NFL Draft 2011: Can the Oakland Raiders Find Nnamdi Asomugha's Successor?
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On the eve of the lockout, the Oakland Raiders went on a spending spree, re-signing key contributors like Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt. Of those players not to ink a new deal with the Raiders, the most notable was star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. When free agency starts, Asomugha will be the best player in the free agent pool and will draw interest from all over the league. Given the amount of money the Raiders have already spent this off season, it is highly unlikely they will be able to re-sign Asmugha.
Without Asomucha, the Raiders are left with Stanford Routt, an aging Chris Johnson and two second year players in late round draft picks Jeremy Ware and Walter McFadden. While Routt showed improvement last season, no one else on this squad has shown that they are ready to claim the starting spot opposite him, begging the question, will the Raiders be able to draft Nnamdi’s replacement?
Here is a look at five possible replacements for Nnamdi that are reasonably available to the Raiders in the upcoming draft.
Brandon Harris, Miami
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At 5’9, Brandon Harris does not have the ideal height for a cornerback, but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in other areas. Harris ran a 4.46 in the 40 yard dash and shows good instincts in playing man coverage (something that is obviously important for the Raiders).
Harris has shown good durability, playing in all 26 games of his first two years at Miami, and more importantly, has proven himself to be a hard worker and student of the game.
Harris was on the All-ACC Academic team in 2008 and is the son of Tim Harris, who was named the USA Today National High School Coach of the Year in 2007.
Considered by most to be a second round pick, Harris will likely be available at the Raiders first pick and could prove to be a steal at that spot. Watching him during the NFL combine, Deion Sanders said Harris was the best cornerback on the field and noted that “he’s been ballin’”
Davon House, New Mexico State
House was voted to the All WAC First Team after a junior season where he had 13 pass break ups and three interceptions. At 6’1 200lbs, House has room on his frame to bulk up without losing much of his speed (House recorded a blazing fast 4.34 40 at the NFL combine).
House played all three seasons at New Mexico State without ever missing time due to injuries. In those three years, he recorded 9 interceptions and 27 pass break ups.
House has some work to do in order to get his game up to the NFL level, but he has natural speed, decent size and plays physical. House is projected to go in the late second or early third round, making him available to the Raiders at their first pick and possibly their third round pick if he drops.
Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
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Another burner that falls in line with the Al Davis theory of football, Dowling put up a 4.37 40-yard time at his pro day. At the NFL Combine, he put up a slightly slower time at 4.40, however, he pulled up with an injured hamstring at about the 35 yard mark which means this guy can really haul.
Unfortunately, Dowling has injury issues that the Raiders should be concerned about. Dowling injured his hamstring prior to the 2010 season and was forced to sit out the first two games. Upon returning, he injured his knee and eventually had off-season surgery on it.
At times, Dowling played like a first round talent. However, his injuries have pushed him into the second round. Considering the Raiders have no first round pick, they would like a player capable of getting playing time right away with their first pick in the second round. The injuries mean Dowling might not be the best choice despite his raw talent and impressive speed.
Shareece Wright, USC
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Wright is another undersized corner with a lot of potential. At 5’10, he is short for the position. However, he recorded 40 times in the 4.4 range and was able to cover any receiver he lined up against in man coverage while at USC.
In addition, not only does Wright have the ability to stick to his man, he has shown that he has the instincts to know when to get his head around to look for the ball, and attacks the ball as opposed to waiting for it to get to the receiver. That kind of play recognition and play making ability has been missing in the portion of the Raiders secondary that actually had the ball thrown their way.
Finally, Wright is known as a film rat. He loves to watch the quarterbacks and wide receivers he will be facing in order to learn anything that might give him that slight edge. That kind of dedication is always welcome, especially considering that Wright is expected to be selected on the second day of the draft.
Buster Skrine, Chattanooga
Skrine is another late round pick that the Raiders might want to consider as a potential replacement for Asomugha. In line with many Raider draft picks over the years, Skrine posted one of the fastest times at the NFL combine with an unofficial, NFL Network 40 time of 4.29. Also like many Raider picks, Skrine is a work out warrior who excelled during the NFL combine, but who did not necessarily excel in college.
Skrine showed the potential to be a star while in college, but also went through periods where he would be abused and picked on by the opposing team’s quarterback. Skrine plays man coverage well, but has issues with allowing separation on sudden changes of direction.
Though he is certainly rough around the edges, he also has that rare speed that cannot be taught and is not so raw as to think that he could not grow into a real NFL caliber talent. Again, Skrine will likely be around on the second day of the draft, allowing the Raiders to use a late pick on a CB should they choose to go another direction with their early picks.