Oakland Raiders 2013 First-Round Draft Primer, Vol. 3 (Pre-Draft)
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With the 2013 NFL Draft starting tomorrow, have the Oakland Raiders tipped their hand on what they intend to do at No. 3 overall?
During a pre-draft press conference on April 23, general manager Reggie McKenzie stated that he intends to select the best player available, regardless of need.
According to NFL Draft insider Tony Pauline on April 22, the team is looking to buck recent draft strategy (i.e., the Al Davis Decline Years) and go with the "safest" pick available: defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei.
Of course, much pre-draft hype, particularly this close to the event, ends up being a smokescreen, meant to entice teams to trade up in exchange for valuable additional draft picks.
The difference here is that, surveying various blogs, rumors, and mock drafts in recent weeks, no team besides Oakland seems to covet these two players enough to make a trade seem plausible.
Regardless, for this final edition of my first-round draft primer, I intend to switch up my approach and focus on the Raiders' options should they stay at No. 3.
I will proceed by identifying players the team cannot choose, could choose, and, finally, should choose. Then, I will give some closing thoughts on how it should attack the rest of the draft.
The Raiders should leave QB Geno Smith alone when picking third.
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Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
As my previous primers indicate, I like Smith's talents and work ethic. I believe he would be a good candidate as the Raiders' franchise quarterback.
But with Matt Flynn getting a guaranteed $6.5 million this season, it's clear the team wants to give him the first shot.
Seemingly, Oakland aims to give Flynn at least the entire 2013-14 season as a starter.
If that doesn't happen—whether because of injury or because Terrelle Pryor simply outplays him—then it appears the Raiders will be more likely to invest (probably a high) pick in next year's draft on a passer.
Personally, I hope Oakland gives Pryor a fair shot. If he is able to improve his footwork and throwing mechanics, his upside is higher than Smith's.
Nonetheless, due to a variety of circumstances, Smith simply isn't the right fit. His addition would only muddle the team's progress toward finding a long-term starter.
Athletic Florida DT Sharrif Floyd hasn't shown he can gain sacks.
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Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
For weeks, Floyd has been virtually a consensus pick among mock drafters to join the Raiders.
Multiple media reports have touted his athleticism, his fit as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and his character in rising up from a troubled upbringing.
All that said, I still don't think he can rush the passer.
That is a critical skill that Oakland needs to add in this draft, and it should be telling that Floyd amassed only 4.5 sacks in 37 games (26 starts) as a collegian.
has indicated that Milliner has had five recent surgeries, including a March shoulder procedure that could prevent him from on-field action until training camp.
There is solid depth at cornerback in this year's draft, meaning that the Raiders don't have to commit a high pick to a potentially injury-prone prospect.
The wisest move for the team would be to either move down and take Milliner, thereby getting better value for the risk, or wait until the third round and later to draft possible replacements for Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter in 2014-15.
Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End/Linebacker, BYU
Ansah's rare mix of speed and bulk makes him a Rookie of the Year candidate if he can overcome his lack of experience and adapt to the pro game.
If. And's that probably the main reason Oakland, drafting conservatively, wouldn't select him.
That could be a mistake.
In theory, Ansah would fill two big needs for the team next season and beyond: (1) an explosive pass-rusher; and (2) someone who can play both 4-3 end and 3-4 outside linebacker at a high level, allowing the team to experiment with both schemes.
But is Ansah the next Vernon Gholston, a physical marvel who can't produce at the next level? Quite possibly.
If he pans out, though, he could be the next Julius Peppers, a transcendent, unstoppable force that takes the pressure off a work-in-progress back seven.
Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Linebacker, Oregon
Jordan is something of a smaller version of Ansah, albeit with more grooming.
He offers versatility in theory, but I'm concerned that his tall, lean frame (6'6'', 248 lbs) makes him less likely to get the power and leverage to consistently beat starting NFL tackles.
Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
The Raiders don't have a quality right tackle, and the franchise's best teams have emphasized having an excellent offensive line.
My qualm with such a pick, however, is that that the team will be able to select a difference-maker at a position of greater need.
Further, there are plenty of mid-round tackles the team can select to replace Khalif Barnes in the near future.
Utah DT Star Lotulelei's versatility makes him the Raiders' top option.
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Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Whatever the Raiders' actual attitude toward the No. 3 pick may be, they do have an ideal selection.
Lotulelei is my "should" pick for the Raiders, based on his demonstrated production and his ability to play anywhere on the defensive line and in multiple fronts.
After he failed to compete in the NFL combine, I indicated concerns that he has a heart condition that will prevent him from being a defensive cornerstone.
Yet, as Sports Illustrated has reported, more recent tests have chalked up his medical scare to a virus.
Provided he's healthy, and I trust he is, Lotulelei offers a great deal to an Oakland defense still trying to establish an identity.
The offseason addition of DT Pat Sims, a true nose tackle, indicates that the team is looking to experiment with the 3-4 formation in 2013-14.
Lotulelei has played, and played well, at 3-4 nose, 4-3 tackle and even 4-3 end, making him a fit on whatever defensive line the team envisions.
Later Rounds (Final Thoughts)
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With a depleted roster, the Raiders need to hit a lot of areas with their remaining six-plus draft picks (pending a trade).
Regardless of whom the team selects third overall, Oakland needs to add potential starters at defensive tackle, cornerback (ideally, two), and offensive tackle.
The team absolutely should not invest a high pick on the following positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and strong safety.
While Oakland isn't stacked at these positions, spending even a third- or fourth-round selection on one of them—even the "best player available"—simply detracts from what should be the team's present mission: shoring up starting spots with cheap, young veterans, while drafting their eventual replacements primarily based on need.