2012 NFL Draft: Oakland Raiders' Biggest Needs
The Oakland Raiders fell just short in their bid for a postseason berth in 2011. With limited picks in April's 2012 NFL draft, the pressure is on new general manager Reggie McKenzie and new head coach Dennis Allen to fill key positions of need with limited resources in order to make another run at the division title in 2012.
What are the positions that McKenzie and Allen should be targeting most? Let's take a look at four spots where the Raiders could use some help...
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The Raiders' biggest need heading into the 2012 draft is without a doubt the cornerback position. Last year, Oakland ranked 27th in the league in passing yards against per game. The trio of Stanford Routt, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa struggled mightily in the absence on All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Bringing in a lockdown corner would surely shore up some of the issues the Raiders experienced in the secondary. In a previous article, I highlighted Oregon's Cliff Harris as a potential mid-round selection that could contribute right away.
New head coach Dennis Allen has a defensive background and he will recognize the need for another cornerback. Routt, in particular, certainly didn't meet the expectations of his hefty contract. Entering the season finale against San Diego, the third-highest-paid cornerback in the NFL had committed a league-leading 16 penalties, one more than the entire Green Bay Packers defense combined.
The Raiders likely won't come across another Asomugha in April, considering their first selection won't come until after the third round. But Oakland still must add a solid player at a key position of need who has the ability to limit the penalties and fix the recent coverage problems.
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With Cooper Carlisle struggling towards the end of the year and rookie phenom Stefan Wisniewski playing away from his natural position of center, the guard spot along the offensive line becomes an area in which the Raiders would like to add depth.
Oakland was a run-oriented ballclub in 2011, even after Darren McFadden went down with an injury. Despite losing McFadden and fellow running back Taiwan Jones, the run game was a strength of the Raiders for much of the season. With the addition of some fresh legs up front, the Raiders run game will be poised to flourish.
Wisniewski was impressive in his rookie year and he was a big reason the Raiders being ranked seventh in the league in rushing. Oakland would love nothing more than to hit another home run at the guard position in order to fortify its rushing attack.
Even if the Raiders choose to leave Wisniewski at left guard, the right guard spot, currently occupied by Carlisle, is an area for potential upgrade. At age 34, Carlisle no longer has age on his side. Bringing in another big body up front would breathe life into the offensive line and it would certainly benefit the Raiders moving forward.
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Two years ago, the Raiders spent their first-round draft pick on Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. McClain along with Aaron Curry and Kamerion Wimbley teamed up to form a solid linebacking trio in 2011. However, many expect the Raiders to switch to a 3-4 defense in 2012, which means adding another linebacker is imperative.
The Raiders will be in search of someone with pass-rushing ability but who also possesses the instincts to drop back into coverage. A player like Mychal Kendricks from Cal appears to fit the mold of the type of athlete Oakland is looking for.
Quentin Groves and Darryl Blackstock got some looks last year, but it remains to be seen if either of them can thrive in a new scheme. It would be wise of Oakland to select a player who is familiar with the 3-4 so he can complement McClain and Wimbley, two players with experience in that system.
Once again, the Raiders will be hurt by not having an early selection, which will remove elite prospects such as Alabama's Courtney Upshaw from the table. However, if the Raiders can find some value later on at this position in the draft, they would be wise to use a pick on a linebacker.
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Another area the Raiders struggled with in 2011 was the defensive line, particularly with applying pressure to the quarterback. To fix this problem, selecting a pass-rushing defensive end is a necessity in this draft.
Richard Seymour has a wealth of experience at defensive tackle and is going to be a fixture along the line in 2012. Drafting a pass-rushing defensive end to assist Seymour in rushing the quarterback is a good idea.
Jarvis Moss and Lamarr Houston are capable defensive ends, but it never hurts to have too many capable pass-rushers on your team. The defensive-minded Allen understands the importance of reinforcing the trenches and strengthening the pass rush should be a big part of his draft-day plan.
Despite their later selections, there should be some solid prospects available later in the draft and it's key that the Raiders jump at the opportunity.