Oakland Raiders NFL Draft Big Board: Position-by-Position Rankings

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2015

Oakland Raiders NFL Draft Big Board: Position-by-Position Rankings

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    The Oakland Raiders sit at a pivotal No. 4 spot where anything is possible—whether it's a trade, choosing quite possibly the most complete player in the entire draft or drafting for needs throughout.

    What's almost certain is this draft will be one of the most entertaining between trade rumors and Marcus Mariota's placement—and then there's Chip Kelly.

    The recent rise and fall of draft stocks make it crucial to put together an inclusive big board for all positions targeted.

    General manager Reggie McKenzie is known for drafting outside of roster needs. For draft purposes, we'll examine the four positions where the Raiders are clearly looking for an upgrade at starter.

    The following big board ranks the top five prospects for each of those four positions in terms of roster fit, probable impact and the potential to actually win the starting position.

    These positional big boards don't simply rank the best players at the position. Each prospect ranked has a skill set specifically beneficial to the Raiders' schemes or supplemental to their shortcomings.

Wide Receiver

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    Oakland has a stable of No. 2 and No. 4 receivers on the roster.

    The Raiders' top two receivers are set to become unrestricted free agents by the end of the 2015 season. Michael Crabtree signed a one-year deal, and Rod Streater is also headed into contract year. Oakland may see a whole new receiving corps by 2016, and this draft is the perfect time to restock the position with quality talent.

    The wide receiver big board reflects the need for polished receivers ready to contribute—whether as a No. 1 option or a solid No. 2 in case Streater and Crabtree test the market.

    1. Amari Cooper, Alabama

    Cooper sits at the top of the food chain without question. He's the consummate wide receiver in this draft class and requires the least amount of polishing from the coaching staff. Cooper will come in, run great routes and rack up about 750-850 receiving yards in his rookie season.

    The knock on him about his average measurements should be put to bed at this point. He's not a small guy at 6'1", 211 pounds with hands bigger than Kevin White.

    He'll quickly become Derek Carr's No. 1 target and lead the Raiders receiving corps with production from the perimeter as well as the slot position. He does nothing spectacular in terms of speed, acrobatic catches or catching jump balls, but if you look at his tape, he does all of the above adequately. The sum of his receiver skill set is phenomenal.

    2. Kevin White, West Virginia

    White has the most upside because of his measurements. He’s 6'3", 215 pounds and uses his frame to dominate cornerbacks. He is the type of receiver to burn defenders on the perimeter or simply pluck the ball out of the air at a high point.

    Unlike Cooper, he relies more so on his athleticism to gain separation rather than his routes. However, if White becomes a decent route-runner, he'll be a monster for Carr or any team that drafts him.

    The one caveat is his confidence level. Will he sustain that single year of success at West Virginia? White admitted to some confidence issues coming out of junior college (JUCO) but has rectified those problems coming into the draft.

    3. Breshad Perriman, Central Florida

    Perriman continues to rise on draft boards and rightfully so. He has the measurements of the now-trendy "big receiver" at 6'2", 212 pounds and ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

    Anytime a wideout has size and speed in his skill set, there's a chance of becoming a star in a passing league.

    Perriman broke out in his final year at Central Florida, showing his potential to be a dominant player. However, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, he lacks the aggressiveness a receiver needs to be "the man" in the clutch and may struggle coming to the ball when needed.

    Perriman could be a solid No. 2 receiver or a low-end No. 1 depending on the depth chart.

    4. Nelson Agholor, Southern California

    Agholor is the second-best route-runner on the wide receiver big board. Like Cooper, he lacks the measurements to wow NFL scouts, but he makes plays with instincts and field awareness.

    He projects as a slot receiver but has the upside of a solid No. 2 receiver. He can line up inside and outside. His game speed is a step slower than his natural speed, but his exceptional hands will make him a reliable target. It's worth noting he's also a solid punt returner.

    Based on his 6'0", 198-pound frame, scouts expected him to burn defenders down the seam but were disappointed in his speed. Nonetheless, he works well with his attributes: instincts, sure hands and varied routes to create separation.

    He'll naturally step in as reliable possession slot receiver and work his way to a No. 2 option for Oakland.

    5. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

    Strong is the most raw talent on the receiver board, but his upside is second to White in terms of what he could be in the NFL.

    He dominated both years at Arizona State and would be a terrific target for Carr in the end zone.

    Streater is a tall, thin-framed receiver capable of ripping off 20- to 30-yard gains down the field. Strong muscles defensive backs into the turf with sheer power. Carr would be equipped with two towers, each with a very different skill set.

    The Arizona State standout isn't a burner, and corners would likely jump routes or sit at the top knowing Strong wouldn't get too far behind the defense. Nonetheless, he would serve a crucial role in the red zone.

Defensive Lineman

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    The signing of Dan Williams as the Raiders' gap-filler and run-stopper has bolstered the heart of the defense, but the edges are still a weak point.

    It’s unclear how much defensive end Khalil Mack will play; it will depend on consistent production in terms of QB pressure, an area the Raiders struggled in 2014 with only 22 sacks.

    The defensive linemen were ranked based on their ability to anchor a defensive line or provide constant QB pressure off the edge.

    1. Leonard Williams, Southern California

    Williams is a versatile defensive lineman able to line up in multiple spots across the front four. For Oakland, he could be the centerpiece of the defense.

    Playing alongside newly acquired free agent Dan Williams and in front of Mack and Curtis Lofton, Leonard Williams could change the entire look of the Raiders front seven. His influence as a run-stopper and bull-rusher up the middle provides the Raiders with so many benefits in one player.

    It's scary to imagine he's still a raw talent who hasn't perfected his craft as a pass-rusher. He's also not the type to chase down running backs, but I doubt many will get by his lengthy reach in the backfield.

    Williams isn't a prototypical defensive end where the Raiders need help, but he can elevate the production of three or four players around him with his presence in the trenches.

    2. Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

    Choosing Dupree would be the best pick for the Raiders if McKenzie decides to trade back a few spots. After months of raving about Dupree, he's finally ranked as the No. 1 defensive end, according to NFLDraftScout.com, via CBSSports.com.

    Dupree is the defensive end in this draft class ready to contribute to a team tomorrow. The Raiders could unleash Dupree off the edge and interchange Justin Tuck and Mack on the opposite side.

    Dupree does it all, from pass rushing to run stopping off the edge to dropping back in coverage on play-action plays. He's the consummate defensive end who can seal off the edge, whether it's a QB, running back or receiver coming his way.

    3. Shane Ray, Missouri

    Ray's stock is falling by the minute, and the Raiders may be able to draft him in the second round as a quality pickup.

    First off, Ray's foot may sideline him for quite some time. According to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, there are conflicting reports as to what Ray will need to recover, ranging from surgery to rest.

    Secondly, and a more damning factor for Ray's stock, is a run-in with the law. According to ProFootballTalk's Mike Wilkening, Ray was cited for marijuana possession:

    Defensive end Shane Ray, a former University of Missouri standout, was cited Monday morning on a marijuana possession charge, Corporal Scott White of the Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed to PFT on Monday night.

    According to White, Ray was pulled over for speeding on Monday morning in Cooper County, Missouri. Upon the traffic stop, a highway trooper smelled what was believed to be fresh, unsmoked marijuana. The vehicle was searched, and marijuana was found, White said. Ray was cited for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and released on his recognizance, White said. He was also cited for a lane violation.

    Ray was set to become a first-round pick, and three days before the draft, he finds himself in a bit of trouble. For some, this isn't earth-shaking news. However, NFL teams considering using a top-20 pick on the edge-rusher may think twice.

    The Missouri standout already had a shaky resume with only one solid year on the collegiate level. However, his 14.5 sacks in his senior year flashed much potential. His pro day results were average at best, and this latest development could drop him into the second round. If so, Oakland could take a low-risk chance on Ray hoping he replicates his production from his senior year at Missouri.

    4. Nate Orchard, Utah

    Orchard is the rawest of the defensive ends on this big board, but he flashed above-average pass-rushing skills in his final year at Utah.

    The Raiders would benefit from a pass-rushing specialist, but Orchard's 21 tackles for a loss show his ability to penetrate into the backfield and take down ball-carriers as well.

    He'll likely become a project for the Raiders, but he projects as late second- to early third-round pick. Orchard's ceiling could be as high as Dwight Freeney but as low as a specific sack specialist.

    The Utah defensive end lacks the toughness and consistent ability to defend quicker ball-carriers running straight toward him.

    5. Trey Flowers, Arkansas

    Flowers wasn't an exceptional player at his position, but he was consistent, which explains his third-round projection, according to NFLDraftScout.com.

    He managed to record at least 13 tackles for a loss and five sacks in three consecutive seasons. That's not first-round production, but he knows his position well as a three-year starter.

    Flowers doesn't have an arsenal of pass-rushing moves but uses his power to overwhelm opposing linemen. At 6'6", 270 pounds, it's plausible he'll be able to continue to utilize his strength on the next level.


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    The Raiders are one piece away from fielding one of the best offensive lines in the league.

    After signing Rodney Hudson, who was ranked third among all centers, per Pro Football Focus, moving Austin Howard back to tackle and grooming Gabe Jackson into the ninth-best pass-blocking guard, the Raiders have solid pieces of an iron-clad offensive line. Not to mention, Donald Penn was ranked the seventh-best tackle, per PFF. That's four-fifths of the job done on the offensive side of the trenches.

    Now, McKenzie needs to solidify Carr's protection and give light to the rushing attack with a guard capable of clearing running lanes for Latavius Murray and Trent Richardson. The following guards are ranked based on the ability to excel in run-blocking schemes, versatility and durability.

    1. A.J. Cann, South Carolina

    Cann was a four-year starter with South Carolina and only missed one out of 52 games in that span. He's a smaller guard (313 lbs) but has the combination of core strength and athleticism to match playmaking defensive linemen with a quick first step.

    The Raiders have Richardson in the backfield, who benefits from power rushing. Although Cann's size would suggest he's not suited for power-rush schemes, he can suffice as he did with the Gamecocks, per Zierlein.

    "Powerful drive-blocker who uses leverage to fire out and generate instant movement in tight spaces. He is best-suited to a power scheme. Cann has the plug-and-play traits that could make him an instant starter."

    2. Tre' Jackson, Florida State

    Jackson is more of a balanced guard, but he struggles with his footwork against athletic defensive linemen. He also has one less year of experience at the position compared to Cann. 

    Jackson is a prototypical guard with a large body frame and able to take a head-on rush from physical nose tackles up front. He's less versatile than Cann in terms of ability to protect against a blend of pass-rushing and run-stopping types due to lack of quickness.

    According to Zierlein, Jackson's weight can be his strength as well as his weakness:

    Three-year starter on a line full of wide-bodies, Jackson entered the 2014 season as one of the top-rated guard prospects, but failed to distinguish himself. Has the talent to be a dependable, quality NFL starter, but he needs to work on weight and conditioning in order to improve his feet and reach his potential.  

    3. Ali Marpet, Hobart College

    As a prospect, Marpet is definitely a project as a Division III player who has yet to face top-tier talent, which caps his expectations. However, on the level in which he played, he dominated.

    Marpet is smaller than Cann in size (307 lbs), and like the South Carolina guard, he can be moved across the offensive line if necessary. The Hobart College standout doesn't rely on athleticism as much as pure skill and instinct.

    He comes off as a natural, as he did at the Senior Bowl, where he held his own as a guard.

    Zierlein highlights Marpet as a scheme-blocker who should fit in well within a system with some upside if he can adjust to the talent level.

    4. Mitch Morse, Missouri

    Based on his late push, Morse could be available in the fourth round for Oakland. If he's available this late, McKenzie should make his running backs happy with this pickup.

    Morse is one of those NFL grinders who gets little press but in the locker room is the toughest of all the offensive linemen. He's not athletic and has short arms but plays with tenacity and grit.

    Zierlein points out Morse's use in pass screens.

    "Uses a well-timed punch and won't show length-limited punch too early. Good feel for landing accurate initial strike in pass pro or run game. Has some straight-line quickness and can get out into space in screen game."

    5. John Miller, Louisville

    Miller started in 47 games as a guard on the collegiate level, showing his durability. At 6'2", 303 pounds, scouts may worry about defensive linemen pushing him off his mark, but he does have a bit of a mean streak to hold his ground.

    He works well in his techniques and strength to engage in blocks. However, like Jackson, he exhibits poor footwork, allowing defenders to beat him on the inside.

    Zierlein touts Miller as mixed bag capable of playing much better on the pro level with his upper body strength than on the collegiate level.

    "Miller isn't the most nimble athlete at the guard position and he will be limited by scheme fit, but the pure power in his upper body and his hands have scouts excited and there is a belief that he will be better as a pro than he was in college."

Tight End

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    It's clear McKenzie intends on upgrading the tight end position with the strong pursuit of Jermaine Gresham.

    Mychal Rivera recorded 534 receiving yards and four touchdowns but ranked as one of the worst blocking tight ends in the league, per PFF.

    Gresham hasn't been ruled out as an Oakland Raider just yet. McKenzie is surely keeping tabs on his recovery from a back injury, but the draft is just around the corner, and there are some worthy prospects capable of stepping into the starting lineup.

    The top five tight ends for the Raiders were ranked on dual capabilities as a receiving tight end as well as an H-back role comfortable with blocking schemes.

    1. Clive Walford, Miami (Fla.)

    Walford recorded 676 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in a breakout year at Miami. 

    He has improved his blocking techniques and should be an attractive target for Oakland in the third round if available.

    Walford isn't the most fluid or athletic tight end, but he offers a better balance than Rivera as a receiver and H-back-type.

    2. Nick O'Leary, Florida State

    O'Leary was consistent as a receiver in his junior and senior years, but his toughness and willingness to engage in blocking schemes offer the Raiders a quality tight end in the fifth round.

    The Florida State product isn't the strongest of the tight end prospects, but he isn't afraid of physicality. He'll likely hit the weight room frequently to bolster his strength issues but could possibly be a steal on Day 3 of the draft as a combination tight end.

    3. Jesse James, Penn State

    According to CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler, James compares to Scott Chandler, who now plays for the New England Patriots.

    He's not a consistent threat as a receiver, but he could be a reliable safety valve for Carr when necessary. Penn State's offense wasn't lighting up the scoreboard, so it's possible James could be more of a receiving target than shown on tape. 

    James is an upgrade over Rivera in terms of run-blocking schemes, where he's able to use his 6'7", 261-pound frame to clear lanes for running backs.

    4. Casey Pierce, Kent State

    Pierce is projected to be a sixth- to seventh-round pick but offers enough versatility to upgrade the Raiders at the tight end position.

    On tape, Pierce's blocking skills are apparent. He's willing to engage with defenders and drive linebackers and defensive linemen backwards with his strength. His receiving skills weren't apparent until his senior year, when he racked up 641 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

    Pierce's minimal collegiate receiving stats could be accredited to Kent State's offense, but if he replicates his senior year as a receiving tight end, the Raiders could have a late-round steal.

    5. Ben Koyack, Notre Dame

    Similar to Pierce, Koyack wasn't known for his receiving skills at Notre Dame. He's viewed as a blocking tight end with an average skill set as a receiver.

    He could be a developmental project for the Raiders in terms of threatening the defense in the seam. Nonetheless, his experience as a fullback and H-back-type at Notre Dame could attract the Raiders as they seek solid run-blockers for the running backs out of the backfield.

    Koyack is projected to be a fourth- to fifth-round pick, where he may be a reach, but if he falls into the sixth round, Oakland should take on the development project with his upside at the position.

    Do you agree with the rankings of this big board? Should the Raiders have their eyes on any other prospects not mentioned in this article? Tweet your thought to Maurice's Twitter.

    Advanced statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.comAll draft analysis provided by CBSSports.com and NFL.com.