Oakland Raiders’ Studs and Duds From Preseason Week 1

The Oakland Raiders finally look like a competitive football team again. That should be the biggest takeaway from their preseason rout of the St. Louis Rams.

Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense looked significantly improved from a year ago, thanks in large part to some of the studs listed below.

The starting defense was still a little shaky, but there were still a few bright spots. Overall, the Raiders can feel good about their first live action of the year, especially since there appeared to be no significant injuries to come out of it.

Studs

Rodney Hudson

Of all general manager Reggie McKenzie’s offseason acquisitions, he committed the most money to center Rodney Hudson. Offensive linemen rarely get the praise they deserve, but a great offensive line as anchored in the middle can be huge for an offense.

Hudson was very solid in his debut against a very good defensive front. If Hudson and the offensive line can consistently protect Carr and get push in the run game, Oakland’s offense will be vastly improved in 2015.2

Perhaps one of the more underrated additions the Raiders made in the offseason may pay off in a big way. Crabtree has mostly been a No. 2 wide receiver in his career, but he’s shown flashes he can be more.

Crabtree really appears to have a chemistry with Carr, as has been reported during training camp and was evident against the Rams. It doesn’t hurt that Crabtree is playing for a big contract and will have rookie Amari Cooper to draw attention away from him.

Khalil Mack

It would be easy to just put him on this list after every game. In this case, Mack dominated Greg Robinson and created opportunities for his teammates.

It will be on Mack and the defensive front to protect the secondary and linebackers all season like they did Friday night. Mack is the lynchpin that this defense simply can’t do without.

Duds

Gabe Jackson

For all the hubbub about how great Jackson looked in training camp, his first preseason performance wasn’t very good. Jackson struggled to contain Aaron Donald and missed a key block.

Specifically, Jackson whiffed on a block at the goal line in which running back Trent Richardson took the blame for the result. The internet blames Richardson for not cutting back, when in fact there was no lane and he made the right decision following his pulling guard. Jackson also really struggled to keep Donald from creating penetration with his speed off the line.

D.J. Hayden

There was a miscommunication on the first drive that resulted in a big gain on a pass to tight end Lance Kendricks. It’s impossible to know if Hayden was responsible for the coverage, but even not counting it against him, he had a subpar performance.

At least two seperate times Hayden followed the wrong man and had to make a recovery. He was lucky to not have allowed more catches.

Keith McGill

McGill is Hayden’s main competition at the cornerback spot, but he didn’t play particularly well against backups either. Although his feet seem to be improved, he struggled to stick with speedier defenders and his stiff hips were apparent when he couldn’t get his hands on his him.

McGill must use his length to his advantage or he’ll struggle, but it was a good sign to see his improved footwork. The poor showing from Hayden and McGill got Neiko Thorpe first-team practice reps on Sunday per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Other notable performers include Seth Roberts, Benson Mayowa and Matt McGloin. Cooper made a mistake on Carr’s interception, but nothing to worry too much about. Ray Ray Armstrong, Curtis Lofton and Charles Woodson all took poor angles and over pursued on Tavon Austin’s big catch and run.

Posted in Preseason 2015

Preseason Week 1 Players to Peruse

The Oakland Raiders season officially kicks off Friday night. Unfortunately, it’s preseason. Fortunately, there are still plenty of things to watch.

It seems like this every year, but this truly is one of the most interesting Raiders teams in years. For starters, there is a lot of young talent. Unlike past years, there is also plenty of veteran talent that isn’t over 30.

While all eyes will be on first-round pick Amari Cooper, there are at least a half-dozen other players Raiders fans should keep a close eye on during the game.

D.J. Hayden

He hasn’t been able to stay healthy, nor has he been particularly awesome when he is healthy, but cornerback D.J. Hayden still has a lot of talent. General manager Reggie McKenzie will take his lumps if Hayden doesn’t pan out this year, but more importantly the Raiders will also be dangerously thin at cornerback.

The Raiders need Hayden to solid, even if he doesn’t live up to the potential he had coming out of the University of Houston. Even if he ends up as the No. 3 cornerback, he’s still essentially a starter with defenses using the nickel defense almost 70 percent of the time last season.

Hayden’s biggest problem appears to be that he’s reacting too slowly, which could improve with more experience. The preseason is a good time for Hayden to gain that experience before the Raiders need to rely on him. Don’t be surprised if the Raiders give him extended playing time for that reason.

Keith McGill

In many ways, Keith McGill is the anti-Hayden. He’s long and a little stiff in the hips, but there is room for both types on the Raiders and in the NFL. McGill didn’t see much action as a rookie, but he made a big enough impression that the Raiders didn’t feel the need to bring in another cornerback this offseason. That means the Raiders expected McGill to at least be the nickel cornerback.

The Raiders really doubled down at cornerback this offseason as they need Hayden and McGill to both be solid contributors. If McGill can build on his start to training camp, which by most observations has been a net positive, he has a chance to start opposite T.J. Carrie. If McGill plays well, it could soften the sting if Hayden isn’t anything more than a No. 3 cornerback.

Nate Allen

As a veteran starter, he might not play extensively, but the Raiders could sure use some highlight plays from one of their top additions in free agency. A lot of eyebrows were raised when the Raiders gave Allen a contract befit a star safety, so fans will be expecting impact plays from him.

Can you tell that one of the biggest question marks on the team is the secondary?

Menelik Watson

Like D.J. Hayden from the same draft class, right tackle Menelik Watson needs to become a solid contributor in 2015. He is loosely hanging on to the starting job at right tackle over veteran Austin Howard, but his preseason performance will go a long way in determining if he holds onto it.

The Raiders have a solid line from left tackle to center, but the right side needs to prove they won’t be a problem this season at the very least. Offensive line coach Mike Tice will rotate through a few players at right guard, but right tackle is Watson’s spot to lose.

Ben Heeney

The other signing that raised eyebrows this offseason was the Raiders picking up linebacker Curtis Lofton. The veteran may be the starter at middle linebacker, but he’s clearly not a long-term answer. For that reason alone, rookie middle linebacker Ben Heeney is worth keeping an eye on Friday night.

Heeney has also made his share of plays during training camp and will see extended playing time. Heeney didn’t have elite measurables, but he was a top performer in college. If he keeps making plays against backups, the Raiders may have to consider getting him some snaps against starters to see if he can keep it up.

Posted in Preseason 2015 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

2015 Offseason Preview Podcast

In the long-awaited return of the Raidersblog podcast, I discuss the completed coaching staff and preview free agency and the draft.

Posted in 2015 Free Agency, 2015 NFL Draft, Free Agency, NFL Draft, Podcast Tagged with: , , , ,

Podcast Episode 30: Start the Carr & 53-Man Roster Discussion

In the long-awaited return of the podcast, I discuss starting Derek Carr and predict the 53-man roster as well as discuss various roster scenarios.

Posted in Podcast Tagged with: ,

2014 53-Man Roster Prediction (Final)

Quarterbacks (3): Matt Schaub*, Derek Carr, Matt McGloin

Backs (5): Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray, Jamize Olawale, FB Marcel Reece

Wide Receivers (6): Rod Streater, James Jones, Denarius Moore, Andre Holmes, Greg Little, Brice Butler

Tight Ends (3): TE David Ausberry, MTE Mychal Rivera, BTE Jake Murphy

Offensive Line (8): LT Donald Penn, RG Gabe Jackson, C Stefen Wisniewski, RG Austin Howard, RT Menelik Watson, G/C Kevin Boothe, G/T Khalif Barnes, OT Matt McCants

Defensive Line (8): DE Justin Tuck, DE LaMarr Woodley, DT Pat Sims, DT Antonio Smith, DE Shelby Harris, DE C.J. Wilson, DT Justin Ellis, DT Stacy McGee

Linebackers (6): SLB Khalil Mack, MLB Nick Roach*, OLB Sio Moore*, WLB Miles Burris, MLB Kaluka Maiava, OLB Kaelin Burnett

Cornerbacks (6): Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, TJ Carrie, Neiko Thorpe, Keith McGill, Chimdi Chekwa*

Safeties (4): FS Charles Woodson, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Usama Young, S Jonathan Dowling

Specialists (4): K Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King, LS Jon Condo, ST Taiwan Jones*

Total: 53 *Denotes Injured Players

Surprise cut candidate: Kevin Boothe

PUP (1): D.J. Hayden

Practice Squad (Up to 10): RB George Atkinson, LB Carlos Fields, OG Lamar Mady, OT Erle Ladson, TE Brian Leonhardt, WR Seth Roberts, LB Bojay Filimoeatu, DT Ricky Lumpkin, OG Tony Bergstrom, DE Ryan Robinson

#NAMEPOS.GroupStatus
45Reece, MarcelFBBacks53
20McFadden, DarrenRBBacks53
28Murray, LataviusRBBacks53
32Stewart, JeremyRBBacks53
21Jones-Drew, MauriceRBBacks53
49Olawale, JamizeFBBacks53
75Harris, ShelbyDEDL53
98Wilson, C.J.DEDL53
91Tuck, JustinDEDL53
57Woodley, LaMarrDEDL53
94Smith, AntonioDTDL53
78Ellis, JustinDTDL53
92McGee, StacyDTDL53
90Sims, PatDTDL53
50Maiava, KalukaLBLB53
56Burris, MilesLBLB53
52Mack, KhalilLBLB53
55Moore, SioLBLB53
53Roach, NickLBLB53
95Burnett, KaelinLBLB53
61Wisniewski, StefenCOL53
66Jackson, GabeGOL53
67Boothe, KevinG/COL53
69Barnes, KhalifG/TOL53
73McCants, MattTOL53
77Howard, AustinTOL53
72Penn, DonaldTOL53
71Watson, MenelikTOL53
14McGloin, MattQBQB53
4Carr, DerekQBQB53
8Schaub, MattQBQB53
35Chekwa, ChimdiCBSec53
39McGill, KeithCBSec53
31Thorpe, NeikoCBSec53
38Carrie, TJCBSec53
23Brown, TarellCBSec53
27Rogers, CarlosCBSec53
26Young, UsamaFSSec53
24Woodson, CharlesFSSec53
41Dowling, JonathanSSec53
33Branch, TyvonSSSec53
11Janikowski, SebastianKSpec53
59Condo, JonLSSpec53
7King, MarquettePSpec53
22Jones, TaiwanSTSpec53
81Rivera, MychalTETE53
82Murphy, JakeTETE53
12Butler, BriceWRWR53
18Holmes, AndreWRWR53
15Little, GregWRWR53
17Moore, DenariusWRWR53
89Jones, JamesWRWR53
80Streater, RodWRWR53
30Sheets, KoryRBBacksIR
48Asante, LarryDBSecIR
88Kasa, NickTETEIR
10Jenkins, GregWRWRIR
86Ausberry, DavidTETEIR (Return)
40Williams, KarlFBBacksPS Eligible
34Atkinson, GeorgeRBBacksPS Eligible
99Crawford, JackDEDLPS Eligible
58Robinson, RyanDEDLPS Eligible
96Autry, DenicoDEDLPS Eligible
93Lumpkin, RickyDTDLPS Eligible
44Fields, CarlosLBLBPS Eligible
47Filimoeatu, BojayLBLBPS Eligible
51Hadley, SpencerLBLBPS Eligible
63Mady, LamarGOLPS Eligible
79Cornell, JackOLOLPS Eligible
70Bergstrom, TonyOLOLPS Eligible
74Shaw, JarrodOLOLPS Eligible
68Ladson, ErleTOLPS Eligible
65Kistler, DanTOLPS Eligible
37Casey, ChanceCBSecPS Eligible
29Ross, BrandianSSSecPS Eligible
36Giorgo TavecchioKSpecPS Eligible
87Leonhardt, BrianTETEPS Eligible
83Simonson, ScottTETEPS Eligible
85Roberts, SethWRWRPS Eligible
25Hayden, DJCBSecPUP
Posted in 2014 Training Camp, Predictions

Training Camp Day 1 Audio 7/25

Dennis Allen
Khalil Mack
Matt Schaub

Posted in 2014 Training Camp Tagged with: , ,

Reggie McKenzie’s Seminal Moment

When Reggie McKenzie was hired in January 2012, the Raiders had a myriad of salary cap issues, a dearth of draft picks and no elite players. Nearly two and half years later, two of those three issues have been alleviated, but the most important remains; the Raiders have no elite players.

Most look at the Raiders barren cupboard of talent as an indictment against McKenzie, which to a degree is foolish. Team building is about trade-offs. Pre-McKenzie, Al Davis traded in continuity, long-term stability and salary cap flexibility year after year in his futile attempts to win now. He signed mediocre talent to mega-deals and continually swung and missed on high draft picks. His failure had significant long-term ramifications and everybody knew it. When he passed away, Hue Jackson ascended to power and traded 843 draft picks for Carson Palmer, who came fully equipped with pick-sixes aplenty and yet another terrible contract.

The pre-McKenzie Raiders were kind of like hoarders. Their house was a mess of colossal proportions and under Davis they never did anything about it. They needed a sensible person to come in and clean out the giant piles of garbage and rat feces, which is exactly what McKenzie’s done. He has purged the Raiders of bad contracts and has set them up to have cap flexibility and draft picks moving forward. And when he was hired, everybody agreed that was what he needed to do.

The third and final step of the rebuild is to add talent. Coming into this offseason, expectations were high, but unrealistic. The Raiders had a ton of cap space, but very little capital in free agency. Again, there are trade-offs. It’s nearly impossible to bring in blue-chip free agents after two seasons of losing and purging salaries. It doesn’t help that the Coliseum is the worst venue in the league. But for all the obstacles he’s had to overcome, McKenzie certainly isn’t devoid of criticism.

He hit rough waters at the onset of free agency. The Raiders lost Jared Veldheer and LaMarr Houston, two fan favorites who ended up with Arizona and Chicago, respectively, on reasonable contracts. For a team that needs talent, it was tough to see them let two of their best players walk. They overpaid for Roger Saffold, a move that was almost universally scoffed at, before losing him too after he failed a physical. McKenzie wasn’t able to reel in any of the biggest fish, though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Raiders had interest in Darrelle Revis, but he shockingly (not shockingly) didn’t want to play in Oakland. They also had interest in DeSean Jackson, who signed with Washington.

Free agency isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and McKenzie overcame a turbulent start to add some nice talent with Oakland’s abundance of cap space. He added solid veterans the defense in LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith to bolster the pass rush, as well as cornerbacks Carlos Rodgers and Tarell Brown to man the secondary. On offense, they made one of the better signings of the off-season in prying receiver James Jones away from the Packers. Throw in a few competent offensive linemen – Austin Howard, Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe – and two cheap, low-risk running backs in Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, who have potential to yield high reward. McKenzie also dealt a sixth round pick to Houston for embattled quarterback Matt Schaub.

McKenzie was patient and didn’t hand out any egregious contracts. This is what smart teams do. They build through the draft and pick their spots in free agency. Fans wanted the Raiders to be like the Redskins or Dolphins and throw giant contracts at the biggest free agents, but McKenzie was never in position to do that. He shouldn’t have anyways.

Now, it’s time to build through the draft. Last season, McKenzie’s top picks failed to live up to expectations, though they were seen initially as long-term investments anyways. Rarely are rookie defensive backs good (see Kareem Jackson), and DJ Hayden was no exception. The book on Menelik Watson was that he was a raw talent that needed to be molded. Both players battled injuries and failed to make positive impacts. McKenzie also stuck out badly on fourth rounder Tyler Wilson.

But the 2013 draft was by no means a failure. McKenzie’s reputation as a great evaluator of talent became apparent in some of the Raiders’ latter picks. He grabbed linebacker Sio Moore in the third round and found a pair of solid sixth rounders in Mychal Rivera and Stacy McGee. Undrafted free agent quarterback Matt McGloin came in and showed some modest promise as a long-term backup.

The Raiders have accumulated a decent mix of veterans and young guys with upside, but it’s not nearly enough. They need elite players. They’ve got to get them through this draft.

The nice thing about this year’s crop is that there’s a lot of talent at the top of the board. When the Raiders pick fifth, there will be impact players available. Last year’s draft was problematic in that it was seen as being deep, but there weren’t many guys worth taking at the third pick. McKenzie traded down – to get Hayden at 12 – and may do so again tonight.

Yesterday, Vox had a good piece (maybe there is hope for the Raiders!) about how teams should trade down more and trade up less. It’s a philosophy I’ve been committed to for a while now. Evaluators put a ton of effort into scouting hundreds of players every year, but in the end it’s mostly a crapshoot. Teams are essentially making educated guesses with their picks. Why not give yourself as many chances as possible to get good players? Even the best coaches and talent evaluators miss on guys – Bill Walsh called Rick Mirer the “next Joe Montana.” Not only does stockpiling picks give teams more chances at hitting on an impact player, but also gives them added trade collateral.

It looks like the Raiders may have options to move down from number five, if they so choose. Maybe Johnny Manziel falls past the Browns and a team gets greedy. Sammy Watkins is seen as the best receiver in a really deep receiver draft. If he’s there at five, maybe the 49ers move some of their 956 draft picks to get him. If I’m McKenzie, the 49ers are a team I’d want to be talking to. They have a lot of picks and the Raiders have a lot of spots to fill.

The biggest question mark on the roster is obviously at quarterback. It’s increasingly harder to compete in todays pass happy NFL if you don’t have a franchise guy at that spot. The Raiders don’t, and need one. Schaub is a stopgap guy at best, and even those guys aren’t guaranteed to even be mediocre. Matt Flynn was atrocious last season. This draft boasts some really intriguing quarterbacks, but no sure-fire franchise guys.  I like Teddy Bridgewater best of the group, but he has small ankles and had a mediocre pro-day and has thus taken a tumble down draft boards. Blake Bortles has lot of talent, but is seen as more of a long-term project. McKenzie might not have time to wait on him.

The Raiders, along with half the league, reportedly love Derek Carr. They just don’t love him at the fifth pick. Maybe they look at the Jets at 18 as a potential trade partner. Moving up for a receiver in this draft isn’t a great idea, but teams seem open to it. It makes a lot of sense for the Raiders to draft Watkins, or Mike Evans, and then move him to another team.

And while trading down seems like the smart thing to do, it isn’t the only way to work the draft. We’ve seen teams like the Falcons and Redskins make huge moves to trade up and grab impact players. It’s a higher-risk, higher-reward strategy. The Raiders likely won’t move up from five, but it’s possible they end up trading back into the first round.

It’s all about value. McKenzie might pull the trigger on a deal that would allow the Raiders to move up from 36 into the late first round. Most would give McKenzie a standing ovation if he somehow came out of the first round with Watkins and Carr without giving up the kitchen sink to do it. Conversely, if he gets desperate to grab Carr and ends up overpaying, he’d be making the same type of mistakes that put the Raiders in this situation to begin with. Judging by his history though, McKenzie doesn’t seem likely to do that.

It’s hard to see him coming out of a third straight draft without an impact star; he needs to grab at least one. McKenzie is out of excuses and seemingly out of time. Another 4-12 season won’t be acceptable and would almost certainly result in him looking for other employment. Whatever he decides to do in the draft, it’ll be his way. I still believe in the Reggie McKenzie way. Unfortunately for him, I seem to be in the minority.

Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino 

Posted in 2014 NFL Draft, NFL Draft Tagged with: ,

Stop Complaining About the 2014 Schedule

Believe it or not, the NFL did the Raiders a favor with the 2014 schedule. Sure, it’s tough schedule, but the opponents are predetermined. The order matters, but the NFL did everything they could to make it easier on the Raiders.

In Week 1, the Raiders travel to the eastern time zone to face the Jets. There was no way to avoid the travel, but playing that game in Week 1 eliminates some of the issues with the early start on the east coast. The Raiders can even get to the east coast a day early if they want. The Raiders have to travel to the east coast, but doing so in Week 1 or after a bye is the ideal time to do it.

The Raiders then come home and play what was the worst team in the league last year. Basically, the Raiders got the easiest home opponent on their schedule for their home opener. If the travel hurt the Raiders, at least they will have had a chance to get a win at home.

In Week 3, the Raiders head back to the east coast to play the Patriots. It’s brutal travel, but it was going to be brutal no matter when it happened. In this case, the Week 3 games is also for good reason. By playing in New England in Week 3, the Raiders can leave from the east coast for London. That’s a savings of 3000 travel miles had the Raiders left for London from the west coast.

The Raiders have a bye week after the game in London to get readjusted to the pacific time zone.

In Weeks 6 and 7, the Raiders get to stay home. No travel for three weeks after coming back from London is as good as it gets. The Raiders then go to Cleveland, who are arguably their weakest road opponent.

From Week 8 onward, the Raiders alternate home and away games. That means no tough road stretches. Playing in Seattle with Denver at home the following week is tough, but keep in mind that the Raiders play on the west coast for almost the entire month of November (at Seattle and San Diego, home against Denver and Kansas City).

The Raiders play the 49ers and BIlls at home in December. I don’t see how you can take issue with that, the opponents are the opponents. They do play two cold-weather games in Kansas City and Denver, but if the Broncos have nothing to play for in Week 17 the Raiders may get a free win.

There are  only one or two tweaks to the schedule that would make it more ideal for the Raiders. Not playing Denver and Seattle in back-to-back weeks and trying to put one of the other cold-weather games in November instead of December.  Ideally, the  Raiders would have played St. Louis December 14th, Kansas City November 2nd and Seattle November 30th.

Overall, the Raider Nation has very little to complain about. The schedule doesn’t matter. Just Win, Baby!

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

2014 NFL Draft Prospects: Likes and Dislikes

Thanks to the great people at Draft Breakdown, I’ve been able to watch cutups of a lot of draft prospects over the last two years. One thing that has always bothered me is having to trust rankings and player opinions of other people. I don’t regularly watch college football, but even if I did, I couldn’t possible watch enough to evaluate draft prospects. A guy might jump off the screen, but otherwise you are missing a lot. There is also a big difference between focusing on a single player and watching a game—different things matter.

Here is a list of guys I liked a lot last year:

Star Lotulelei – My favorite player in the draft. The whole package.
Barkevious Mingo – My favorite pass-rusher. Flexibility with room to improve.
Sheldon Richardson – Liked him almost as much as Lotulelei. Impact player on every down in college.
D.J. Hayden – Didn’t get to watch him until late like most people, but he and Xavier Rhodes were 1A/1B at the cornerback position to me. Don’t give up on him yet Raider Nation.
Tyler Wilson – I learned that the quarterback position is a different animal with this one. What we don’t know about a player is even more important. In this case, Wilson’s struggles learning protections.
Eric Fisher – Rocky start to his career in KC, but has time to develop.
Arthur Brown – We’ll see if he gets more playing time this year.
Christine Michael – He will take over for Lynch eventually.
Markus Wheaton – Taking over a starting job this year. Could be a good fantasy value.
Kawann Short – Could see he was going to be a good interior rusher if he developed a little bit.
Datone Jones – Limited impact as a rookie, but I think he’ll be a solid player at the very least. Gil Brandt of NFL.com thinks he’ll have a big season in 2014.

I’m sure there were others players I liked, but these are the guys I remember. If there were others, feel free to remind me. It’s far too early to judge the class, but I’d say I have a pretty good eye for talent save the quarterback position.

Guys I didn’t like as much as other people:

Dion Jordan – I still liked him, but I felt like he wasn’t going to be an every-down player for a year or two.
Alec Ogletree – Athlete playing football.
Tavon Austin – Size does matter. Didn’t like him in the first round at all.
D.J. Fluker – Not as a tackle. Feet too slow in pass pro.
Jarvis Jones – Scheme made him good in college, but talent was never that great.
Desmond Trufant – Needed right scheme. Turns out, he landed in the perfect one.
Dee Milliner – NFL-level talent, but had a lot to learn about playing the position in the pros.
Sharrif Floyd – Impact greatly overstated. Short arms were a legit concern.
Bjoern Werner – One-trick pony. Talent not good enough to use that trick to great effect in the pros.
Manti Te’o – Always lost in the wash. Not an elite athlete.
Geno Smith – Had potential, but never looked like a first-round quarterback to me.

Just because I didn’t like them as much as others, doesn’t mean I didn’t see potential or wouldn’t have drafted them at some point. Smith ended up being drafted about where I thought he should. Same with Te’o. Fluker turned out to be good in San Diego’s offense, but would have been a nightmare in a pass-heavy one. Again, if I missed any, remind me and I will add them.

There isn’t as much to this scouting thing as some would have you believe. The reason some scouts never advance is that they don’t have an eye for talent or they aren’t willing to voice a strong opinion because they are too afraid of being wrong. That’s not to say you can become a scout easily or without some knowledge, but there are plenty of people not employed by NFL teams doing great scouting work.

 

2014 prospects I like better than their consensus ranking (in no particular order):

Odell Beckham Jr. – If he was a little bigger, people would think he’s the best in the class. If the Raiders got him at No. 5, I would not be disappointed.
Kyle Fuller – He does everything pretty well and has room to grow.
Zach Mettenberger – He has his issues, but most of them can be corrected. He may sit a year due to the knee injury anyway, making him an interesting target in the second round.
David Fales – If he can develop some arm strength, he’s got everything else you look for in a franchise guy.
Jarvis Landry – He’s not a burner, but he’s fast enough. Reminds me of guys like Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin and Jason Avant. Ceiling may be a little limited, but his floor is high.
Brandin Cooks – Slot receivers are becoming more and more important. Cooks is like a smaller Beckham.
Khalil Mack – He can do it all. He’s not quite Von Miller as a pass-rusher, but he’s still quite good. At SAM in a 4-3 is a great spot for him.
Greg Robinson – He has some pass pro limitations, but as I learned from Fluker last year, his length will help him overcome it. He has lighter feet than Fluker, so he has more upside and should be able to play on the left. He’s a beast in the run game. At worst, he’s an All-Pro guard.
Kony Ealy – Underrated pass-rusher.
Scott Crichton – Reminds me of Lamarr Houston, but with more upside as a pass-rusher.
Aaron Donald – Can be a liability against the run, so I might put him outside on early downs or surround him with a good nose and inside backer. He’s so quick once he starts moving, but I found his snap anticipation to be lacking at times. He’s going to be a good interior rusher, but he might not be a three-down player initially.
Sammy Watkins – I have concerns about him being elite at the NFL level because of his build and athleticism, but he does everything so well that I can’t not love him.

Players I don’t like as much as the consensus:

Mike Evans – Can he separate? If so, he’ll be the best in the class. I’m not convinced he can separate from NFL cornberbacks and get open without pushing off.
Kelvin Benjamin – He’s big, but that’s about it. Effort is iffy. Routes are sloppy. Stay away.
Anthony Barr – Inconsistent. Could be very good, but I am not taking him in the top 10.
Johnny Manziel – He’s Terrelle Pryor and Tim Tebow wrapped into a slightly different package. If those guys had developed into good passers, they might have been the next big thing. Manziel has a chance, but even if he does his size and style of play could lead to injury. Unlike Tebow and Pryor, he’ll also have to compensate for his lack of height. Huge risk. I’d take him in the second round.
Blake Bortles – So much work to do, but looks the part. Not the kind of quarterback I want in the top five. Needs to sit a year.
Jadeveon Clowney – I’d still love to have his talent, but is he Julius Peppers or Albert Haynesworth?

 

 

 

Posted in 2013 NFL Draft, 2014 NFL Draft Tagged with: ,

Podcast Episode 29 – DeSean Jackson, Carlos Rogers and More!


Listen in as I discuss DeSean Jackson, review free agency and discuss next steps for the Oakland Raiders.

or other podcast clients: http://raidersblog.com/feed/podcast

Posted in 2014 Free Agency, Free Agency, Podcast Tagged with: ,

Twitter

  • RT @LeskiwSFBay: Something relatively overlooked in #Raiders news, Vinnie Sunseri, son of coach Sal, was released by Saints. Kid has talent…
    about 6 hours ago
  • He doesn't stink...he plays undisciplined. https://t.co/MuOcuzyWsq
    about 8 hours ago
  • RT @caplannfl: #Raiders are expected to release QB Christian Ponder, per league source.
    about 8 hours ago
  • Moore was trade for a late - round pick in 2016. So the Raiders got something too.
    about 10 hours ago
  • RT @JimIrsay: Roster moves http://t.co/7r5uvqZViT
    about 10 hours ago