Oakland Raiders Positions of Need in the 2013 NFL Draft
After a disappointing 4-12 season in 2012, the Raiders look to copy that of the Indianapolis Colts and make an instant turnaround from one of the worst teams in the NFL to a playoff team in just one offseason.
The Raiders are still over the salary cap in 2013, but are much closer to being able to spend money on big name free agents.
"Personally, I think we're year away from that. We're not in a salary cap situation like last year, but we still have issues and have some decisions that have to be made before free agency, or when free agency starts. So, we're not out of the woods, by any stretch. But, we are better off than last year." said Reggie McKenzie last week courtesy of Paul Gutierrez of CSN California.
With the salary cap still being issue for another year, the Raiders are going to have to rely on draft picks for rebuilding in 2013. With that in mind, let's see what positions the Raiders need to upgrade the most.
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Before I get into what the Raiders do need, I wanted to make this slide saying that the Raiders don't need to draft a quarterback. I have been reading other mock drafts suggesting that the Raiders use a pick on drafting a QB to develop for the future.
Even before Terrelle Pryor showed promise for the future in the season finale at San Diego I was against drafting another QB. Now that Pryor looks like he is progressing nicely I definitely do not want to see another QB drafted by the Raiders.
The only two quarterbacks who should be on the Oakland Raiders 53 man roster are Pryor and Carson Palmer. Which one of them starts is another story.
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The Raiders offensive line regressed as a unit under Greg Knapp's zone-blocking scheme. There are still some good players on this line though in left tackle Jared Veldheer and center Stefen Wisniewski.
The Raiders guards though need to be upgraded. Cooper Carlisle, regardless of what you think of his talent, is old (35) and it is time to get a younger player in there.
Then there is Mike Brisiel who was supposed to help transition the group to Knapp's scheme. That didn't go so well either.
Lucas Nix and Tony Bergstrom could be competing for one of the jobs, if not both, once training camp opens.
Because the Raiders already have these two young players at the guard position, they don't need to worry about drafting another guard early in the draft.
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The two men in the picture here perfectly represent the Raiders defensive line.
On one hand, you have young, promising players like Lamarr Houston and Desmond Bryant who are the future and on the other hand you have players like Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour who are not playing up to the level that their salaries for 2012 would seem to imply.
The reason that the defensive line falls so low on my priority list is because of the uncertainty surrounding the group.
Is Lamarr Houston moving inside to play tackle? Will Dennis Allen switch the base formation to the 3-4?
If the Raiders go to the 3-4, they could line up Bryant (if he stays in Oakland), Houston and Kelly (if he isn't a cap-casualty).
If the Raiders stay in the 4-3, Houston could possibly play one of the tackle positions alongside Bryant but then that leaves an opening at the end spot where Houston was.
It wouldn't hurt to add pieces to the group, especially a piece like Utah's Star Lotulelei or Florida State's Bjoern Werner with the third overall pick.
Perhaps Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver have a plan for the defensive front figured out already but until we all know what that plan is, it is hard to determine what the Raiders need up front.
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It's time to move on from Khalif Barnes in Oakland.
He is constantly getting beat by superior pass-rushers whether they bull-rush through him or just run around him.
To be fair to Barnes, he was a part of the unit that Greg Knapp force-fed the zone-blocking scheme and Knapp didn't call for extra help on that side when it was obvious that Barnes couldn't hold his own.
But now it's time to find someone who can hold their own, like Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel in the first round or one of many possible value picks in the middle rounds from a school like Alabama or USC who had great offensive lines.
Joeckel is a left tackle but if he were to be drafted by Oakland either he or Jared Veldheer could switch from the left to the right side.
Because the Raiders are switching back to the power-blocking scheme of new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, maybe the Raiders can find a replacement for Barnes somewhere else. Maybe even give him a mulligan from Knapp's offense and draft for a more pressing need such as...
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After sacking the quarterback only 25 times in 2012, the Raiders second biggest need is someone to disrupt the quarterback.
I am wishing for Jarvis Jones to land in Oakland with the third overall pick.
But with the aforementioned possible changes coming to the defensive front the Raiders could be in either the 3-4 base defense or the 4-3 base defense.
Regardless of the formation the Raiders use, they need someone who can get to the quarterback. Whether that rusher be an outside linebacker on a blitz or a defensive end bull-rushing into the pocket, the Raiders need to get more pressure on the quarterback.
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Some of the blame for the Raiders pass defense can be put on the defensive line and linebackers for only getting to the quarterback 25 times for a sack.
But the defensive backs didn't help their case by constantly getting beat in coverage. The Raiders tried to beef up the position via free agency last year with Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell. The rest of that is history.
The Raiders have Michael Huff, who can play either safety or cornerback and Tyvon Branch who is a proven strong safety. Other than that though, the Raiders need help.
With a draft class that doesn't feature any top-of-the-line cornerback prospects, the Raiders could trade down in the draft (stashing more picks in the process) and fall back to the middle of the round and perhaps get someone like Jonathon Banks from Mississippi State or Dee Milliner from Alabama.
The Raiders need a lot of help in the secondary and either of those two cornerbacks can come in right away and start.
If the Raiders want to keep Huff at cornerback and start one of their waiver pickups from last year like Phillip Adams with him, they could draft safety Kenny Vaccaro from Texas. This may not be the best course of action but the Raiders can't afford to leave any thoughts off the table.
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Certainly the most pressing needs for the Raiders are on defense. Whether it be pass-rush or coverage or a new middle linebacker, the Raiders need help on that side of the ball.
On offense, I think the Raiders biggest need was a new offensive coordinator and blocking scheme. The Raiders may still look into upgrading, or at least getting younger, on the offensive line and replace guys like Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes.
That's my view of the Raiders draft needs at this point in the off-season. Of course all things are subject to change based on free agent acquisitions and releasing players before the draft.