Jordan is an intriguing talent for the Raiders
Quite a bit has changed since my first mock of the Oakland Raiders' 2013 NFL Draft. The Senior Bowl and NFL Combine have passed and there were winners and losers from both. As such, the projections change as well.
In addition, the Raiders have quietly begun addressing their defensive losses with early free agent signings. While they have made solid selection with Kaluka Maiava, Pat Sims, and Jason Hunter, there is still a ton of work to do.
This team still lacks a game-breaker defensively and that should be GM Reggie McKenzie's No. 1 priority heading into this draft. Much of that will be based on the defensive scheme that Oakland runs in 2013. Some have begun speculating that the Raiders might move to a 3-4 defense, but nothing has been said from the Raiders themselves.
So all the preliminaries aside, let's dig in starting with the first round.
Previous choice: Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, OLB/DE (BYU)
I am of the school of thought that the Raiders absolutely must trade this pick. This team has more holes than a doughnut shop and one player is not going to be enough from this draft. 2013 appears to be more about quantity (albeit, good quantity) than elite quality.
That said, the Raiders badly need an impact player to get to the quarterback. Last year, the team had just 25 sacks and only Lamarr Houston had more than four sacks individually. That's pathetic. While I have an affinity for Ziggy Ansah of BYU, Oregon's Dion Jordan is a bit more polished and is athletic in his own right.
Furthermore, Jordan was projected to be a top-five pick in spite of shoulder surgery in March that could sideline him until training camp. His very good 40-yard dash time (4.60) and quality workout combined with the ability to play defensive end has elevated his value. Considering he might be the best pure pass-rusher in this draft, this would be a very good choice at No. 3.
Alford (in red/white) solidified his standing with a solid Senior Bowl
Previous choice: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, (UConn)
I really like Wreh-Wilson, but assuming there are no trades, he will be gone by the middle of the second round. The Raiders still have a gaping void at cornerback. Signing Terence Newman is a stopgap at best.
So at the 66th selection, it is imperative to get someone outside. There are some intriguing choices. Cal's Marc Anthony and NC State's David Amerson might be available at this spot. But I think Alford is the best of the bunch in the early third round.
At 6'1" and 190 pounds, Alford has good size. But the Senior Bowl showed his versatility. Alford took the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and clinched the game with an interception of a two-point conversion in the 4th quarter. His combine performance was impressive, finishing in the top 10 of DBs in the 40-yard dash (4.39) as well as the bench press, broad jump, and vertical.
While he needs to improve his strength a bit, he is fluid with his hip movement, has very quick feet, and is competitive at the line in press coverage and down the field on jump balls. That has been a weakness of the Raiders in the last couple of years.
Ryan (in red) is a physical presence at cornerback
Previous choice: Menelik Watson, OT (Florida State)
Watson's stock has soared and he is now a first round pick by most analysts. Let's just pretend I didn't have him slotted in the fourth round, okay?
Back to the present, there are three other players I think might intrigue the Raiders at this spot: NC State QB Mike Glennon and safeties Bacarri Rambo of Georgia and Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma. The Raider secondary needs help.
But ultimately, I think they land Logan Ryan and double up at cornerback. Ryan is a physical corner that plays best up close on the line. At Rutgers, he was used both in man and zone coverage, giving him versatility that should help him right away. He has good size (6' and 190 pounds) and decent speed as well.
All that said, I love Ryan's willingness to stick his nose in and tackle in the running game. While his technique isn't ideal, Ryan's tackling is consistent to the point he is considered one of the more reliable run defenders at his position in this draft class.
Evans likes to play bigger than his size
Previous choice: Chad Bumphis, WR (Mississippi State)
As much I like Chad Bumphis and TCU's Josh Boyce, I think the defensive side of the football must be addressed. And at this point of the draft, the best players I see available will likely be Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington, Samford defensive end Nicholas Williams, and safety Josh Evans from Florida.
Evans is the pick because really, do you want to see Matt Giordano injured after allowing a big catch anymore in 2013? Gio is a very good special teams player and that is precisely where he should play this upcoming year. Evans had a really good year under Will Muschamp and was a leader of a secondary that had an SEC high 19 interceptions and allowed just 186.4 yards per game.
At 6' and around 210 pounds, Evans isn't the biggest safety, but is very physical (ala Bob Sanders) and reacts quickly to plays and gets started towards the ball fast. Consistency in pass coverage will be key, but Evans is never out of a play because of his quickness and playing speed. A definite value pick here for the Raiders.
Previous choice: Michael Mauti, LB, (Penn State)
I have a feeling Mauti goes to Baltimore in the sixth round with Dannell Ellerbe signing in Miami. The Raiders have signed two linebackers in Kaluka Maiava and Nick Roach. They also signed inside linebacker Kevin Burnett as I am writing this, so the linebackers will have an almost completely new look.
Still, there is a need for some speed and athleticism on the edges. Keith Pough comes from a small school in Howard, but displayed his abilities at the Shrine Game earlier this year. His stock rose with a display of natural athleticism and coordination during drills, and while he has room to get stronger, his aggressive and violent playing style was impressive.
Additionally, Pough brings a non-stop motor and competitive attitude to the defense, regardless if it's practice or a game. That is the type of athlete/effort combo that would fit well and Pough could potentially be an edge rusher in situations with his athleticism.
The final pick is offensive guard Hugh Thornton from the University of Illinois. A versatile lineman, Thornton actually played at left tackle the bulk of 2012, but projects to slide inside. At 6'3" and 320 pounds, he's got great size and exhibits powerful, heavy hands on contact.
Thornton has a thick and powerful frame and uses good arm length to get leverage on defenders. In the Raider tradition, he plays with a bit of a nasty streak, and fights to the whistle. That said, he is surprisingly disciplined and displays impressive upper body strength to overpower and toss defenders aside at the point of attack.
While he needs to improve on his technique, namely getting too high when kick sliding out on pass coverage, Thornton's physicality, flexibility and natural athleticism help him to compensate. Could be a steal if he falls here.
The plan is slowly coming together in Alameda
As I've said before, the Raiders are more than one draft away from being a relevant team. But a good draft does help that process (i.e. Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys in 1990).
Some teams make a splash (see: Miami Dolphins) in free agency. Others quietly go about their business and let the on-field production speak for them. Reggie McKenzie is that type of general manager. Raider Nation is getting restless because quite frankly, this organization has not been run in a structured manner.
In other words, spending money wildly, trading picks for malcontents or former greats, and basically taking risks on players with more in the measurable section than production section is what fans of this team are used to.
Well, it's time to get over that and accept that it is a new day in the East Bay. The Raiders are going about the business of building a quality team with players, not names. This draft fits in that mold. And of course, with 39 days to go, anything can happen. But don't expect the manner with which the Raiders improve this team to.
And Raider Nation, that is a good thing. Even if you don't realize it yet.