Oakland Raiders: Biggest Post-Draft Needs to Fill in Free Agency
The year of the lockout continues to loom large over the NFL. In a role reversal of most years, now that the 2011 NFL draft is completed, most teams will begin to look at the free agent class for this season.
With the lockout reinstated before the draft was even completed, we have no idea as to when free agency will begin. However, there is no doubt that once it does begin, the Raiders will need to look to free agency to fill holes in their roster that were not addressed in the draft.
Here is a look at the positions in the greatest need of players, whether they be starters or just depth.
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One of the positions that many were positive the Raiders would address in the draft was the outside linebacker position. However, as day three came to an end on Saturday, the Raiders did not add a single linebacker to their roster.
Last season, the Raiders linebackers to start the season were Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain and Trevor Scott. Not long into the season, Scott was moved back to his natural position at right end and new comer Quentin Groves was given the opportunity to start.
Neither Groves nor Scott impressed at outside linebacker opposite Kamerion Wimbley, who had an outstanding first year with the Raiders. While Scott struggled to make the change from playing with his hand in the dirt to standing upright, Groves did play rather well at times.
However, the Raiders run defense still struggled, mostly due to its linebacking corps. Wimbley and McClain will come into next season as unquestioned starters, but the Raiders could use another OLB to challenge Groves for the other OLB position and depth is also needed.
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With Michael Huff coming off his best season as a Raider, and heading into the off season as a free agent, the Raiders are in need of help at the FS position. If the Raiders are able to re-sign Huff, the position would not need to be upgraded, but it appears as though that is unlikely.
Without Huff, the depth at FS consists of special teams stud Hiram Eugene and second year player Stevie Brown.
Eugene has been with the team for a few years now and has not developed into a serious contender to start at the free safety position. He is invaluable on special teams and is a decent back up at free safety, but if the Raiders enter the 2011 season with Eugene as the starting free safety, the team is in some trouble.
Stevie Brown on the other hand has shown flashes of ability to be an impact-making free safety at the NFL level. However, Brown only saw limited time last season and is still a little bit raw. His lack of experience and need to grow means he may not be the best option to start at free safety.
Even with a potential starter at FS in Stevie Brown, the Raiders should certainly add depth and potentially a player to challenge Brown for that starting position.
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The Raiders are stacked with young talent at the wide receiver position. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey will be coming back for their third year with the team, while Jacob Ford will look to build off of his stellar rookie season.
The Raiders also have perennially injured possession receiver Chaz Schilens and underachiever Johnny Lee Higgins. However, as I have said numerous times, the Raiders need to presume that Schilens will not be an impact player throughout the season until he proves he can stay healthy and Higgins has shown that he is nothing more than depth—and not great depth at that.
In the 2011 draft, the Raiders added two big-bodied possession-type receivers. However, those guys were taken in the later rounds and are developmental picks at best.
Thus, the Raiders should really look to free agency to add depth to the position, and more importantly, to add a veteran presence to an extremely young squad. A vet will help the young guns develop while also helping contribute on the field.
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The Raiders picked up two quality linemen in this years draft. Stefan Wisniewski should be able to step in on day one as a starter at either center or guard, while Joe Barksdale is a developmental T who could turn into the bookend of the future opposite Jared Veldheer.
While both of these guys look like good picks, to start both would be very dangerous and would leave the Raiders with easily the youngest starting line in the league.
Ideally, the Raiders will go out and find a solid T to start at RT for a season or two while Barksdale can develop. In addition, the Raiders should find some depth at the interior line positions in case second year player Bruce Campbell is not ready to step in as a starter at the RG position.