We're well into the offseason, and the Oakland Raiders were surprisingly on the sidelines for the majority of the unrestricted free agency signing period—which is abstruse.
The team could simply be working through salary cap constraints; the restricted free agent market hasn't begun yet.
The Raiders did test the waters and recently traded one of their two third-round picks —No. 85 overall acquired from New England in the Derrick Burgess trade—to the Cleveland Browns for linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. This is a good move by the Raiders— one that is a low-risk, high-reward choice.
Wimbley is the only linebacker on the roster penciled in as a starter right now. It appears that some changes will be made and that the linebackers are quietly being blamed for the team ranking near the bottom of the league in the run-stopping category.
The Raiders linebacker corps is filled with uncertainty. Starters Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison are restricted free agents that could be had by any team for a second- and third-round draft choice, respectively. The Raiders may or may not bring back starting MLB Kirk Morrison.
However, Oakland hasn’t had a leader at the MLB position since Greg Biekert. Trevor Scott made a nice transition to linebacker from defensive end—and he even replaced Thomas Howard at one point last season. Jon Alston has signed with the Buccaneers. Ricky Brown, Slade Norris, David Nixon, and Isaiah Ekejiuba will return and battle for roster spots.
Oakland has several holes to fill and only eight draft choices to accomplish the task.
The one thing that has to change in Oakland is that this team needs to rebuild through the draft and develop its own players. The most glaring needs are at quarterback, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, middle linebacker, cornerback, and defensive end.
JaMarcus Russell is a bust, and the QB position is the biggest need; however, Oakland can’t afford to draft a QB in Round One with the money owed to Russell. The Raiders will look at veteran options, such as trading for Sage Rosenfels.
The team is in the process of putting a full-court press on Donovan McNabb.
I would love to see him in silver and black; I'm just concerned about what it will take to land him. I don’t want to see Al Davis give the Eagles a first-round pick for McNabb.
Another thought has to be: Will McNabb sign a contract extension to remain in Oakland longer than 2010?
All true Raiders fans know that Al wants athletes who have impressive size and speed— physically imposing players—and he enjoys acquiring first-round picks who have washed out with other teams.
This has been a Raiders practice for years—with mixed results.
The Raiders need to start drafting productive players. A team is really saying, "This is what we’re all about" with a first-round pick who has a high level of physical and mental toughness.
The Raiders are in need of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
This mock draft is my plan to address the team's needs now and to build toward a better future. I will also include potential undrafted free agents who would provide competition and depth on the defensive and offensive lines.
McClain has a unique combination of traits that a team wants in a MLB: size, athletic ability, playmaking ability, and physicality. McClain would be an excellent replacement for Morrison—and he would make an immediate impact. The Raider linebackers make several tackles, but far too many are made on the second level of the defense.
McClain would change that.
The Dick Butkus Award winner is the best inside linebacker in the draft—a productive, three-down linebacker who has outstanding football intelligence, and he is instinctive with great diagnostic skills. He is the type of run-stopper that Oakland has been lacking.
He is a hard hitter, nailing running backs and wide receivers like he wants his money back. He is a big film-room guy who is well-versed on the history of the game. He has spent the last two years as the defensive captain of one of the nation’s top defenses— and on the field, he doesn’t take any false steps. He projects to be a Pro Bowl-level player.
The choice should be between McClain or OT Trent Williams. There are four elite left tackles in this draft—more than likely, two will be off the board prior to the eighth pick. A tackle could be selected, more than likely moving Mario Henderson to right tackle.
The Raiders have options, including moving Gallery back to left tackle, as well as drafting a tackle after the first round. My reasoning for selecting McClain is based on his immediate impact on the defense—which has to stop the run in 2010. I gave you my choice, but I honestly believe that Davis wants WR Dez Bryant or FS Taylor Mays.
Round 2: NT Cam Thomas, North Carolina—6'4”, 331 pounds
Defensive tackle is the deepest position in the draft. The Raiders haven’t addressed DT in the draft since Chris Cooper in 2001 and Antaaj Hawthorne in 2005. The optimum size a team wants a DT is—in the 4-3 front—at 6’4”, 305 pounds; in a 3-4 front—6’4”, 345 pounds.
Thomas fills a need that the Raiders have had for years. A prototypical DT will possess toughness, core strength, and quickness. Thomas doesn’t get knocked off the ball, and he is an incredibly strong bull rusher. He can handle and split double teams.
He is more athletic than New England's 2009 second-round pick, Ron Brace.
Thomas does an excellent job of plugging the middle and freeing linebackers to make plays. He has played on both fronts, giving the team scheme flexibility. The choice should be Thomas; DT Jared Odrick, Penn State; OT Charles Brown, USC; or Jerry Hughes, TCU.
Round 3: OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale (Mich.)—6’7”, 321 pounds
Veldheer has the main four traits that a team looks for in an offensive tackle: balance, awareness, recovery speed, and pride. The optimum size you want in a tackle is 6’6”, 315 pounds. He has excellent size and a huge frame. He is extremely strong and carries his weight well. He is an excellent competitor who works hard and plays past the whistle.
He has excellent strength and is a solid positional blocker. He is very smart and doesn’t miss assignments. He also has a habit of finishing his blocks. He was able to dominate and outmuscle competition in Division II, however; he started 46 games and didn’t allow a sack.
He was very solid and didn’t shy away from contact in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game, showing the he can hang with the big boys. He is rising on several teams' draft boards. The choice should be Veldheer; OG Mike Johnson, Alabama; or OT Jason Fox, Miami.
The team is seeking QB help, and it has to be done—and we all know why. Perhaps Hue Jackson can create a miracle—Hue is a solid QB coach—but Jackson can’t be tied to Russell’s failure. Even if the Raiders land Donovan McNabb, the team still has to acquire and develop a QB of the future.
Dan LeFevour would be a solid prospect to develop as the QB of the future.
Oakland has also had a private workout for Sean Canfield.
The spread offense has made finding an NFL QB difficult, but not impossible. LeFevour is an experienced four-year starter that has the “it” factor a leader has to have. He is competitive, and he has excellent size, mobility, and the ability to make plays with his legs.
He has a high completion percentage, and he threw for more than 3,000 yards three of his four years in college. He started 51 of 53 college games, throwing for 12,905 yards and 102 touchdowns against 36 interceptions. The choice should be LeFevour; DT Arthur Jones, Syracuse; or WR Taylor Price, Ohio.
Collins was a productive NT in college. He is a solid football player. He is an undersized NT, but he would be an excellent DE. He has a thick build, above–average initial quickness, and good lateral range to slip through gaps and create havoc. He uses his hands well and has active feet to counter a blocker’s attempts. He has the strength to slide off blocks and make the tackle. The choice needs to be Collins; DT Torrell Troup, UCF; or OLB Rennie Curran, Georgia.
Round 5: OG Marshall Newhouse, TCU—6’3”, 326 pounds
Newhouse started at left tackle for three years in Fort Worth; he is the nephew of former Dallas Cowboys fullback Robert Newhouse. Despite having a lot of sheer mass, he has surprising foot quickness to shuffle and slide. He projects to be a strong, athletic starter at guard and an excellent drive blocker. The choice should be between Newhouse and DT Linval Joseph, East Carolina.
Round 7: FB John Connor, Kentucky—5’11”, 240 pounds
Connor has a solid, compact, muscular build. He consistently plays with a low pad level, sinks his hips, and drives for yards after contact when running the ball. He can be effective in short-yardage situations as a runner as well as a blocker. He is a literally a man-moving lead blocker. He is excellent in pass protection and does a good job of sealing running lanes. The choice should be between Connor and OLB Larry Hart, Central Arkansas.
Round 7: OLB Arthur Moats, James Madison—6’0”, 246 pounds
Moats is short, speedy, and very productive. The Buchanan Award Winner as the Division I-AA defensive player of the year, he led the division in tackles for loss and captured the award by the largest margin of votes in the award’s 15-year history. He is seeking to follow in the footsteps of previous winners such as Jared Allen, Rashean Mathis, and Dexter Coakley.
The following are players the Raiders could bring in as undrafted free agents to provide depth and competition on both lines: OT Nick Richmond, TCU; OT Mike Tepper, Cal; C Sean Allen, East Carolina; G Shelly Smith, Colorado State; G Alex Parsons, USC; G Reggie Stephens, Iowa State; DT Abe Koroma, Western Illinois; FB Jack Corcoran, Rutgers; and OT Chris Scott, Tennessee.
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