Another NFL regular season is in the books and for the 10th straight year, the Oakland Raiders failed to make a postseason appearance. Oakland was in a win-or-go-home scenario in Week 17 against the rival San Diego Chargers where a win would have sent the Silver and Black to the playoffs.
The Raiders fell short, and that meant it was back to the drawing board. The front office acted quickly, dismissing Hue Jackson as head coach and hiring Packers executive Reggie McKenzie as general manager.
The Raiders looked the part of a playoff team for much of the year, but injuries to key players, defensive breakdowns and ill-advised penalties plagued Oakland once again.
With the NFL Draft looming in April, the Raiders are looking to add a few pieces to the puzzle in order to make a run at the playoffs in 2012. The bad news is that the Raiders only own fifth- and sixth-round selections as of now. The good news is that compensatory picks will likely come the Raiders way due to the losses of Nnamdi Asomugha and Robert Gallery among others.
Even with these extra picks, which don't occur until after end of the third round, the highest the Raiders can expect to select without trading up is around pick 100.
With these limitations in mind, let's take a look at some mid-to-late-round steals that could make an impact in Oakland...
Harris' career at Oregon was marred by controversy off the field, but his on-field ability is unquestioned. An All-American in 2010, Harris is an intriguing option for Oakland, seeing as his draft stock is low, and he could fill a position of need right away.
Harris was an electric punt returner for the Ducks and was also a shut-down corner. When Nnamdi Asomugha departed for Philadelphia, he left a major void in the secondary that the Raiders have yet to fill. The addition of Harris could go a long way in helping Oakland with their coverage issues.
Reggie McKenzie may shy away from Harris due to his run-ins with the law, but if the cornerback falls to the Raiders in the fourth or fifth round, selecting him is certainly a risk worth taking.
Formerly projected as a first-round pick, Harris would be a great value selection in the mid to late rounds in April.
Winning football games starts in the trenches, and the Raiders made it a priority to shore up the offensive line when they selected Stefan Wisniewski with their first selection in the 2011 draft. Continuing to build upon that momentum should be a priority for Oakland.
Although the offensive line showed flashes of greatness at times, adding depth and versatility to a key position is never a bad thing. Enter Ryan Miller, a powerful, run-blocking specialist from the University of Colorado.
Miller is a big body (6'7", 326 lbs), which means he could slide out and play tackle if needed. An all-Big XII honorable mention selection during his junior year and a preseason All-American this year, Miller demonstrated great burst off the line of scrimmage while in school.
Another point worth noting: Selecting Miller could allow Wisniewski to shift back to his natural position at center, which could benefit the O-line overall.
Miller is one of those "under the radar" guys the Raiders will have to search for in April's draft due to their lack of draft picks. Miller is not projected as an early-round selection, partly because of a leg injury he sustained during his sophomore campaign, which could play into the Raiders favor.
With rumors swirling about the Raiders moving to a 3-4 defense, the need for another outside linebacker rises, and Mychal Kendricks of California is an ideal candidate.
During his junior year at Cal, Kendricks was a pass rush specialist, recording 8.5 sacks from his outside linebacker position. This past year, his sack numbers dropped to just 3, but his tackling total rose from 66 to 96, and Kendricks secured Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Honors.
Kendricks is slightly undersized for the 3-4 outside linebacker position (6'0", 240 lbs), but the bottom line is the Golden Bears star possesses NFL-ready instincts and speed.
He may be overlooked on draft day due to his size, but the Raiders should have the opportunity to snag the local product in the fourth or fifth round.
Broyles suffered a season-ending ACL tear in early November, but prior to his injury the Sooner star was an All-American and one of the more prolific wide receivers in recent memory at the college level.
In 2011, the Raiders wide receiver corp endured injuries to a couple key contributors, namely Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. When healthy, both of these receivers, along with Oakland's first round pick in 2009, Darrius Heyward-Bey, provided quarterback Carson Palmer with a vertical threat.
Adding a player like Broyles, who is renowned for his crisp route running ability, would give Palmer an option out of the slot to compliment the Raiders' deep threats. Broyles also has the speed and versatility to be a downfield option should Ford or Moore go down again with an injury.
Broyles likely would have been a first-day selection in the draft if he hadn't sustained a serious injury, but the fact that he can't engage in pre-draft workouts will harm his stock in April.
Oakland would love if Broyles fell to them in a mid-round spot, and there's no doubt McKenzie and new coach Dennis Allen would jump at the opportunity to select him.
The defensive line unit entered the season as a perceived strength of the Raiders defense, but by year's end it was viewed as a major letdown, as Oakland ranked 15th in sacks and 27th in rush and pass defense.
The Raiders are making defensive changes by switching to a 3-4 base and adding a skilled pass-rusher such as Jake Bequette could help. Bequette was bothered by a hamstring injury during his time at Arkansas but rebounded to have a solid senior season.
Bequette has an ever-churning motor and will bring a relentless tenacity to the defensive end position. His senior statistics (25 tackles, eight sacks, four forced fumbles) are impressive and his speed (4.54 40 yard dash) is good for an athlete of his size.
Bequette is also an intelligent, high-character athlete: He completed his masters degree during his time in Fayetteville. His discipline would be a breath of fresh air to the most penalized team in NFL history.