What to Expect from Raiders' 2012 Rookie Class in 2013
When the vision that Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have for the Oakland Raiders franchise begins to take shape, the hope is that they can look back upon the 2012 rookie class as a key building block.
Fortunately for the Raiders, some of these players were able to make an impact right away, proving to be more than worthy of where they were drafted, or picked up afterwards in one case.
While some of the other players did not see the field a great deal this past season, you can bet that they will be in the thick of the competition in 2013 for not only roster spots, but starting spots as well.
Considering the Raiders’ current salary cap situation once again being fairly constricted, the best-case scenario is that these players are able to step up and contribute next season.
Here is a look at what we can expect from the Raiders' 2012 rookie class in 2013.
OL Tony Bergstrom
In 2012, Tony Bergstrom didn’t get much of a chance to show what he was capable of on the field and in game situations. For the most part, he was limited to swing-lineman duties, coming on the field only as an extra blocker up front.
While Bergstrom will certainly be afforded the opportunity to compete in camp next year, the offensive scheme change might prove to be a difficult situation. Essentially, Bergstrom was drafted based on his potential as a lineman in the zone-blocking scheme that was in place at the time.
With new OC Greg Olson, and the likely change to a power/gap scheme up front, Bergstrom may not be as much of a fit. Having said that, he could certainly come into camp and adapt to the scheme well, just like Cooper Carlisle did to Hue Jackson’s scheme several years ago.
Again, Bergstrom will have every opportunity to prove what he can do moving forward, so the preseason will be huge for him.
LB Miles Burris
Miles Burris was easily among the Raiders’ most impressive rookies from the 2012 draft class. From day one, with Aaron Curry out due to injury, he took over and held onto the starting weakside linebacker spot.
It wasn’t too long after that he took Rolando McClain’s spot in nickel packages as well, establishing himself as a very capable three-down linebacker.
Head coach Dennis Allen has mentioned the possibility of Burris moving to the middle next season, where he would take over full time for the likely to be released McClain.
Either way, Miles Burris has shown that he is a capable starting linebacker in this league. Heading into his second season, it is quite reasonable to believe that he is only going to keep getting better.
DL Jack Crawford
Jack Crawford missed much of 2012 due to injury, so there is not too much to evaluate his rookie campaign on.
Much like the other players in the same situation, and especially due to the rebuilding nature of the team, he will be given the opportunity to show what he is capable of heading into 2013.
Crawford's athletic and football ability, despite still being relatively new to the game itself, give him quite a high ceiling. The Raiders will surely allow his development to take as long as it needs, but Crawford could very well see himself as an integral part of the defensive line rotation sooner rather than later.
WR Juron Criner
After big performances in minicamp and training camp, Juron Criner may not have had as big of a season as many fans were expecting, but his biggest opportunities are yet to come.
While he may not have the track-star speed that the Raider Nation is used to seeing out of its wide receivers, Criner’s most significant value comes in his ability to win one on one battles for the football, and making the difficult catches.
Considering that the Raiders have always had the speed, but have been missing this kind of playmaking ability, and especially so in the redzone, look for Juron Criner’s role in the offense to increase more and more.
With Darrius Heyward-Bey’s big contract putting his return to the team in question, the prospects of which increase that much more.
DT Christo Bilukidi
The Raider Nation is well aware by now that Richard Seymour’s contract will expire, and Tommy Kelly’s contract makes him a prime candidate for release this offseason.
Considering which, and the already tight salary cap situation, in-house replacements for departing players become that much more valuable. Like the other players mentioned thus far, Christo Bilukidi is going to get his chance to shine.
The most interesting part of Bilukidi’s game is that, much like Jack Crawford, football is still relatively new to him. Considering the flashes of playmaking ability that he showed down the stretch in 2012, he could turn into quite the player as his continues to learn the nuances of the NFL game.
Another year as a rotational player could certainly help his development, but don’t be surprised if we see Christo Bilukidi earn a starter’s role as early as this season.
WR Rod Streater
Rod Streater, although an undrafted free agent, just may be the best of the Raiders' 2012 rookie class all together.
Like Juron Criner, Streater established himself as a player to watch in preseason camps, but he was better able to translate it into both on-field playing time and production.
In fact, considering the inconsistencies of the other Raiders receivers throughout the season, one could make the case that Streater finished the year as the best of the group.
In his first NFL campaign, easily eclipsing his senior college season total of 19 receptions, Streater showed big-play ability and intriguing potential. Expect him to only get better going forward, and progressively become a bigger part of the Raiders' offense starting in 2013.