Oakland Raiders LT Jared Veldheer: The Steal of the 2010 NFL Draft?

big ROC Stockton, CAAnalyst IIINovember 11, 2010

DENVER - OCTOBER 24:  Center Jared Veldheer #68 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates a touchdown by teammate Darren McFadden (not pictured) in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on October 24, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 59-14. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft, one of the biggest weaknesses the Raiders needed to address was the offensive line.  Most believed that they would draft the best available offensive lineman with the eighth overall pick. 

There were a few players worthy of the pick, but with Russell Okung and Trent Williams off the board, the Raiders decided to go defense and drafted LB Rolando McClain.

The second round came and there weren't many offensive lineman worthy of selecting that high in the second round other than Zane Beadles.  Some draft experts, like Mel Kiper Jr., thought for sure the Raiders should take Jimmy Clausen, but Tom Cable had other things in mind. 

The Raiders used their second-round pick on DT Lamaar Houston out of Texas.  The 300-pounder was then converted to DE where he is having a solid rookie season.

That brings us to the third round, where I believe the Raiders found the steal of the 2010 NFL Draft.  With the 69th overall pick the Raiders drafted LT Jared Veldheer out of tiny Hillsdale College.

The 6'8", 315-pound Veldheer was a dominant force at Hillsdale.  He just needed to prove himself against a tougher level of talent. 

He came on strong during training camp and by the end of preseason he was given a starting position.  He was named the starting center over Samson Satele. 

The experiment at center lasted just one regular season game.  Maybe playing a 6'8" rookie at C isn't the best idea considering he hadn't played the position since high school.

In the second game of the season he began rotating with Mario Henderson at LT.  The rotation at LT continued for a few games and Veldheer began getting more snaps. 

He eventually was named the full time starting LT and it has been paying off.  Veldheer along with Robert Gallery have formed into a very strong left side. 

They are blowing defenders off the ball and opening lanes for Darren McFadden to run through. 

It's not every year you find a LT in the third round that is able to hold his own in his rookie season.  Jared Veldheer is not only holding his own but he is man handling guys out there. 

He is a mauler-type LT.  He has a nastiness to him and although he is a rookie, he doesn't back down from any challenge and isn't intimidated by anybody. 

He has gotten better every game he has played this year.  He will only get better with more reps at LT.  Veldheer has done a pretty good job protecting Jason Campbell's blind side.

The Raiders have always drafted well in the mid and late rounds.  Jared Veldheer just adds to the list of productive players the Raiders have found in the mid/late rounds like Louis Murphy, Tyvonn Branch, Michael Bush, Trevor Scott and Jacoby Ford to name a few. 

Veldheer is playing just as good if not better than offensive linemen Trent Williams (4th overall), Russell Okung (6th), Anthony Davis (11th), Mike Iupati (17th), Maurkice Pouncey (18th), and Brian Bulaga (23rd) who were all drafted in the first round.

Veldheer's solid play has made him a steal considering he was drafted 50-60 picks after the above-mentioned first round picks.