Oakland Raiders: Predicting Which Rookies Will Step Up in 2012
The Oakland Raiders drafted six players in the 2012 NFL Draft and four of them are on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, they had no pick in the first two rounds and thus Raider fans don't have a household name to be juiced about.
A reminder, the first-round selection was lost in the Carson Palmer trade and the second-round selection was lost in a draft-pick swap with the New England Patriots in 2011.
So when wondering why no Raider rookie jumps off the page for the excitement factor, understand this is the price being paid for acquiring a descent quarterback.
Criner, a wide receiver out of the University of Arizona, has a big body with strong hands and a great vertical leap.
During his junior season, Criner caught 82 balls for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named to the first-team All-Pac-10. His numbers dropped slightly in 2011, but Criner still hauled in 11 touchdowns.
Criner has a nose for the end zone, scoring 32 touchdowns in four seasons at Tucson. While likely ending somewhere around fourth on depth chart, Criner is a good option in the red zone with his frame, reach and hands.
While he isn't as fast as Denarius Moore or Jacoby Ford, expect a big play or two from Criner in 2012.
Burris is a versatile linebacker who was a three-year starter at San Diego State University.
Early on in the season, he may have the opportunity to make an impact on special teams. Also, his ability to play inside or outside linebacker means that he can be used late in the season when injuries are more prevalent.
His coverage skills need improvement, but most fourth-round draft picks often have some area of weakness that could be exploited in the NFL—that's why they're being drafted in the fourth round.
The Rolando McClain legal situation leaves a void of playing time at the linebacker position. Don't be surprised if Burris gets some looks.
A defensive end from Penn State, Crawford is a project the Raiders can hopefully develop.
Listed at 6'5'' and approximately 275 lbs, Crawford has the physical frame to be an NFL defensive end. That said, he finished with only 6.5 sacks his senior year.
Frankly, the Raiders had limited pass rush from their defensive ends in 2011, so anything Crawford can bring to the table will be an improvement.
Most late draft picks often have a tough time hanging on with teams after rookie contracts expire. Watch for this group of rookies to make an impact and prove their worth in 2012.
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