2012 NFL Draft Recap: How Each Oakland Raiders Pick Fits
There is a fundamental problem with drafting the best player available. Drafting the best player available leaves open the possibility the team is deep at one position and thin at another.
Thankfully for the Raiders, just about every position on the team needed depth and many of the players were drafted with a specific role in mind.
Based on Reggie McKenzie's first draft as general manager, it wouldn't be hard to make the case that McKenzie was drafting more for need than the best player available.
No matter what philosophy was used to draft players, the Raiders still have to figure out how each player fit into their 2012 plan.
Starting LG Battle: Tony Bergstrom vs. Cooper Carlisle
Cooper Carlisle will have to fight off Reggie McKenzie's first draft pick for a starting job.
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The Raiders offensive line has been an area of significant change this offseason. The much improved unit in 2011 lacked depth, and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is changing the philosophy back to the zone-blocking scheme the Raiders used from 2007 to 2009.
Cooper Carlisle has been the starting right guard since the Raiders started using the zone-blocking scheme in 2007, but he looks like a backup at best in 2012.
The change back to the zone scheme led many to believe Carlisle's job would be saved despite his poor play over the last few seasons.
Instead, Mike Brisiel was signed to become the Raiders starting right guard and Carlisle was released.
The Carlisle era seemed to be over in Oakland, but McKenzie re-signed Carlisle and made public statements that the coaching staff believed he could play right guard. This move led many to believe the release had more to do with Carlisle's contract than the team's desire to dispose of him.
After the seesaw offseason for Carlisle, Reggie McKenzie used his first draft pick as general manager to select Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, who will play left guard.
One universal truth was lost in the analysis of the roster moves involving Carlisle: A team is always looking to replace a below average veteran.
Bergstrom will compete with Carlisle for the starting job at left guard, but it's tough to imagine Bergstrom not winning the job or at least keeping pace with Carlisle.
Greg Knapp is a big believer in the run, and some believe the offensive guards are more important in a zone-blocking scheme than the tackles.
If Bergstrom is named the starter, he could be directly or indirectly responsible for the success of the Raiders' running game in 2012.
Rarely will you find an instance where a third-round pick will be as directly involved in the team's success running the ball as you will with Bergstrom in 2012.
Miles Burris: Pass Rush Specialist
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It might be crazy to compare Miles Burris to Von Miller. Miller was an elite prospect coming out of college and had a great rookie season in the NFL.
What's not crazy is that the Raiders might use Burris in a similar fashion.
Von Miller rushed the passer an amazing 79 percent of the passing plays where he was on the field, according to ProFootbalFocus.com.
Recently released outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was second to Miller among 4-3 outside linebackers as he rushed the passer on 72.5 percent of the passing plays where he was on the field.
Burris admits he wasn't asked to do much man coverage in college, but he thinks he's capable. Until the Raiders are confident in his coverage skills, he will see similarly high pass-rushing percentages.
The Raiders don't have much of an outside pass rush and might be depending on Burris to provide pressure from the outside.
Burris plays fast and hard and that will give him an opportunity. He'll also be a key special teams player.
Grooming Burris to be a three-down linebacker might be the goal, but the coaching staff should plan to use him as a pass-rusher and on special teams right away.
Shaughnessy Insurance: Jack Crawford
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Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy hasn't been able to stay healthy, and the Raiders figured they could use depth at the defensive end position.
If Jack Crawford can become a rotational player at defensive end, the Raiders can keep Desmond Bryant in the defensive tackle rotation and improve the interior pass rush.
The Raiders signed Dave Tollefson this offseason to help provide some position flexibility, but he projects as mostly a pass-rushing specialist and should not be a three-down linebacker.
Enter two-down linebacker Crawford at 273 pounds. He can help the Raiders set the edge in the running game if he learns to keep his pad level down.
Stopping the run has been an defensive priority for years, and the Raiders didn't add much on the defensive line to help until they drafted Crawford.
Third Down Target: Juron Criner
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Greg Knapp is a more conservative offensive coordinator than Hue Jackson and will attempt to sustain long drives rather than take a half dozen shots down the field.
The Raiders might need a big, tall possession receiver with good hands to keep the chains moving on third down. By most accounts that describes Juron Criner.
Zone-blocking teams also tend to have an issue scoring in the red zone and a big target for Carson Palmer might help alleviate some of the added stress on the passing game when the running game is not getting the tough yards.
The Raiders may have originally planned to work in snaps for Eddie McGee, but the drafting of Criner will heat that competition up. Criner is the more likely of the two to win the job.
The Backup Plan: DT/DE Christo Bilukidi
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The Raiders draft was focused heavily on the defensive front seven with two linebackers and two linemen drafted.
At this stage in the draft, any production the team gets from the draft pick is a bonus. Christo Bilukidi will try to work his way into the defensive end or defensive tackle rotation, but he will be sitting behind Richard Seymour.
It's never a bad idea to sit and learn from a guy like Richard Seymour.
The players in the trenches get beat up, and if Bilukidi can keep his pad level down and play more consistently, there may be opportunities for him to get into the rotation at defensive end or tackle.
The Raiders added depth in the draft to help the defense finally stop the run. Bilukidi can be part of that with a good training camp.
Special Teams: Nate Stupar
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There's nothing wrong with being a special teams player. Nate Stupar might be a late developing linebacker prospect, or he might be exactly what the Raiders think he is today: a special teams player.
Stupar is the nephew of former Raiders' quarterback Jeff Hostetler and has excellent football intelligence. He should start out on special teams and could eventually fight for more playing time.
Initially, Stupar is likely just to be an injury replacement at middle linebacker, but given time, he might develop into a player that pushes for playing time.
For now Stupar will provide the Raiders a legitimate backup to Rolando McClain that they didn't have last season.