Oakland Raiders 2012 Draft: 10 Things That Must Happen in Final Rounds
Outside of scouting players, writing reports and putting together a draft board, General Manager Reggie McKenzie likely has a list of things he would like to accomplish through the draft.
Although McKenzie said he will not draft for need, he's acutely aware that his team has specific needs and will still try and address them.
10 things must happen in the final rounds for McKenzie to have check marks next to each item on his list. Read on to find out what they are.
Acquire More Picks
Essentially the Raiders' 2012 draft picks will be as follows:
1st Round - QB Carson Palmer
2nd Round - OL Joseph Barksdale & RB Taiwan Jones
3rd Round - QB Terrelle Pryor & TBD compensatory draft pick
4th Round - QB Jason Campbell & TBD compensatory draft pick
5th Round - TBD draft pick & TBD compensatory draft pick
6th Round - TBD draft pick
7th Round - LB Aaron Curry
It's not a bad haul considering 10 of the players are likely to be on the team in 2012, but Reggie McKenzie is trying to reshape the roster and put his stamp on the team as it enters a new era.
McKenzie will need all the selections he can get to keep the cap-strapped Raiders in playoff contention.
The Raiders may trade their fifth-round pick for an additional selection and could potentially move a player or two for additional picks.
Players who could be moved:
DT Tommy Kelly - His contract will probably prohibit any movement, but his role is redundant on the defense and judging from the pictures posted on Raiders.com he also didn't show up to mini-camp. The Raiders could use the cap space and the extra mid-round pick.
OL Joseph Barksdale - He was drafted into a power scheme and how he projects to the zone-blocking scheme is unknown. The Raiders re-signed Khalif Barnes, meaning Barksdale will have to compete for a starting job and projects as a backup in 2012.
Barksdale does have good athleticism, but his slow feet and short area-quickness might make him a bad scheme fit. If the Raiders can get a late-round pick for him they might move on.
WR Louis Murphy - Murphy is stuck behind Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore on the depth chart. Eddie McGee is rising as a depth receiver as well and the tight end might be more involved in the passing game in 2012.
Murphy's opportunities may be reduced even more than they were in 2011. When given ample opportunity, Murphy is productive and that might make him worth a mid-round pick to a receiver-needy team.
The Raiders have actually done well to find starters later in the draft in recent years. The most recent example of a value pick was the Raiders' selection of receiver Denarius Moore in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft.
McKenzie is evaluating his evaluators and no longer should the Raiders be dead set against drafting a player because of the current depth on the roster, as was the case with Moore.
When it comes to need versus best-player-available, McKenzie has made clear he will draft based on who is the best player available.
No matter what you think of the best-player-available concept, the idea is that the team shouldn't pass up on a superior prospect because they are deep at the position.
Don't be surprised to see a player drafted at a position of strength.
In a normal draft, the Raiders might also move down if all the players on their board are graded evenly, but for reasons unknown to the world, compensatory picks can't be traded. The Raiders will only be able to trade down with two of their five picks.
Find Potential Starters
Not every draft pick has to be a starter, but the Raiders have too many positions where they will need a starter in a year or two.
Sometimes looking for potential starter means taking a chance. Teams often have the choice between a safer situational player and a boom-or-bust player in the later parts of the draft.
A small-school or college backup cornerback is a good example of a player worth taking the chance on. Players that slip in the draft due to character issues might also be worth a pick.
It's also much easier to find a veteran role-player on the waiver wire than a young potential starter.
Draft Linebacker Depth
The Raiders are extremely thin at the linebacker position. Just five linebackers are on the roster, meaning the Raiders need depth in a bad way.
It was the Raiders' lack of depth that may have influenced Hue Jackson's decision to allow Rolando McClain to play against the Miami Dolphins just days after being arrested in Alabama.
Depth and consistency issues also may have precipitated a mid-season trade for outside linebacker Aaron Curry from the Seahawks.
Philip Wheeler was signed to fill the positional void left by the release of Kamerion Wimbley, but depth issues remain.
Linebacker is a position that can yield value in the middle rounds, especially as the focus might shift even more away from the traditional linebacker as the league becomes more and more passing oriented.
Find an Edge Rusher
The Raiders' only edge-rusher in 2011 was SLB Kamerion Wimbley, but he was a cap casualty in Oakland as McKenzie could not afford to pay him. Blame it on the Carson Palmer trade that added more than $12 million against the cap.
Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver's new defensive scheme promises more blitzing and will not rely on the four-man rush as much as the Raiders have in the past, but the team still lacks a dynamic edge presence.
It's not uncommon or unlikely that the Raiders would be able to find a situation pass-rusher late in the draft.
McKenzie and company should and have been looking at over-sized linebackers and undersized defensive ends to fill this role. Expect the Raiders to draft one at some point.
Draft Players Who Can Stop the Run
DT John Henderson was released and the Raiders are now without the run-stopping defensive tackle that they need.
The Raiders have not made the playoffs since their run defense was ranked in the top half of the league (2002).
The ideal pick would be Alabama NT Josh Chapman, but there is a good chance he will be off the board. Chapman is not the only player that could help up the middle, but he's certainly the one with the biggest upside.
McKenzie needs to draft a big nose tackle to clog the middle and keep Rolando McClain clean.
The Raiders had defenders at every level of the defense who had trouble tackling in 2011. McKenzie shouldn't ignore tackling as a trait when drafting other defensive players.
Draft an Offensive Lineman
Both Khalif Barnes and Cooper Carlisle were re-signed in free agency, but both are also over 30 and the Raider Nation has been clamoring for their replacements for years.
The Raiders were also extremely lucky in terms of injuries to the offensive line last season and have to be prepared in 2012 for more missed games.
The scheme is also switching back the zone-blocking scheme first brought to Oakland by Lane Kiffin, Greg Knapp and Tom Cable in 2007.
Part of the benefit of the zone-blocking system is that the offensive lineman needed to run the scheme have a much different skill set than the typical offensive tackle and are more cheaply acquired.
The Raiders should find a good fit or two late in the draft and in free agency.
Address the Secondary
Two seasons ago Nnamdi Asomugha, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson were the top three cornerbacks on the Raiders, but fast forward to 2012 and none of them are on the roster.
Only two players in the secondary who have a tenure in Oakland longer than two seasons: Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch.
McKenzie has done a lot to fortify this group. Branch was franchised, Huff restructured and veteran cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer were signed to one-year contracts.
It's those one-year contracts that should have the Raiders considering bringing in a player via the draft.
The Raiders will find out what they have in Chimdi Chekwa and Demarcus Van Dyke this season, but they should wait to address the position if the right prospect falls.
Small-school cornerback prospect Chris Greenwood was brought in for a pre-draft visit and is just the kind of late-round potential starter that can help the secondary down the road.
Challenge Rolando McClain
Rolando McClain has been the starting middle linebacker for two seasons and has basically been a bust for the Raiders.
It shouldn't take long for a college linebacker to adapt to the pro level, particularly not one from a big program like Rolando McClain is.
However, McClain will get at least one more season to prove he was worth the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
McClain also received stem cell therapy on an injured knee and ankle this offseason and may have been playing hurt last year. He's also just 22 and has had two different defensive coordinators in two seasons.
Maybe McClain is ready to have his breakout year or maybe the Raiders need to start planning to replace him.
At very least, the Raiders need to find someone to compete with McClain and who is capable of starting if McClain is injured. Only the Raiders know if that player is Travis Goethel or a draft pick.
Every coach loves competition and it's time for McClain to have some at the middle linebacker position.
Honor Al Davis with a Fast Guy
Al Davis loved speed to a fault. Speed is a trait that can't be taught and Davis believed most other football traits could be taught.
McKenzie also likes speed, just not without the corresponding football ability.
The difference between McKenzie and Davis is not their affinity for speed, but the difference of opinion on what other traits are can be taught.
To appropriately turn the page on the Al Davis era, McKenzie should honor the Raiders' late owner by drafting at least one player with blazing speed. That player can be also be a "football player."