Recently, I watched a video of Tyvon Branch's 2011 season highlights and I got to thinking: Tyvon Branch is so good, yet so undervalued by the NFL. Then that thought flew to another—our entire team is undervalued. Then it got to the question, who is the Raiders' most valuable player?
I got out pen and paper and began to trim it down to the absolute best. But this idea shot into my head —what if I wrote about it on Bleacher Report and made a tournament of it? I could break it into two parts, one for offense and one for defense, and create a great, interactive series out of it.
I'll begin by listing the offensive players that I felt had a big enough impact on the 2011 season but will also continue to do well in 2012. The participants are quarterback Carson Palmer, running backs Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece, receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, and Jacoby Ford, and linemen Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski.
At random, I gave them all numbers and assigned them to a competitor. The matchups will be Reece versus Veldheer, Ford versus Heyward-Bey, Wisniewski versus McFadden, and Moore versus Palmer.
And with that, let me introduce our first matchup.
Marcel Reece comes into this matchup as the "Matchup Nightmare" because of his wide range of skills. The undrafted fullback came into the NFL as a receiver. He has the build of an H-Back, and Reece can truly do it all. He is an average blocker, but when he lines up somewhere else, the defense panics. He has great hands and is incredibly fast for his size. He is strong, athletic and an important of the Raider offense.
Reece had a slightly disappointing season due to injury. After playing in 16 games (10 starts) in 2010, Reece looked to expand his role in the offense. A nagging ankle injury in 2011, however, limited Reece to only six starts and 12 games, but that did not hurt his production.
Reece improved his running game from 4.1 yards per carry in 2010, to 6.6 yards. He had 112 rushing yards on 17 carries, as opposed to the 122 yards on 30 carries in 2010. Receiving-wise, Reece was not as explosive, but remained consistent. Reece had two more receptions, but saw his average fall from 13.3 to 11.1. Still, impressive numbers for a fullback.
Opposing Mr. Marcel Reece is the small-school kid that no one else wanted to take a chance on. Al Davis, the genius that he is, knew talent when he saw it and selected offensive tackle Jared Veldheer in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. A Division II prospect out of Hillsdale College overlooked by most draft scouts, Davis took Veldheer and gave him the green light to protect his quarterback.
As a rookie, Veldheer had a promising season. Of course, that came with some rookie mistakes, but Veldheer showed that he had the potential to be a franchise tackle. In his sophomore campaign, Veldheer looked like a five-year veteran.
The entire season, Veldheer was facing elite talent. He played against the likes of Tamba Hali, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. Peppers was the only player that seemed to have Veldheer on the ropes.
Veldheer is a good pass-blocker who is very strong. In the run game, he is quick and can swallow up defenders. He does not allow all too many sacks, and can improve on minimizing his penalties, but that comes with experience.
So, tell me Raider Nation! Who is the more valuable of these two players. Make a strong argument in the comments section below!
Hope you enjoy as I really do enjoy these types of articles and I hope to continue this series!