Menelik Watson to Raiders: How Does OT Fit with Oakland?
There is basically no position that the Oakland Raiders cannot upgrade in 2013 – they lack starters or depth at every spot.
Therefore, every time the Raiders are on the clock, Reggie McKenzie has the true luxury of knowing that the “best player available" approach will assuredly improve his team.
For the Raiders, the best player available for their second round selection, No. 42 overall, was OT Menelik Watson.
Click on for some background and analysis on his fit with Oakland.
Watson is very raw because he’s very new to the game of football. He grew up in Manchester, England and played soccer from a very young age.
In his teens, he realized he wouldn’t likely have a future with soccer, so he transitioned to basketball, playing as a power forward/center and joining a travel team.
He didn’t find the fit he was looking for with basketball, either, so he tried boxing for a short time before giving football a try.
Watson played one year of junior college ball at Saddleback Junior College, before being recruited by and eventually joining Florida State University.
He earned the starting RT position there in his first year in the program but decided to leave after the 2012 season to go to the NFL.
Next: Watson's Strengths and Weaknesses
Watson's Strengths and Weaknesses
Watson has the prototypical size of an offensive tackle—he stands a towering 6’5” and weighs in at 310 lbs.
Watson’s background with basketball and boxing shows in an agility rare for a person of his size.
In fact, the Raiders director of player personnel, Joey Clinkscales, told assembled Bay Area writers that Watson's diverse sports background was one of the things that the coaching and scouting staffs really liked about him.
Watson’s size and movement make him a high-ceiling player. If he can put his immense physical skills to use, there’s no reason he cannot succeed as either a right or left tackle in the NFL.
However, because he’s so raw, lacks consistency and often plays with poor technique, Watson gives up leverage to opponents who are not as physically gifted but are better skilled.
He's also inconsistent in meeting the mental demands of the job. He is very good at getting to the second level on runs but struggles at times to recognize his blocking assignment. He also can struggle with stunts or other defensive maneuvers that abruptly change his blocking assignment.
Next: Where Oakland will use Watson
Where Oakland Will Use Watson
According to Raiders director of player personnel Joey Clinkscales, Watson will come in and compete for multiple positions including both tackle positions and at guard.
The Raiders have an underrated Jared Veldheer on the left side of their offensive line and he isn’t likely to be supplanted by Watson in 2013.
The right tackle position, on the other hand, is much more open. The Raiders re-signed last year’s starter, Khalif Barnes, as a contingency plan in 2013. Barnes isn’t an ideal starter, however, as he struggles with drive-killing false start penalties and lacks the speed to stop speedy rushers off the edge.
Watson’s ability to play immediately will depend on how fast he can continue to learn the nuances of the OT position. The Raiders offensive line coach, Tony Sparano, is widely respected in the league for his teaching abilities and he will be charged with taking the raw but exciting Watson and molding him into a starting player for Oakland.
The Raiders would not have selected Watson early in the second round if they didn’t believe he would be able to contribute early.
The 25-year-old Watson is older than the average rookie, but he’s reportedly very focused on football. His dedication to the game likely endeared him to Reggie McKenzie and his staff, and this commitment also will help smooth his transition the rigors of the NFL.
I look for Watson to earn the starting right tackle position quickly. He may not be the starting RT Week 1, but he should be positioned there by the middle of the 2013 season.