Oakland Raiders: 7 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs
The Raiders concluded the second week of organized team activities (OTAs) and the coaching staff is doing their best to evaluate the players in non-contact situations.
Without pads and contact, there is little evaluation that can be done of the offensive or defensive lineman outside of participation. It's pretty tough for a lineman to raise his stock against a blocking sled.
Organized team activities are more of an opportunity for the receivers, backs, linebackers and the secondary to show off their athleticism and natural ability.
There are numerous determining factors that indicate a player with a rising stock, but having the starting quarterback or head coach mention your name is usually a good place to start.
In case you've been living under a rock since the beginning of the Oakland Raiders' offseason program, rookie fifth-round draft pick Juron Criner is making a case to be the next Denarius Moore and see significant playing time in 2012.
Except Criner is a little different than Moore. Moore is the vertical threat that can go up and get the a jump ball, while Criner is the third-down weapon that can wiggle past a defender and catch a poorly thrown pass.
Criner likely dropped in the draft due to a personal medical or family issue and a slow 40-yard dash time, but he's catching everything and knows how to run routes, according to head coach Dennis Allen. Outside of breakaway speed, Criner might have the rest of the package.
For the Raiders, Criner could be a timely discovery. For much of the 2011 season, the Raiders were missing a third-down and red-zone target, forcing the offense to live and die by the big play.
When Moore and Jacoby Ford missed time with injuries, the Raiders' offense sputtered and Darren McFadden wasn't available as the safety net.
Adding Criner to the rotation of young receivers could help the offense take the next step into the class of the NFL elite.
The Raiders released Kevin Boss this offseason, leaving the starting tight end position in question headed into 2012.
David Ausberry is one of three players competing for the starting job and appears willing to do what it takes to earn the position.
Per Gutierrez, one of the highlights during the media access period was an Ausberry catch over the middle against Rolando McClain.
It wont be until training camp that we find out if Ausberry can block, but his extra bulk ensures so he'll have a fighting chance, while it's a welcome sign that the bulk hasn't ruined his ability to get open against linebackers.
Of all the tight ends on the roster, Ausberry might be the most physically gifted. If the 265-pound version of Ausberry can block effectively in addition to his receiving skills, there's little reason to believe he won't be the starting tight end in 2012.
A neck injury sidelined Ron Bartell for all but one game of the 2011 season, and it's hard to improve your stock when you are in the trainer's room.
Proving health after an injury can take time, and the Raiders wont know for sure how Bartell will hold up until they puts on pads during training camp, but head coach Dennis Allen said Bartell has shown that he's 100% back.
That's great news for the Raiders, who have basically handed the No. 1 cornerback position to Bartell, whose ability to get and stay healthy is vitally important to the secondary and the rest of the defense.
Last season, the Raiders had enough trouble trying to replace injured cornerback Chris Johnson, and it would be more difficult to replace a player like Bartell.
As Bartell continues to get back into playing shape, his stock should continue to rise and he's a player to watch as the offseason program continues.
Travis Goethel is another player coming off a season-long injury. Although Goethel is relatively unknown to the rest of the NFL, he might be the likely starter at middle linebacker should Rolando McClain miss any time during the season.
Injuries happen in the NFL, and McClain is also wrangling with legal issues, so there's a good chance Goethel will be forced into action at some point in 2012.
After two injury-plagued seasons, Goethel's stock was at an all-time low. OTAs have been his opportunity to show the third defensive coaching staff in three years what he brings to the table.
Goethel is a instinctual linebacker that can stack, shed and tackle and will have an opportunity to earn playing time if he can stay healthy.
Rolando McClain's stock reached rock bottom when he was convicted of four misdemeanor crimes in Alabama court nearly two weeks ago.
McClain issued a statement apologizing for the bad publicity but, if history is a guide, he'll continue to have a job if he performs on the field.
In an interview with the media after OTA practice last Tuesday, head coach Dennis Allen said he'll let the legal process play out before taking any action on McClain and wouldn't necessarily hold a player's past sins against them.
Allen mentioned McClain's coverage skills as an area that needed improvement, but said he's been impressed with McClain through the entire offseason and he is still ahead when it comes to learning the playbook despite missing time to tend to his legal issues.
McClain also had offseason stem-cell therapy on his knee and ankle according to the Mobile Press-Register.
Health is just one of many factors that can impact on-field performance, and a healthy McClain could mean a different McClain.
His stock had nowhere to go but up, but it certainly rebounded with the small vote of confidence from his head coach.
Terrelle Pryor has yet to take an official snap in an NFL game, but he's getting a lot of praise from Carson Palmer for his approach to the sport.
Palmer was interviewed by Comcast Sports Net Bay Area's Kate Longworth and had this to say about Pryor:
Terrelle has been awesome. He's pushed me every single day. He's been my workout partner, study partner and he's so gifted, so athletic. He wants to be great, so bad. It's been really fun to have a young guy push me. For myself, selfishly, I look at it that way, but Terrelle's got so much potential, so much talent. I am happy to see a guy come in with that much athletic ability that works just as hard, and puts in the time to really understand the game, the position and what he's called to do leadership wise, what he's called to do bringing younger guys along that are older than him. I am excited about Terrelle's future.
That's a pretty glowing review from Palmer and a testament to Pryor's character.
The Raider Nation had to be at least a little concerned when Pryor told Sports Illustrated he questioned his love for the game, but it's understandable considering what the former Ohio State QB went through in 2011.
Despite that scare, the new regime in Oakland appears to have Pryor on the path to success. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo told the San Francisco Chronicle that Pryor is getting better every day and that he's going to give himself a chance to be a good player in the NFL because of his work ethic.
There's really no reason DeFilippo or Palmer would be obligated to give Pryor such glowing reviews unless it were true. It's exciting when you see a talented young player putting in the work to be a good player, and his stock has certainly received a healthy bump upwards.
Darren McFadden is a special football player when he's healthy, and he's finally healthy again. McFadden said after OTAs that he started running in April and has been feeling back to normal for the last month.
McFadden played in a career-low seven games in 2011 after injuring his foot and is averaging just over 11 games per season in his four-year career.
The Raiders will be cautious as the offseason program continues, but don't expect McFadden to slow down. The lightning-quick back said he doesn't have control over the injuries and he's just going to play hard.
The offense in Oakland is totally different when McFadden is healthy and the entire team's stock rises when he is able to go 100%.
McFadden is also embracing the zone-blocking scheme despite being more effective with man-blocking over the past two seasons. That's a welcome sign, because McFadden could be deadly in the zone-scheme if he fully embraces the principles.
Don't be surprising if McFadden's stock continues to rise as the Raiders' plans for him become more well known.
Carson Palmer told Comcast Sports Net Bay Area, "..seeing what (McFadden) can do in the screen game is really going to take his game to the next level because he is so explosive with the ball in his hands."
Time will tell if McFadden can stay healthy, but he should continue to be the focal point of the Raiders' offense, and a healthy McFadden is a stock worth buying into.
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