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: ,

Raiders Salary Cap Floor Calculations 2013-2016

The NFL requires every team to spend 89% of the salary cap in cash over a four-year period from 2013-2016. The Raiders spend just $63.4 million in cash last season, leaving a $46.1 million deficit to makeup over the next three years.

This can be made up by giving large signing bonuses or roster bonuses to free agents in any of the next three seasons. However, signing bonuses are prorated and would create dead money if that player is released in the future.

The better way to do things is use the available funds to give large roster bonuses, which is exactly what the Raiders are doing. Instead of trying to make up the cash deficit in one year by giving out large signing bonuses, it makes more sense to chip away at it a little bit every year. General manager Reggie McKenzie has been described as a slow and methodical man, so this is likely the route he will go.

Below is a chart that included the current cash the Raiders have devoted to the roster through 2016 according to overthecap.com. These numbers can adjust downwards if a player is cut prior to the expiration of their deal. If that happens, the Raiders would have to make up for it with more spending.

What you will see here is also the minimum needed to spend 89% of each year. No team has to hit the minimum in any one year, but they will have to make it up in the other three if they don’t. Some teams spent a lot of cash in 2013, so they can spend less in 2014, 2015 and/or 2016 if they wish.

YearCash SpendingCap%Min to stay on scheduleDeficit

The Raiders have some spending to do, but just how much spending is a little harder to determine. The salary cap is only a rough estimate, but if the Raiders don’t start spending cash over and above the cap (signing bonuses that are prorated over the life of the contract), they will have to spend nearly 99% of the salary cap in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to hit the 89% minimum. This is because they spent just 51.5% of the cap in cash in 2013.

Spending can be broken up into two parts. Rookie spending and spending on free agents or extensions. The Raiders don’t have many players that are currently deserving of extension and only the 2013 rookie class will be able to renegotiate their deals by 2016. An extension for linebacker Sio Moore would be possible.

Per overthecap.com’s 2014 rookie pool breakdown, I determined that roughly 75% of the total rookie value contracts will be paid in the next three years. Assuming similar structure going forward, there would be 50% of 2015’s rookie contracts and 25% of 2016 rookie contracts.

Taking what is necessary to spend, adding rookie contracts leaves a remainder of what must be spent to reach 89% each year. Add to that the $15.4 million each year to makeup for 2013’s deficit.

YearRookie Cash TotalRookie Cash 2013-2016Current Cash SpendCap (Estimated 2015/2016)FA Spending to Stay on ScheduleDeficit Catch-up From 2013Total Cash For Free Agents

Based on these rough estimates, the Raiders need to spend about $14.9 million more in 2014, $60.3 million in 2015 and $106.1 million in 2016. A three-year contract would obviously impact all three of those numbers. Hypothetically, a three-year contract worth $30 million would bring 2014’s number down to $4.9 million, 2015 down to $50.3 million and 2015 down to $96.1 million.

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

Just For Fun – Raiders 2014 Free Agency in Pictures

Reggie "Lil Wayne" McKenzie

Reggie “Lil Wayne” McKenzie

It's "Breaking Bad" for the Raiders

It’s “Breaking Bad” for the Raiders

Al’s Millions

Reggie’s Poker Face

Scrooge McKenzie

World Series of Reggie

Crabby McKenzie

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

The Raidersblog Podcast Episode 28 — Free Agency Primer 2014

Christopher Hansen stays up late to bring you an after dark version of the podcast discussing free agency.

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The RaidersBlog Podcast Episode 27

Christopher Hansen and Taylor Armosino dive into the future of Dennis Allen in a marathon podcast.

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The RaidersBlog Podcast Episode 26

Christopher Hansen and Taylor Armosino discuss the future of the 4-9 Raiders.

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The RaidersBlog Podcast Episode 25

Christopher Hansen and Taylor Armosino discuss the Raiders’ 28-23 victory over Houston, the ever-changing QB situation and Oakland’s playoff outlook

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Posted in Podcast Tagged with: ,

The RaidersBlog Podcast Episode 24

Christopher Hansen and Taylor Armosino discuss the Raiders 21-18 victory over Pittsburgh, the schedule moving forward and the suddenly very good Oakland defense.

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

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The RaidersBlog Podcast Episode 23

Oakland loses 24-7 in Kansas City. Chris Hansen and Taylor Armosino discuss the game, what it means for Terrelle Pryor and how the Raiders can fix their offensive line

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

Posted in Podcast


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