Oakland Raiders 2012 Draft Overview
The 2012 NFL draft for the Oakland Raiders has established two things: The organization is bringing in players with more substance than style, and there is also an across-the-board influx of guys with versatility who add depth in multiple ways.
With some of the choices they did not make, it can also be inferred that perhaps players with questionable character and/or work ethic will no longer be as readily welcomed in the facilities in Alameda.
All of the players selected appear to be self-starters, players who might not have all the physical attributes but have intangibles that cannot be accounted for with a stop watch or by a physical trainer.
3rd-Round Pick (95th Overall): Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah
After having to wait nearly two full days, the Raiders made their first selection in the third round, taking offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom from the University of Utah.
Bergstrom is a player who played tackle but projects to slide inside to guard. He could immediately challenge for one of the starting positions, though it is more likely he will wait a year before assuming a starting role. His versatility enables him to potentially fill in at two positions: left guard (behind Cooper Carlisle) and right tackle (behind projected starter Joseph Barksdale).
Another interesting element to this pick is that Bergstrom is 26 years old. His maturity and work ethic have been noted as being strengths. At the NFL level, most scouts agree that he struggles with flexibility in pass protection and can improve his short-area quickness in the running game.
All that said, his football smarts and ability to play angles make Bergstrom a particularly intriguing player in the zone blocking system the Raiders will re-implement in 2012.
4th-Round Pick (129th Overall): Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State
Looking to potentially address the loss of edge rusher Kamerion Wimbley, the Oakland Raiders drafted San Diego State outside linebacker Miles Burris with their fourth-round compensatory pick, 129th overall.
Burris is is a 6'2", 246-pound guy known for his versatility and fiery demeanor on the field. At San Diego State, he initially played inside before switching to the outside linebacker spot for the 2011 season.
Unofficially, he recorded 76 tackles and had eight sacks in 2011. His strengths are his versatility, high motor and physical strength. However, he has to get better in coverage.
There is some early speculation that Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver may use Burris the way head coach Dennis Allen used Denver Broncos' linebacker Von Miller last season. Early on, Burris may see time as a special teams player.
5th-Round Pick (158th Overall): Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State
After trading the 148th pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for picks 158 and 230 (seventh round), the Oakland Raiders selected Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford.
A native of England, Crawford has shown consistent improvement since initially playing football at the high school level in 2006. His senior year was his best with 42 total tackles, including 7.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks. At 6'5", 270 pounds, Crawford adds depth to an already imposing front line.
Crawford’s strengths are a high motor and extremely large hands, which help him with leverage. However, he is a developmental prospect at defensive end. He is more of a pass rusher than a run stopper, but he has plenty of upside with room to improve in both areas.
With the Raiders in need of pass rush, this is a pick who might be able to contribute on passing downs as a rookie and who can develop into a solid backup and potentially into a starter one day at the pro level.
5th-Round Pick (168th Overall): Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
The Oakland Raiders added value at wide receiver, selecting Arizona’s Juron Criner with the 168th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Criner, a rangy 6'2", 225-pound receiver, caught 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011.
He can ideally be a possession target, particularly in the red zone with his impressive leaping ability (38-inch vertical jump at combine). Available this deep into the draft because of his lack of 40-yard dash speed (4.68 seconds), Criner can be a steal the way Denarius Moore was last year for the Raiders.
Criner’s strengths are his natural pass-catching skills, ability to track the football in the air over both shoulders, consistent production and imposing size. At the NFL level, he will have to improve his separation skills and his technique as a blocker will require improvement. However, while his average athleticism will pigeonhole him as a possession receiver, but he is tough to catch if he has a step on the defender.
6th-Round Pick (189th Overall): Chris Bilukidi, DT, Georgia State
With their sixth-round pick, the Raiders took small school defensive tackle Christo "Chris" Bilukidi from Georgia State. A little on the lighter end for a defensive tackle at 6'4" and 295 pounds, Bilukidi is described as a player with some initial quickness to his game that can be sudden laterally when side-stepping blockers and is a pretty athletic pass rusher.
His head coach, Hall of Fame player Bill Curry, described Bilukidi as being a player who "set an example" for the entire team.
Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, Bilukidi transferred from Eastern Arizona Junior College. In his senior year, he led Georgia State with five sacks and nine tackles for loss. A preseason All-Independent by Phil Steele's College Football Preview, Bilukidi doesn't sit real low in his stance or get upright easily off the snap. He also needs to improve his play-to-play consistency to have a chance to make this team.
7th-Round Pick (230th Overall): Nathan Stupar, OLB, Penn State
With their final pick of the 2012 draft, the Raiders tabbed Penn State linebacker Nathan Stupar. Like many of the other picks of this class, Stupar is hard working, versatile and played multiple positions in college.
Stupar measured 6'2", 241 pounds at the NFL combine, his 6.84 three-cone time was best among all LBs and his 60-yard shuttle time of 11.64 was fourth best. He was third on the Nittany Lions in tackles and was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention as a senior.
Stupar will probably compete for time right away on special teams. Having played on the Nittany Lions special teams units early in his career, Stupar will have that experience with the Raiders. While he played outside his senior year, Stupar does have the ability to slide inside and play in tighter spaces. To potentially see playing time on defense, he will have to improve his tackling angles, avoid over-pursuit and improve getting off blocks. A decent value pick this late in the draft.
These picks only re-affirmed what I believed all along: The hire of Reggie McKenzie was a fundamental shift away from the measurables that the Raiders have coveted for so long and more of an emphasis on player production and character.
There is never a way of knowing how good a draft will be until the games are played. But it seems clear the Raiders valued players that can do multiple things, are known for being hard workers and produced even though they may not blow you away with their physical attributes. It is a clear turn away from the mentality of the late Al Davis and another sign that the Raiders are modernizing their entire approach.
With this one phase done, it will be interesting to see who McKenzie targets in rookie free agency. In Green Bay, he helped find diamonds like Sam Shields in that area.
The Raiders were able to make six selections when they started with only two selections just three weeks ago. So the real key in future evaluation of this class will be how many of these selections stick and provide the depth McKenzie was seeking all along.