Buying and Selling the Oakland Raiders 1st-Round Draft Options
Al Davis ran the Oakland Raiders his way for decades, but when Reggie McKenzie was hired things had to change. The Raiders hadn’t been successful under Davis’ leadership in a decade—or for the better part of the salary cap era.
One thing the team has maintained to some degree is Davis’ value of secrecy. The team might be less paranoid and friendlier with the media, but the organization isn’t doing a lot of extra interviews with the national media.
The Raiders are also the only team in the AFC West that will not have cameras in their war room.
This secrecy has left the Raider Nation with a much larger pool of potential prospects to understand than the two fanbases drafting first and second overall. We don’t know what is going to happen in the draft, but the first two picks are much easier to peg than the one for the Raiders.
Since we aren’t talking about a couple guys, it seems prudent to review every player the Raiders may consider. There are no perfect prospects, so there are reasons to buy and sell every option.
These projections scream groupthink.
There’s so much volatility in this draft that virtually every projection shouldn’t have the same guy going to the same team unless there is a lot of information that suggests the Raiders will draft a 3-technique defensive tackle. The Raiders certainly haven’t given any indication that Floyd or even a defensive tackle is the preferred option.
McKenzie even signed Vance Walker to play the position, so it’s not like the need is any more glaring than others on the roster. If the Raiders are indeed drafting the best player available, the loss of Bryant and need for a 3-technique wouldn’t figure into the pick.
Is Floyd the best player on the board? That’s hard to imagine if one of the top offensive tackles or pass-rushers is on the board. There’s not even consensus that Floyd is a better 3-technique prospect than Sheldon Richardson or better defensive tackle prospect than Star Lotulelei.
Floyd has violent hands and strong arms and can be disruptive force in the center of a defense. He’s also fluid in space with good awareness. Floyd fills a need at a key position on Oakland’s defense and would replace some of the production they lost with the departures of Desmond Bryant, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.
Floyd’s below-average sack production for an interior defensive lineman is a concern because it’s not like he was being asked to do anything different than he would do at the pro level.
Floyd’s biggest criticism is his pad level, which often gets high and makes him prone to getting moved around in the run game.
Floyd also has only average arm length, which could exacerbate his problems in the NFL when he faces bigger and better offensive guards. Floyd also curiously didn’t participate in the bench press, which you would think would be an event that he would dominate considering he has shorter arms.
It’s hard to watch Star Lotulelei’s game tape and not come away impressed. If production is important to you, Lotulelei had two more sacks in 12 games than Floyd had in 13 games last season. Lotulelei, though, isn’t a 3-technique defensive tackle and that makes his performance even more impressive.
Lotulelei can play nose tackle or the defensive end spot in a 3-4 defense or the 1-technique defensive tackle spot in the 4-3 defense. Since the Raiders would probably like to use more varied fronts, it’s never a bad idea to have an explosive interior player who can play multiple spots.
Lotulelei is not the consensus top defensive tackle, but that’s a bit deceiving. Lotulelei is easily the consensus top 5-technique defensive end and 1-technique defensive tackle because Floyd and Sheldon Richardson are considered 3-technique players.
Lotulelei has an explosive first step and puts it to good use with good snap anticipation. Lotulelei is amazingly strong (38 bench reps), has heavy hands and can disrupt the pocket with his bull rush. Lotulelei can just as easily stack and shed to get into the backfield to drop running backs. For a man his size, Lotulelei plays with an impressive and relentless motor.
It seems likely that Lotulelei will become the unsung hero of a very good defense. Some people have compared Lotulelei with another Salt Lake City product named Haloti Ngata. Lotulelei produced 10 tackles for a loss and 5.0 sacks in his final year of college to Ngata’s 9.0 tackles for a loss and 3.0 sacks.
The Raiders invested less money in Pat Sims than Vance Walker, but they still have last year’s sixth-round draft pick Christo Bilukidi on the roster. The Raiders certainly could use an impact player to anchor the heart of their defense in the future.
When it comes to position value, a 1-technique defensive tackle isn’t usually high on the list. If the Raiders are bent on staying in the 4-3 alignment, Lotulelei’s impact and value could be minimized. It’s reasonable to think that another player fits better if the Raiders are opposed to using more three-man fronts.
Lotulelei also had to skip the combine workouts because of a heart condition that has since been cleared, but the Raiders will have to do their due diligence. Lotulelei might be a good player, but the Raiders are in position to do more with their first-round pick.
Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller has never wavered on his support of Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel as the top-rated prospect in this draft class. The Raiders have a franchise left tackle, but that shouldn’t matter if the Raiders are truly drafting the best player available, regardless of position.
The Raiders aren’t nearly as strong at right tackle as they are at left tackle. The Raiders can build a pair of bookends to protect a young quarterback by drafting Joeckel and letting him compete with Jared Veldheer for the left tackle spot. The loser of the competition would bolster the right side of the line.
If the Raiders hold firm to their drafting strategy, Joeckel is the top pick on the board and, if they can’t trade down, than he must be the pick. You could argue against the philosophy, but if that's what the Raiders believe in and he's sitting at the top of the board, he just might find his way to Oakland.
The Raiders already have a franchise left tackle, which makes adding one a waste considering they have huge needs elsewhere. Drafting Joeckel would be like drafting a right tackle unless the Raiders have injury issues.
Maybe considering Joeckel as a right tackle is enough to erase some of his value. This is just one example of how the "best available player" drafting model can be manipulated. There’s also very good chance that the Raiders gave Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher a higher grade.
People are split on which left tackle prospect is better—Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan's Eric Fisher.
Some people will prefer Joeckel because he played against better competition; other teams might like Fisher because he is more athletic and plays with an edge in the running game.
There is a realistic possibility that Fisher is at the top of the Raiders’ draft board and could be the pick if he falls. However, the same problem with drafting Joeckel applies to Fisher—either Fisher or Jared Veldheer will have to play right tackle.
He’s the best player available.
Either Fisher or Veldheer would have to play right tackle, which could limit Fisher’s value to the team and his best player status.
The consensus top cornerback in the draft is Alabama's Dee Milliner. It can be dangerous to put much stock in consensus in a draft like this, but there are very few people in the scouting community who don’t have Milliner at the top of their board.
Although the Raiders addressed cornerback via free agency, no one is expecting big things from Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins. The Raiders need secondary help and it makes sense to bring in the best cornerback prospect in the draft.
The Raiders need a quality cornerback and he’s the consensus top option.
Milliner has had five surgeries, including a shoulder that he’s still rehabbing according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Milliner might not be ready for training camp. It could be misinformation and a smear campaign by a team hoping Milliner falls, but the Raiders need a clean prospect who can play immediately.
There are also notable holes in Milliner’s game. Per Ryan Lownes’ scouting report, Milliner misses too many open-field tackles and he has questionable hands. Milliner was also not asked to backpedal much at Alabama.
Although Milliner is the top cornerback prospect, he’s not widely considered a top overall prospect and is 15th in Matt Miller’s final rankings.
The best blend between need and a top-rated prospect is probably Dion Jordan.
The Raiders don’t have a single player on the roster who can be a prolific pass-rusher and Jordan had the speed and length to be a good one.
Dennis Allen was the defensive coordinator that first used Von Miller as a pass-rushing strong-side linebacker and could do the same with Jordan. Jordan is also incredibly versatile and would never have to come off the field in any situation. If he’s available at No. 3, there’s a very good chance he’s the top player on Oakland’s board.
It would surprise if Jordan made it past both the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, but the possibility remains because of the quality of the offensive tackles at the top of the draft. Jordan also hasn’t been real durable during his college career, which could be a concern.
Some people may view Jordan as a player who does everything well but doesn’t have any truly elite traits. Reggie McKenzie said in his pre-draft press conference that he avoids those types of players.
A lot of people will say Barkevious Mingo is a workout warrior, but that’s not reality. Mingo is an amazing athlete and he does have some rough areas to his game, but he has a great motor and devastating spin move.
There may not be a pass-rusher in this draft class with more potential than Mingo. It’s also believed that Mingo is strong enough at the point of attack to play 4-3 defensive end if he improves his technique and adds some meat to his frame.
Mingo’s production dipped last season, but he still made a huge impact on LSU’s defense and "impact" is what the Raiders need.
Mingo’s best fit may be as a 3-4 outside linebacker who can put his hand in the dirt on passing downs. Allen could use Mingo at strong-side linebacker like he used Von Miller, but the Raiders would have to use three-man fronts on passing downs to keep him on the field.
For whatever reason, Mingo isn’t getting a lot of attention. This seems to run counter to what we know about prospects that test well at the combine. Mingo is a dark horse for the Raiders and becomes even more intriguing if they are able to trade down.
It doesn’t seem like Reggie McKenzie’s style to draft a project at No. 3, but Ezekiel Ansah probably has more upside than any player in the entire draft. Ansah is big, agile, quick and has only been playing football for a couple years.
Ansah is so raw that he could be molded into a 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker depending on the team. Basically, Ansah is the skeleton key for a defense that is capable of filling many needs.
The most glaring weakness of Oakland’s roster is a pass-rusher. Traditionally, pass rush comes from the right defensive end spot, which is where Ansah would play as part of a base 4-3 defense.
There aren’t many stars in this draft class, so Ansah’s potential could be tantalizing.
Ansah is a project and the Raiders need a player to make an impact immediately. The Green Bay Packers rarely took a chance on a very raw player in the first round when McKenzie was part of the organization and that principle could apply to Ansah.
If the Raiders feel like Ansah has too many traits that aren’t coachable, then he may slide down their draft board. Ansah is a more interesting prospect if the Raiders were to trade down.
If a team doesn’t have a franchise quarterback, they are always looking for one. Maybe things change, but at the moment it doesn’t seem like Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor are the long-term answers at the quarterback position for the Raiders.
Quarterbacks trump other positions when it comes to impact and for that reason they can almost always be labeled as the best players available in a draft. Smith isn’t the consensus top quarterback, but he’s very close to it.
The problem with Smith is that he’s not an elite quarterback prospect. A team would almost be better off being terrible without him and getting a top pick next year.
The Raiders don’t have a franchise quarterback and when you have a chance to draft one, you do it regardless of draft slot.
There's the risk that Smith will not turn into a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
He might not be a bust, but the Raiders would be looking to replace him quickly and would have wasted a top pick. If Smith is only going to be an average NFL quarterback, he presents a very poor value at No. 3.
If the Raiders take the risk on Smith, they would probably like to trade down to do it.
Matt Miller has Cornellius “Tank” Carradine as his top-ranked defensive end and No. 5 on his final big board. Not only is Carradine ranked highly, but he’s probably the only pure 4-3 right defensive end at the top of the draft.
Carradine has the size and athleticism to be an impact player at one of the NFL’s most important positions. The only major concern with Carradine is his health; he’s coming off a torn ACL and may not be ready for training camp.
Carradine is still considered a first-round pick, but his injury is impacting his value.
There might not be a better 4-3 right defensive end who can play every down at the position than Carradine. Carradine’s tape is good, he’s athletic and he’s exactly what the Raiders need on defense. If not for his injury, Carradine would probably be one of the consensus top players in this draft class.
Recovery from ACL injuries have become more routine, but Carradine still might not be 100 percent until next year. Carradine also has only one year of starting experience, which is a small sample size of game tape to evaluate.
The Raiders need an impact player and Carradine could be that guy, but what if he can’t play at a high level until next season? Not only would he be of no help to the Raiders as they try to rebound in 2013, but the rookie year of a lucrative rookie contract would be wasted.
If the Raiders aren’t comfortable with Carradine’s progress in rehab, if they're not sure that he’ll be able to contribute in 2013, he’s probably not worth the gamble in the top half of the first round. Like Ansah, Carradine would be a more interesting target if the Raiders were to trade down.