This was another good draft for the Silver-and-Black and it could turn into an exceptional one, perhaps matching last year’s monster draft, where all rookies made the squad and the Raiders found four starters.
First things first: The Raiders addressed the one real weakness on the team, that of offensive line.
The Raiders had two very solid selections with Stefan Wisniewski and Joseph Barksdale. Wisniewski was the best centre in this year’s class and a Raider to his bones to boot. He will start immediately and give the Raiders leadership.
Joseph Barksdale was another excellent pick. He started his last 39 games in the SEC and could start early on for the Raiders at right tackle. Going into his senior year, some scouts had him as the premium tackle in college. He was certainly rated as a first-round potential by some—for reference, see http://walterfootball.com/scoutingreport2011jbarksdale.php
If these two picks turn out the way the Raiders have planned, then the rest of the draft is a bonus for the Raiders; two potential offensive line starters is exactly what the Silver-and-Black doctor ordered.
The next great pick was RB Taiwan Jones. Yes, the Raiders are already set at running back, but Darren McFadden is injury prone, so having more speed in the bullpen cannot be a bad thing. Some people have drawn comparisons to Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson, but this may be overstating the case. I see this as more of a youthful upgrade on 11-year backup Michael Bennett.
With Jones on board, the Raiders offense could become more exotic. Already known for his end-around plays and WR reverses, Jackson could add in a little wild-cat with McFadden playing quarterback, with Jones adding an extra option either to hand off to or to catch a pitch and take it outside.
An offense can never have enough options and the Raiders added another with Jones in the fourth round. If he features in a handful of plays a game, the Raiders have done well, but the upside is just huge.
Turning the attention back to the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders picked Demarcus Van Dyke (Round 3) and Chimdi Chekwa (Round 4). Both picks have been described as “reaches” by many commentators, but both players have huge potential.
Van Dyke has sensational measurables: He is super-fast, tall and can cover speedy wide-receivers man-for-man deep down the field. He is a dedicated athlete and if he can live up to expectations and can improve on his tackling, the Raiders may just have another Nnamdi Asomugha on their hands in a year or so.
Chekwa does not have the top-end speed, but initially he may see more game time than Van Dyke, particularly in nickel packages, where his ability to break-up passes may be invaluable on third downs.
It is going to be fascinating to see how Checkwa and Van Dyke measure up against last year’s picks Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware. If Asomugha leaves, the Raiders appear to have lots of young options at corner and with two all-pro coaches, this should not be an area of weakness.
If Nnamdi stays, the secondary will be a position of real strength for Oakland.
With their final three picks, Oakland decided to roll the dice to add further depth to their receiving corps (tight ends and wide receivers). All three players have potential, but if they stick with the Raiders, I suspect two will be on the practise squad.
TE Richard Gordon (Round 6) is a big blocking tight-end who does not catch may balls. Hue Jackson may be looking at an upgrade on Khalif Barnes in the goal-line and short-yardage packages and Gordon may fit the bill long-term.
At 6’4’’ and 243 lbs, David Ausberry is built like a tight-end, but can also play wide receiver. At this stage, he looks nothing more than a development squad prospect.
The intriguing prospect amongst the receivers is Denarius Moore, who could be a real steal for Oakland in round five. He is unlikely to push for starting time, but his speed, great hands and play-making ability may mean he gets game time on third downs. Long-term, he may turn out to be a replacement for Chaz Schilens.
In summary, this was an good draft for Oakland, with the potential to be sensational.
Wisniewski and Barksdale are likely to start at some point in 2011. Jones and Moore will add to Jackson’s weapons on offense. Chekwa and Van Dyke are likely to make the roster and see game time in the secondary if Asomugha leaves, which leaves just Gordon and Ausberry as projects.
I just hope what looks a good draft on paper turns out that way when the football actually starts!