NFL Draft 2011: Are the Oakland Raiders Targeting SEC QB?

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NFL Draft 2011: Are the Oakland Raiders Targeting SEC QB?
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A busy offseason has Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson smiling

By placing the highest possible tenders (first and third-round draft choices) on tight end Zach Miller and back-up running back Michael Bush, the Oakland Raiders continue their offseason spending spree and ensure continuity from last year’s 8-8 squad. The re-signing of Richard Seymour, Stanford Routt, John Henderson and franchising Kamerion Wimbley, will shore up some key personnel positions, but the Raiders had to break the bank to do it.  

Seymour’s two-year extension is worth 30 million and keeps the Pro Bowler in Oakland through 2012. Veteran run-stuffing tackle John Henderson—who missed seven games with injury—inked a two-year deal for $4 million. Outside linebacker Wimbley had nine sacks, and will collect $10 million as the Raiders’ “franchise” player. And Routt re-signed with the club for three years and $31.5 million.

I’m no financial wizard, but that’s a lot of cake and it appears the cupboard is bare for Nnamdi Asomugha. The top free agent in the league seems destined to move on from Oakland. As will be the case for O-lineman Robert Gallery, who met with owner Al Davis last week, and discovered his time was up with the Silver-N-Black. The second-overall pick in 2004 was asking for $8 million and the Raiders were offering $2.5 million.

Yet, it’s new coach Hue Jackson who’s feeling all the pressure. He brought the Raiders’ offense out of the Dark Ages and into respectability. Jackson also famously said he was building bully in Oakland and the team would win the AFC West. Honestly, I think Raider Nation would settle for Darrius Heyward-Bey becoming a competent deep-threat in 2011.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Mallett's draft stock plummets as charater issues swirl around the big arm QB

Still, Jackson can only be as good as his quarterback allows him to be. The sometimes beleaguered Campbell ran the gamete last season. He went from goat, to hero, to the bench—and then suddenly figured it out over the final month of the season.

In the final analysis, Campbell’s quarterback rating of 84.5 and his touchdown to interception ratio of 13 to eight has got to improve. A benchmark season for Campbell would be 20-something touchdowns and no more than 12 interceptions.

With the 2011 NFL draft only weeks away, here’s how the Oakland Raiders will replace Gallery and (possibly) Asomugha. Davis will also be targeting a quarterback from the SEC, but his name isn’t Cam Newton.

 

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas - At No. 48, the Raiders could be looking for either a cornerback or a versatile lineman. But they could also have a chance at snaring a big-time arm. The controversial Ryan Mallett cut short his press briefing at the NFL combine, as issues about his character and drug use were raised. Mallett’s stock is falling like a rock and his nonchalant approach to answering these questions has only muddied the waters.

This Drew Bledsoe type signal caller has dropped out of the first-round and looks to be an early to mid-second round choice. Arizona, Cincinnati and Tennessee are the primary teams of interest, but Mallett could be around when Oakland makes its selection at 48.

Should the Oakland Raiders trade up to draft Mallett

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Strengths: Mallett throws the deep ball better than any quarterback in the draft. His mechanics and throwing accuracy are pro ready. Mallett’s overall passing efficiency was one of the highest in the country and the junior should have no problem finding receivers at the next level.

Weaknesses: The 6’7” quarterback needs to shorten his release. Scouts say it takes too long for the quarterback to get the ball out of his hand and into the air. Defenses will be licking their chops if this issue isn’t solved.

Other quarterbacks in this range include Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, FSU’s Christian Ponder and Washington’s Jake Locker. As for positions of need, here’s the short list of players the Raiders will be looking at if they don’t go after Mallett.

Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia – Dowling has all the intangibles that Mr. Davis loves in a cornerback. He has speed (4.4 in the forty), height and the ability to run tight press coverage. All of these attributes make Dowling an unpolished, but worthy replacement for Asomugha. He’s also strong against the run and is a form tackler. Most expect the Cavaliers corner to be taken late second round.

Stephen Wisniewski, C/G, Penn State – They call him “Little Wiz” but the nephew of former Raiders lineman Steve Wisniewski is far from tiny. At 6’3” and 300 pounds, Wisiniewski can play center or guard. He’s quick, athletic and finishes blocks. Wisiniewski played in a solid program at Penn State and understands the nuisances of blocking. Detroit may take him at No. 44 or he could slip to the Eagles at No. 54.

Aaron Williams, FS/CB, Texas – If Michael Huff doesn’t return, then Oakland might have Huff’s replacement on the board. In 37 games with the Longhorns, Williams recorded four interceptions, 97 tackles, 15 passes defensed and forced six fumbles. He plays with good instincts and became a capable man-to-man defender. On the flip side, Williams has a tendency to be an arm tackler and needs to be more physical in goal line and short yardage situations.

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