better bet at LT than Veldheer. Physically he is better equipped to deal with the likes of those turbo charged edge rushes. As you say he needs to have the opportunity to get on the field.
@DevonRaiderUK Beast Campbell will be one of the most interesting stories in this offseason! He is still young, has immense potential and could become a franchise tackle if (and that seems to be a big if) he can catch on and cut it loose!
With the new regime he will definately have to prove that he has what it takes to make it in the league, otherwise he will likely be a camp casualty! I really root for the guy and hope that this is the year he will have matured enough and finally gets it!
Would greatly welcome some solid playing time to see where he is at - i find it hard to believe that he doesn't have what it takes to contribute and be active as a back up on game days (at least let the beast run wild on ST!!!!), but guess Action Jackson didn't think so (and his injury might have been more nagging than they said).
I at least, like you, look forward to see how this great athletic talent pans out in what seems to be a make or break season for the (extremely) big man!
DL need depends on the scheme. If we end up sticking to the 4-3 then DE is a bigger immediate need with DT only coming into play if someone is released. If we go to a true 3-4 we have plenty of guys for the line but we might want a more natural NT. In which case we'd have to release someone to make room. The scheme is not set in stone yet. Every interview says they'll use whatever scheme best suits the roster they end up with.
S, RB, and C/G are all current needs because our top three FAs are at those three positions and also Huff is a huge question mark if he'll be back and at what position.
I'm surprised at the number of people who don't see WR as a need. Let's be honest, DHB is not starter-worthy. He had his games, but he doesn't make difficult catches - he catches with his body not his hands too often. Ford is decent and has had some games, too, but he isn't a great starter option outside - I would prefer him at slot. D. Moore is the best WR on the roster, but who will start opposite him?I'll probably write an article on this at some point closer to Free Agency kick-off but I think people who expect the Raiders to chase a big option at most any position are probably just engaging in wishful thinking. Vincent Jackson is going to be too expensive for Raiders. Probably Colston will be as well. Stevie Johnson probably as well.
Satele is underrated, I think. He's been solid enough and he's really good as a run blocker getting to the second level. Barnes is terrible but he's not going to be back next year, anyway. It looks like 4/5 of the OL spots are already likely penciled in with Veldheer, Wiz, Satele and Carlisle likely to reprise their starting roles and at this point Joseph Barksdale is most likely the RT - we'll see what happens. I don't see that as being a big a need as many other spots.
LB is definitely a need simply because they hardly have any right now. If Quentin Groves is not re-signed and Kamerion Wimbley doesn't agree to another contract and is cut as has been widely speculated, Raiders would have maybe 3 quality starters - McClain, Goethel and Curry. McClain has issues, Goethel hasn't been able to see the field and Curry is due $7million and will need to restructure to stay around as well. This has to be considered a huge area of need. It doesn't mean they are going to go out and spend all their draft picks on LBs, but they'll need to get bodies in to compete.
Backup QBs aren't going to be perfect players which is why they are backups. Henne has his flaws, yes, but he has the experience and the physical skills. He could step into a game if Palmer were injured and execute the game plan. There aren't many players that can do that. The Raiders need to have a veteran that is able to do that and help mentor Pryor. Same is true with Garrard and Grossman. They would be backups, not starters. You rarely have an ideal situation with a backup QB.
@AsherMathews I see WR as a need purely cuz we lack a pure #1 WR and depth, imo. But how can anyone sit there and defend Satele? Good at run-blocking? All of our rushing yards pretty much came from rushing between Veldheer and Wiz. He was terrible! My nickname for Satele is The Turnstile. He gets beat A Lot. He gets pushed back A LOT. He sucks A LOT. Thankfully, he is a free agent and hopefully they will bar him from the building. Barnes is the only one that sucks worse than Satele does.
I am kinda hoping that we get enough under the cap to make one big signing, Mario Williams, and then sign some underrated, cheaper players. I saw sign Mario Williams to a back loaded contract to save some cap space right now. Then get guys like DBs Richard Marshall and Tracy Porter, OCs Chris Myers or Scott Wells, OT Demetrius Bell, WR Robert Meachem, OLBs Jarrett Johnson or Erin Henderson, QB Vince Young or Matt Moore, and OG Evan Mathis. I would take a shot at Hulk Landry if he can be signed for cheap as he has had injury issues. With Landry being a SS, we can move Branch to FS. I am under the assumption Huff is out.
Going this route will set us up pretty good and with only one big contract. We'll have the edge rushers in Williams and either Johnson or Henderson. Starting CBs in Marshall and Porter, which will help take pressure off our second year CBs, DVD and Chekwa. Got the safety help with Hulk, providing he can stay healthy. Got a whole new right side for the OL. Robert Meachem is a pretty good WR. He might not be a #1 type WR, but he is still pretty good. With the changes to RFA in the new CBA, the highest tender is no longer a 1st and a 3rd. It is now only a 1st. Anyone game for making a play for Mike Wallace?
The biggest reason I want to sign Mario Williams so bad is his versatility. If we really do run a defense that has multiple looks, then who better to get than Williams? Going 4-3? No problem, he can line up at DE. Going 3-4? No problem, he can stand up as a OLB. He'd never have to get off the field unless it is to take a breather. He'd be the perfect piece for Allen to build his defense around.
@JarrodRollins As much as I'd love getting Mario Williams, there is no way that is happening. In general, I wouldn't expect Raiders to make any big free agency splashes and that's not a bad thing - it's better to have many quality players and the Raiders need help in a lot of areas.
I respectively disagree on Satele - I think he gets a bad rap because he isn't dominant but he's solid. I don't think he is responsible for much of the sacks/pressures and I do think he's good, on running plays, at shedding his guy, moving to the second level and making a block on a LB or CB to spring and extra long run.
But, as it's a subject I'm interested in, I'll take a look at the game film and put together an article on him.
@AsherMathews down with OL,LB & QB analysis....WR is NOT a priority...compared to the needs on D. We can be better than last year with same group - more experience and health. We need LOTSA LB help with pass rush and DBacks close 2nd & 3rd, Would it be nice to have a VJ? Sure but at what detriment of other needs?
@dondiraider I put those players in my order of need, so WR is definitely at the bottom of that list but the Raiders have a below average WR corp, I'm sorry. I watch other teams and the players want the ball, they hustle, they ,make difficult catches, they come back to the ball. Moore is a quality player, has good hands, I have no worries about him. Ford is good, too, but probably better for the slot which means they need a starting quality WR or they will have to put Ford up into the second WR spot. Then, who plays the slot? DHB? I'm telling you he had so many poor drops it was incredible. And he's only really effective on short passes. In general, he can't adjust to long balls and he repeatedly could not win 1 on 1 battles. Louis Murphy was worse. Didn't contest over the middle, didn't turn and drive back to the ball on routes. . D is more important, yes, but WR is a real need.
@AsherMathewsI agree with your points about Moore, too early to tell about Jacoby cuz he absolutrly battles and wins the ball in flight, and we wont find out if we bring in someone new. As for DHB, I can still catch better than him BUT no one can argue he improved leaps and bounds last year and if he continues to work hard (his MO) he may develop the further.. Not sure what happend to Murphy, but he too has talent....remember he lead our team for two years with out a real passing game - true last year he looked pretty bad...an my favorite Chaz if healthy no doubt can be a number one...yes a big if as far as injuries...lastyear made some plays but clearly not a favorite of Hue...if healthy and is given the chance, he can be special....so I would give the current group one more year to develop and address weakness in 2013 if they cannot find a true number one...last point, Carson is just starting to know these guys, why stunt the development? Thanx for the reply BTW! :)
Disagree on the WRs - the only problem i see there is the health issue - too many injuries. Our corps is lightyears ahead of most of the teams in the NFL if healthy (big "IF" - I know). I see people down below want Jackson - but that would be a waste of money if you ask me. We have bigger needs than a pricey WR with an attitude.
Huff can't play corner imo. He had his chances - he gets burned every time.
QB - Henne? No way. The guy doesn't have the NFL I.Q. to go with the big arm. The other Miami QB - Matt Moore - would be a fantastic back-up. Grossman? You're joking, right? I'd rather take my chances with Boller. Same with Garrard. I'd go with Orton if he's willing to play back-up. Or how about Campbell? Convince him he'll be in a real contest for starter (wink, wink:) and sign him for less money.
I think the real problem with us is we were supposed to be there already. This team was overpaid and underproduced. Partly because of the incessant coaching changes, partly because of injuries and partly because of underperforming picks (see: Jamarcus).
I agree completely on Huff.
Also I would be keen on seeing Matt Moore signed. The way he turned the Dolphins team around when Heene went down was remarkable. Given a proper chance to be a starter with some semi-decent talent around him and he could really excell.
@nilbymouth I'd put Moore in the same class with Campbell - he can start on a lower level team. Don't think he's going to take anyone to the Super Bowl - but he might get you to the first round if he had a halfway decent team around him.
@nilbymouth @Indy! I think that Palmer had the team around him plenty. In his games, Campbell benefited from a healthy McFadden and that's a difference maker. Coach Allen acknowledged as much when he had his combine presser yesterday by talking about how much harder the Raiders were to defend last year with McFadden than without. Don't get me wrong, I like Jason Campbell - the guys a really good guy and a good QB. Palmer was much better at getting the ball out and Palmer's deep ball is much much more accurate. That was Campbell's biggest weakness - he would misfire on the deep ball and mis open receivers deep.
However, Campbell isn't going to stay and be a back up because some team will offer him an opportunity to compete and he knows the Raiders will not. Matt Moore isn't a free agent this year, so isn't part of this consideration. Both the 9ers and Alex Smith openly acknowledge that he isn't going anywhere. Therefore, we have to consider what QBs are available. The ones I mentioned up above, to a man, have their faults but they've all been starters to some level in this league and had at least some success. The Raiders need a QB that can step in and play if Palmer gets hurt, not two projects behind him. Another option would be David Carr, who has been a backup to Eli the last few years, but I'm less convinced about him.
With a decent defense and a couple options around him Moore, Campbell and Alex Smith have the tools to win a Super Bowl. They just need to stay level headed and not make mistakes. And the biggest thing to me about these guys (especially Campbell) is the way the team rallies around him. Not just the offense either but the whole team.
I think the whole team lost so much confidence and leadership when Campbell went down this year that this was one of this teams biggest downfalls and the turning point of the season. Even after acquiring Palmer I just didn't sense the team rallying around him like they did with Campbell.
we cant afford another big contract like the one jackson will be after, if he even gets out of s.d. someone said resign schillens, are you kidding me. we got to rework this cap issue first. the steelers were in worst shape than us and restructured bens contract and saved 8 million dollars! so what that tells me is wimbley, huff, kelly, and curry better be ready when the time comes to wheel and deal cause that can be a whole lot of space from where were at now. we could use wimbleys money to possibly throw at mario williams, just a thought.
the raiders dont need linebackers as most think.. look at the giants they had mathias kiwanuka (a converted d-end), then michael boley (cover linebacker) and chase blackburn (a linebacker they signed off the streets).. what the raiders need is more defensive backs and d-lineman!!!!!
If Vincent Jackson is not franchise tagged by the Chargers, then I would 100% endorse the Raiders making a move to sign him. Jackson is a game changer, and has been a huge offensive force for Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. Just imagine how dominant the Raider receiving corps would be if Vincent Jackson was added to the roster. A Carson Palmer to Vincent Jackson combination would be lethal. Jackson's strength is his ability to make deep plays catching the ball high above his shoulders, which is opposite of DHB's strength. Combine DHB and Jackson in the starting lineup, and the Raiders would have the best of both worlds, dominant players on the short and deep routes. Jackson's signing makes perfect sense to me, and I guarantee that he would be a box office sensation, as Raider fans would pay good money to see him play, and his signing would help guarantee consistent sellouts at home games, as great offense sells tickets!!!
If we were to go after and big name receiver and spend that sort of money I would rather see Mike Wallace in the Silver and Black. Steelers are in much more cap trouble than us and I think they will really struggle to get him re-signed.
@nilbymouth Wallace is a beast, he can run by anyone and he would be a great addition to any team - and i think you're right regarding the financial situation which would render him a possibility (if we can match the 1st rd tender they will no doubt slap on him as we do not have a 1st rd pick?)!
Still, he offers some of the same qualities that Ford and Moore does (while also being "short" at 6'), and if we are going away from a pure Air Coryell while implementing a more modern WCO type of offense, we might have a bigger need for a big bodied possession kind of guy (one of the reasons Chaz should be given another year after being healthy for a year and getting into rythm).
Just a note:
Watching the combine today, Streeter (WR), AKA Megatron Light, really would have been enticing to Big Al had he still been running our draft - 6'5" and a 4.34 unofficial 40 dash, that would have screamed RAIDERS all over the place last year!
Really looking forward to seeing what kind of players we will target under the new regime!
@Spartacus V-Jax would be a dominant WR for us out the gate, no doubt about that! And i too would love to see him in Silver and Black (partially just to take him away from the Bolts), but unless we get him at a bargain (which we probably won't), signing him would be costly and would hinder signings of other (stronger imo) needs on the team!
IF they can find the cap room to all the other needs and still add V-Jax - Watch Out AFCW!
@Harder2000 Signing Vincent Jackson will be very costly, no doubt. Fiscally, you are right, it might not be the best move based on other needs. However, from a purely selfish standpoint, I would love to see it happen, as I think Jackson would add a dimension to the Raider offense that we haven't seen since Tim Brown...
@Spartacus It would definately bring a dimension we haven't had in ages, and he is the type of WR that (if used correctly) can take over games and force the D to alter their gameplan in order to account for his abilities! Him and D-Mac would create a nightmare for the D-Coords we would face, especially when sprinkling in all the talented speedster playmakers on the team!
... I think most Raider Fans would welcome V-JAx with open arms (me too), but i just don't see Reggie doing a big WR signing until he has cleaned house, gotten rid of contracts and filled other urgent needs first.
I disagree about WR as a need. DHB should be even better in the West Coast Offense and will be a starter with Moore. Murphy and Ford are decent number 3 and 4 receivers and Schilens (if he is bought back cheaply) is a very good 5th receiver.
@nilbymouth I see it the same way! Only reason to get a new WR imo, is if we have a real good, decent priced steal option out there (which i doubt we will), otherwise the healthy WR core we have should be fine!
Think the Chazmanian Devil needs to be resigned however, as our WCO could use a couple of big bodies on the field!
Yes I would like to see him re-signed also. Makes an excellent depth receiver and plus I think he will be quite cheap.
@dondiraider I really hope he get's another year under the new regime to prove his worth!
He is a great prospect when he is healthy, and having this past healthy year under the belt should help him finally cut it loose with a solid preseason - he has great talent, and i really hope he will get to fullfil it in S&B!
He will not (and should not) be given a scholarship - he has to earn it like everyone else with the new regime, and if given the chance i really think he will prove his abilities, catch on and be a contributer for the coming year (although i don't see him winning the #1 spot out the gate)!
I think OL is like the third biggest need. Satele and Barnes suck. Hopefully, they will not be re-signed. Carlisle is getting older and needs to be replaced. Only Veldheer and Wiz are safe on the OL as they played great last season. I expect there to be at least two new starters, hopefully three though, on the OL.
@JarrodRollins Im not the biggest fan of Barnes or Carlise, but I read somewhere that last season we only gave up 25 sacks, which was a team record !!! (Move over Upshaw and Shell !) ... is that correct ??? It certainly surprised me ...
Id love Barksdale and Campbell to come through next season .... the complete disappearance of Campbell is a mystery to me .. is he really SO bad that he cant even make the game day active list ?
Barnes is the first and foremost player that needs to be replaced on the OL. He is terrible. No idea how he lasted this long. Campbell, Barksdale, anyone!
Secondly, Satele needs to be replaced by either acquiring a new Center (Chris Myers or Scott Wells maybe?) or moving Wiz to Center and getting a new guy to take over at LG. Whether this is a new player signed / drafted or someone already on the roster.
Then maybe look at replacing Carlisle although he may need to redo his contract. He is serviceable for another season especially running the ZBS and could then be looked at being replaced next off-season.
Hopefully moving to the ZBS Veldheer and Wiz can continue to grow and get better. I would hate to see their growth as players stunted by this move to ZBS.
Campbell is a bit slow learning new things and Big Barks is just not really that athletic and fast.. Hope they can make them fit as i like them both, but it is gonna require a lot of work in the offseason. let's hope Pollack and Wiz can do it!
What about signing Stevie Johnson? He'd be a good WR to start opposite to D-MO with Ford in the slot. Johnson won't be as pricey as Colston would be.