2013 NFL Mock Draft: 5 Gems the Oakland Raiders Should Target in Middle Rounds
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That is, if they can draft the right players.
After finishing 4-12 in their first year under head coach Dennis Allen, Oakland is in the process of revamping its coaching staff and improving a team that struggled on both sides of the ball in 2012.
Without a second-round pick, which went to the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for Carson Palmer a couple of seasons ago, it is imperative that the Raiders draft wisely in the middle rounds and address their wide variety of team needs.
Though it is no secret that the Raiders could use a dominant pass-rusher, there are plenty of other areas that require some touching up.
Cornerback, offensive guard and defensive tackle all stand out as additional positions for which Allen must seek upgrades if he wants to improve on his 2012 campaign.
While it is unlikely that the Raiders would be able to score all of these draft gems, Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie should take a good look at each of them.
All five players would provide Oakland with significant value and upside in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Quanterus Smith: DE, Western Kentucky
In 2012, the Raiders recorded only 25 sacks, the second-lowest total in the NFL.
Therefore, Oakland will likely upgrade its defensive line in the first round. Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore and Star Lotulelei are a few possible candidates.
However, the 2013 NFL Draft has no shortage of pass-rushers, and Quanterus Smith is an intriguing prospect that the Raiders should be able to add in the middle or late rounds.
Smith has an outstanding burst off the ball, and does a great job of keeping the hands of offensive linemen off of his body.
In only 10 games, Smith racked up 18.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and 12.5 sacks in 2012. Three of those sacks came against Alabama's normally impenetrable front wall.
He is a bit undersized at 248 pounds, so he may be better suited as an outside linebacker at the next level. If that ends up being the case, Smith would still be a great pick should Oakland decide to switch to a 3-4 scheme in 2013.
Due to his small school label and recently torn ACL, Smith will likely slide down draft boards and provide the Raiders with a great bargain.
Justin Pugh: OG, Syracuse
With the Raiders returning to a power-running scheme under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the future of zone-blocking specialist Mike Brisiel is up in the air.
On the other side of the offensive line, Cooper Carlisle isn't getting any younger.
With this in mind, it would be advisable for Oakland to invest in a long-term option at guard.
Justin Pugh provides some promising potential in the middle rounds.
Primarily a tackle at Syracuse, Pugh will likely make the move inside to guard at the next level. He has outstanding speed and athleticism for an interior lineman, and is extremely effective as a run-blocker, especially because of how quickly he can reach the second level.
Though he could afford to put on a bit more weight, Pugh has good strength and outstanding mobility.
On top of his positive physical attributes, Pugh also started every game during his three-year career, giving him significant experience heading into the NFL.
Allen and McKenzie should take a good look at Pugh in the middle rounds of the draft.
Bennie Logan: DT, LSU
Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery may be receiving the most hype from a loaded LSU defensive front, but tackle Bennie Logan will also find a home in the NFL come April.
Logan was a silent leader on the Tigers' defense, consistently performing at a high level since earning his starting job in 2011.
A big reason for the success of LSU's elite front seven, Logan is a very strong player. At 295 pounds, he gets great push off the line and effectively uses leverage to drive his opponents into the backfield.
Logan is a versatile athlete as well. Though he played tackle in a 4-3 scheme at LSU, he could also play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme should the Raiders make the switch.
The defensive tackle is known by his coaches and teammates for his impressive work ethic and drive to improve, a set of intangibles that would help out any defense.
Logan would do a lot for Oakland's aging and inconsistent interior defensive line, especially at the price of a third or fourth round pick.
Leon McFadden: CB, San Diego State
Due to his relatively slight frame and small school label, one of the best cover corners in the draft, Leon McFadden, will likely slide all the way to the third or fourth round.
McFadden broke up at least 12 passes during each of the last three seasons as a lockdown player on the outside.
The former San Diego State star possesses every essential skill required for success at the next level including quickness, ball skills and tackling ability.
McFadden only weighs 185 pounds, so he may have some trouble jamming the Calvin Johnsons of the world and getting around bigger blockers.
However, he has deceptive strength and hit power, always playing with a confident attitude that makes him seem bigger than he is.
The cornerback position was a disaster for the Raiders in 2012. McFadden would provide the Raiders with enough talent on the outside to be able to move Michael Huff back to his natural position at safety.
Marcus Lattimore: RB, South Carolina
High risk, high reward.
Realistically, with all of their draft needs on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders probably won't have the luxury of picking up an offensive weapon like Lattimore.
With that being said, if not for his unfortunate series of knee injuries, Lattimore would in all likelihood be the first back off the board this April. He is a complete back with speed, power and impressive receiving ability.
Many are projecting the former Gamecock to fall all the way until the third or fourth round because of his injury status, making him one of the best offensive bargains in the draft.
Darren McFadden, while a dominant physical specimen, has missed 15 games himself over the last three seasons, indicating the importance of depth at the position.
Although Lattimore has proven to be injury-prone himself, he would provide a ton of potential as a complete player out of the backfield.
This pick would be reminiscent of the 2007 NFL Draft when the Raiders found great value in Louiville's Heisman-caliber running back Michael Bush. Because he had missed most of the 2006 season with a broken leg, Oakland was able to draft bush in the fourth round.
While it is unlikely that the Raiders will spend a middle-round pick on a running back, Lattimore is an intriguing prospect that Reggie McKenzie should take a good look at if he falls too far in the draft.