But before that, we have 10.
That’s the number of days until the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
So, as we prepare for April 26 coveted event, here’s a look at updated trade and draft news for the Silver & Black.
As the whole of Raider Nation surely knows—and doesn’t need me to remind them—Oakland will not get a draft pick until the compensatory pick at the end of the third round.
And unlike teams like the Washington Redskins or the Cleveland Browns who can mock up several different draft scenarios with those high first-round picks, the Raiders are going to have to go with what GM Reggie McKenzie calls a “best guy available”-type of mentality.
This makes it a little harder to predict potential storylines for Oakland’s draft picks, especially since one surprise pick in an earlier round can shake up the whole draft.
But what we can tell is that the Raiders' biggest need is depth and McKenzie is going into the draft looking for size as well as speed.
McKenzie remains his confident self even though he’s not picking until the third round, telling the media at his pre-draft press conference that he has success in later draft rounds. (He is the guy that scouted Super Bowl champion QB Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers after all.) He told the press in his straight-to-the-point fashion: “We’ve got five picks. We need to make them all count.”
We can expect that McKenzie is going to draft guys with massive size and strength that will serve as backups for the current offensive and defensive lines and step in if the first stringers get hurt. (Especially during stints like Week 10 when 11 players were riding the bench before the Thursday night game against the Chargers.)
Here’s a brief rundown of where Oakland is picking in the 2012 draft: No. 32 in the third round, 95 overall; No. 34 in the fourth round, 129 overall; No. 13 and No. 33 in the fifth round, 148 and 168 overall; and No. 19 in the sixth round, 189 overall.
Before we take a look at the Silver & Black’s needs in the draft, let’s take a quick recap of some of the other offseason transactions that have occurred.
That doesn’t mean they’ve been sitting back and not signing any new players.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the trades and signings that have taken place between now and when Oakland released defensive end Kamerion Wimbley at the opening of the free agency market on March 16:
- March 19 saw the resigning of guard Cooper Carlisle and signing of former 49er cornerback Shawntae Spencer.
- On March 21, the Raiders re-signed unrestricted free agent tackle Khalif Barnes and signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Pat Lee to a one-year contract.
- On March 30, the Raiders signed former-Indianapolis linebacker Philip Wheeler to a one-year deal and acquired running back Mike Goodson via trade with the Carolina Panthers in exchange for outside tackle Bruce Campbell.
- April 3 saw the waive of rookie wide receiver Derrick Jones, as well as the resigning of defensive end Mason Brodine and cornerback Brian McCann.
- April 7 saw the signing of unrestricted free agent defensive end Dave Tollefson to a two-year contract.
- The Raiders threw the trade world for a loop when they signed ex-Cal State Fullerton basketball player Andre Hardy as a tight end.
As previously discussed, depth is the name of the game.
And Oakland needs it on both sides of the ball.
Although they have a lot of players plugged in to their offense, those guys are still in need of solid backups should the injury bullet hit.
The Raiders wide receiving corps is filling out. 2011 saw Darrius Heyward-Bey leading in catches, Denarius Moore leading in TDs and contributions from Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy. Should all four stay healthy and productive, Oakland can improve on their 11th overall ranked passing game.
Andre Hardy will be just one of four tight ends on the Raiders 2012 roster, along with David Ausberry, Richard Gordon and Brandon Myers.
But looking toward the draft, there is still a need of depth, particularly at running back and on the o-line.
Their offensive line already has a lot of guys to work with, having re-signed Barnes and Carlisle and acquiring Mike Brisiel from the Houston Texans. But they’ll need more guys as backup, which could be solved with the addition of prospects like guard Ryan Miller from Colorado, whose massive frame would benefit the o-line.
McKenzie says that Darren McFadden is healthy and “good to go,” but seeing as how McFadden is still yet to play a full season—and backup Taiwan Jones suffered a side-lining injury himself last season—Oakland needs to acquire depth at the running back position to boost its 7th overall-ranked rush game.
The Raiders were ranked 27th in the league last season against both the pass game and the rush. That can’t happen again, and the likes of Richard Seymour can’t do it alone.
Signing Wheeler and Tollefson—as the Sports Xchange points out, “to fill Wimbley’s shoes”—helps add depth to the Raider’s defense. Both players are versatile and hard-working, which will complement coordinator Jason Tarver’s defensive line.
So, come the weekend of the draft, Oakland should focus on adding depth at cornerback. Leonard Johnson from Iowa State would be a solid pickup if he’s still available or Clemson’s Coty Sensabaugh as NFLDraftGeek.com suggests.
McKenzie hasn’t shied away from admitting he’s new to his position. And although he said during his pre-draft press conference that he would be looking to take “the best guy available” with the No. 32 pick in the third round, he will be looking at top prospects that are sure to go in the first round.
“I need to go through the process being my first year,” McKenzie told the media. “When Cincinnati’s pick from us comes up, we’re going to figure out who’s the guy on the board that we would like to have, so we’ll go through that process.”
But McKenzie has also shown that he is confident in his draft-picking position, and the former Green Bay Packers scout guru backed up comments he’s made in the past about being successful in later rounds. He knows that he’ll be looking at “speed and strength and size,” despite how far down he’s drafting. He told the media at the conference, “It all has a part in putting your board together, so we’re not going to try to alter it as we go.”
And through his confidence, he admits to having jitters about his first draft as GM, even though he won’t be picking until the third round. “I’m drafting after a legend that has been drafting for the Raiders for so long. So it’s huge. But I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to it.”