The Oakland Raiders didn’t have a pick until the last selection in the third round, and they also didn’t have much money to work with in free agency. However, the Raiders have a new head coach in Dennis Allen and a new general manager in Reggie McKenzie. These two will bring a completely different style to the Raiders than the city of Oakland is used to, and their mark will start to be felt on the organization in the post-Al Davis era.
The Raiders didn’t have a pick until the third round because of the Carson Palmer trade in 2011, as well as a trade up in the 2011 draft in which they used a second rounder. Their own pick in the third round was used in the compensatory draft to select former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but the Raiders got a compensatory pick for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who signed with the Eagles last year.
Oakland has some holes on their roster, as well as quite a bit of uncertainty, but they are talented and very tough to beat when their running game is on and the defense is forcing turnovers. This appears to be a team that plays better the less they think about it, if that makes sense. The Raiders always seem to be very aware of the culture surrounding their team, and when they embrace the fact that they are the Raiders and play tough, hard-nosed football, they seem to do well. When they try to adapt to the rest of the NFL, they seem to try too hard and make too many mistakes.
If none of that makes sense, just take from this rant that I believe the Raiders are a talented team, and they have the ability to be a playoff football club if things fall correctly, but they are going to need to do something they have been unable to for almost a decade now–be consistent. The Raiders are consistently one of the more penalized teams in the league, and they can look elite one week and look like the worst team in the NFL the next.
I also believe the Raiders have found a quarterback of the future in Terrelle Pryor. There are some who are very cool on Pryor, but I had him rated as a potential first round pick. If all had gone according to plan, I think 2012 would have been Pryor’s rookie year in the NFL, so he needs to be treated as such. He is an elite talent with elite playmaking ability, but he is still very green. The Raiders also boast young playmakers all across the board offensively, with running back Darren McFadden, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (and Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford), as well as defenders Lamarr Houston and franchise player Tyvon Branch.
The biggest question marks on the Raiders’ roster right now are at tight end, cornerback, and linebacker where they will have a bunch of new starters. Brett Myers is entering his first year as the team’s number one tight end after they cut Kevin Boss, and the Raiders are looking at a linebacker crew consisting of Philip Wheeler, Aaron Curry, and rookie fourth round pick Miles Burris (pending suspension for Rolando McClain). Here is a look at how the Raiders have upgraded their roster through the draft and undrafted free agency:
- Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah
- Miles Burris, LB, San Diego State
- Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State
- Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
- Christo Bilukidi, DE, Georgia State
- Nathan Stupar, LB, Penn State
Nevada DE Kaelin Burnett; Beloit WR Derek Carrier; Missouri DL Dominique Hamilton; Wisconsin S Aaron Henry; Fort Valley State P Marquette King; Arizona State OL Dan Knapp; Pittsburgh OL Lucas Nix; San Diego LB Mario Kurn; Temple WR Rod Streater
Top Undrafted Free Agent: Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin
A good athlete, former cornerback…Can lay some big hits…makes a lot of big plays (timely interceptions, returning the ball well once he gets his hands on it)…Has enough size…Has natural coverage ability, plus coverage guy for a safety…has plus range…can play some special teams as a return man and could be a real nice gunner… has some upside at the safety position
Older prospect who has had a significant injury at Wisconsin…Inconsistent play, probably stemming from a lack of great instincts…Isn’t a great technician and will give up some big plays from time to time…Games a little too much
3rd round to 4th round (I’m assuming he has a good combine)
Antrel Rolle S, NY Giants
I think Rolle has more natural ability, but they kind of play a similar game
Henry is a really talented safety prospect who has plus speed and good size. He is a good athlete with fluid hips who can turn and run. He’ll also fall into a lot of plays because of his athleticism, but I question his instincts. He seems to be on the wrong end of some bad plays as well. He is a free safety who can tackle though and I think he’s one of the top second tier safety prospects, one of the few who could develop into an every game kind of starter.
NFL Mocks Preseason bio:
Henry really burst onto the scene in 2010, and is a guy who is capable of making the big play at any time during the game. Has recovered a fumble for a touchdown, and picked off two passes in 2010 that were both returned for scores. Made the switch from cornerback to free safety in 2010 and really blossomed in that role. Severe knee injury derailed his 2008 season after a very solid freshman campaign, but has now returned to form. Biggest problem I have with Henry is that he will be 24 years old as a rookie, which is by no means the end of the world for him, but will probably prevent him from being a 2nd or 3rd round player. Leader on the defensive side of the ball who had 57 tackles and two interceptions in 2010 on his way to being named 2nd team All Big Ten, and Academic All Big Ten. This is a guy who has good size and speed, and will be a special teams ace early in his career. He will be a very solid contributor early in his career as a special teams player and nickel/dime defensive back who could eventually grow into a starter role at free safety.
2012 Offseason Player Movement
FB Owen Schmitt (Eagles)
OT Ed Wang (Bills)
QB Matt Leinart (Texans)
WR Duke Calhoun
S Matt Giordano (re-signed)
DE Dave Tollefson
LB Philip Wheeler (Colts)
RB Mike Goodson (trade w/Panthers)
OT Khalif Barnes (re-signed)
CB Patrick Lee
OG Cooper Carlisle (re-signed)
CB Shawntae Spencer
CB Ronald Bartell
OG Mike Brisiel
FB Marcel Reece (tendered)
DL Desmond Bryant (tendered)
S Tyvon Branch (franchised)
CB Stanford Routt (Chiefs)
DT John Henderson (retired)
OL Bruce Campbell (trade w/Panthers)
RB Michael Bush (Bears)
C Samson Satele (Colts)
DE Kamerion Wimbley (Titans)
DE Trevor Scott (Patriots)
WR Chaz Schilens (Jets)
TE Kevin Boss (Chiefs)
RB Rock Cartwright (49ers)
QB Jason Campbell (Bears)
CB Chris Johnson
S Hiram Eugene
2012 Draft Pick Analysis and Scouting Reports
1. Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah
Bergstrom is a guy who really fits the character profile of the new Raiders regime, and I think he was a solid pick at the end of the third round. He was a three-year starter at right tackle for Utah, and was named first team All-Pac 12 last season. Very efficient player who may likely be moved inside to start his NFL career. The reason I like this move is because Bergstrom offers the Raiders some versatility on an offensive line, which is in need of a youth movement at the guard positions. The Raiders can use Bergstrom at right tackle if they want to as well, and move last year’s third round pick Joe Barksdale to the interior. Either way, this team’s offensive line has been given some early round consideration in recent years with Jared Veldheer (third rounder), Stefan Wisniewski (second rounder), and the aforementioned Barksdale (third rounder) along with the third round pick out of Utah this year. I think this is a solid pick for the Raiders who address an area of need.
The Raiders really lack depth at the linebacker position, and that’s why I like this pick for them. Burris is a unique type of player who has really good size and solid athletic ability. I think Burris will wind up playing the SAM position for Oakland, because he is so effective rushing the quarterback, but they could use him in a number of different ways. He is pretty good at anticipating where the play is going to go, and is really good in his pursuit of the ball. Leader on and off the field, and plays with a great motor. Really solid closing speed and ability to blitz from different areas of the field. Dennis Allen–Oakland’s new head coach–will be creative in finding ways to use Burris as a rotational player and blitzing linebacker.
Big, long, pretty athletic defensive line prospect for the Raiders who can play inside or outside. He has good length and that helps him disengage from offensive linemen as well as bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. Still a very raw player who is originally from England and has a lot of growing to do. I think he has a solid frame that he can continue to grow into and he should contribute as a rotational player early in his career to compensate for the departed Trevor Scott.
Juron Criner has been productive since his sophomore season. He plays in a spread offense and has great chemistry with Nick Foles. He posses elite size and uses his body very well to shield defenders from the football. He has been productive in big games and would be a first round lock if it wasn’t for questions about his off the field antics. His passion for the game has been questioned…that is a bad sign. It doesn’t help that Teams likes the Rams, Patriots, Colts, and Jets would love to draft him.
Criner hasn’t had a terrible season, but he’s been passed up by players like Kendall Wright, Nick Toon, and he doesn’t offer the same kind of upside as a player like Miami Hurricanes Tommy Streeter. The big issue with Criner seems to be whether or not he is mentally capable of handling the N.F.L., and not in terms of intelligence, but his ability to deal and cope with stress (think Brandon Marshall) and his straight line speed. I have absolutely no insight about Criner’s mental capacities, that’s just the kind of rumors that are out there, if he interviews well and has a nice combine he could go in the second round, if not he’ll probably be a mid third round early fourth round guy because he has a lot of ability and he’s the kind of player who can make catches in traffic.
Criner will likely be the most talked about and most hyped Arizona prospect coming out this year, as he has a rare combination of size and speed at the receiver position. After showing what kind if playmaker he could be in 2009 as a sophomore by scoring nine touchdowns, he followed it up with a fantastic junior season where he caught 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 scores. Another good sign is that Criner seemingly got better and better as the season wore on, showing the coaches that he was not just a big play guy, but a possession receiver as well. Criner will be facing some of the nation’s top teams playing in the Pac 12, and I think he has a good chance to be a first round pick if he can come close to matching or even exceed his 2010 numbers. The wildcats like to get him the ball in space, but also stretch the field with their vertical threat.
5. Christo Bilukidi, DL, Georgia State
6’5″ 312 pound defensive line prospect who will play defensive end in the 3-4, Bilukidi was highly productive rushing the passer at Georgia State, getting 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss last year. Not a very well-known prospect, but it was estimated that his ceiling would be the sixth round of the draft, and that’s where the Raiders got him. They need depth on the defensive line, and they feel like they maybe got a gem here in Bilukidi, who has good size and very solid athletic ability as well. This was a very interesting pick for the Raiders, getting a guy who really flew under the radar.
The Raiders continue to seek depth for their linebacker crew here with this pick of Stupar, who was really productive at Penn State. Big and pretty athletic, Stupar will add depth to the inside linebacker position where the Raiders could certainly use his help since it appears as though Rolando McClain is in line for a suspension. Stupar can also probably contribute for this team on special teams as well, and give the Raiders consistent effort as a reserve player.
Projected Depth Chart (offense)
QB: Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor
RB: Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones, Lonyae Miller
FB: Marcel Reece, Owen Schmitt
WR1: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Juron Criner (R)
WR2: Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford
TE: Brandon Myers, David Ausberry, Richard Gordon
LT: Jared Veldheer, Zach Hurd
LG: Cooper Carlisle, Tony Bergstrom (R)
C: Stefen Wisniewski, Colin Miller
RG: Mike Brisiel, Tony Bergstrom
RT: Khalif Barnes, Joe Barksdale, Ed Wang
Projected Depth Chart (defense)
DE: Lamarr Houston, Dave Tollefson
DT: Richard Seymour, Desmond Bryant
DT: Tommy Kelly, Travis Ivey, Christo Bilukidi (R)
DE: Matt Shaughnessy, Jack Crawford (R)
OLB: Philip Wheeler, Travis Goethel
MLB: Rolando McClain (facing suspension), Nathan Stupar (R)
OLB: Aaron Curry, Miles Burris (R)
CB: Shawntae Spencer, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Bryan McCann
CB: Ronald Bartell, Chimdi Chekwa, Pat Lee
FS: Michael Huff, Matt Giordano, Aaron Henry
SS: Tyvon Branch, Mike Mitchell
K: Sebastian Janikowski
P: Shane Lechler
LS: Jon Condo