There is a lot to digest from the Raiders’ draft and offseason as a whole. They are undergoing one of the biggest roster makeovers in the NFL right now, so while I expect them to really struggle to win games this year, I think you’re going to see a big culture change in Oakland from the Al Davis regime to the Reggie McKenzie regime. McKenzie came over from Green Bay, where the philosophy was to spend wisely and to grow your talent in house.
Oakland has moved on from a lot of major acquisitions in recent drafts, including former first round picks Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Huff, and Rolando McClain. The team also cut ties with Carson Palmer, who was the reason why they didn’t have a first rounder last year or a 2nd rounder of their own this year.
Here is my evaluation of the Raiders picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. First round, 12th overall: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
I love this pick. Not only were the Raiders able to trade down with the Dolphins and pick up a second round selection, but they were also able to get a guy who some considered to be the top cornerback prospect in the draft. Hayden was cleared medically by all 32 NFL teams after a strange internal bleeding incident that nearly took his life. His miraculous story is one of the most compelling among 2013 prospects, but on the field, this kid can play. Hayden has some of the best closing speed I watched among corners, and I love his competitive drive and ball skills. He’s a willing tackler and while his game needs some refinement, I think he can step into the NFL as a rookie and not only start, but play at a very high level.
2. Second round, 42nd overall: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Watson is an import from England who is one of the most intriguing players in the draft. At 6’5″ 310 pounds, this guy is a good athlete who is a former boxer and basketball player. When I watched Watson play, you notice he is a bit raw, but I love his footwork and I think he has the ability to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. That’s likely why the Raiders picked him up with such a premium draft choice, and they got great value as Watson was ranked in my top 25, and I didn’t see him sneaking out of the first round due to the number of offensive linemen we all figured would be taken in the draft. He will start out his career at right tackle, battling Khalif Barnes for the starting job opposite Jared Veldheer.
3. Third round, 66th overall: Sio Moore, LB, UConn
This is another great value pick at a position of need for the Raiders. They basically decided to start from scratch this offseason at the linebacker position, signing three new guys who can start for them potentially. I think Moore has a chance to play a significant role as a rookie, however, and it’s because of his versatility. I was able to talk to this guy before the draft, and I was most impressed by how competitive he is, and how hard he is going to work to earn his stripes in the league. He is an extremely versatile linebacker who can rush the quarterback, make plays behind the line of scrimmage, and cover tight ends. I think he’s a steal in the third round, to be honest. He stole the show this offseason at the East-West game, the Combine, etc. He is a fantastic athlete who will be a great pickup for the Raiders here.
4. Fourth round, 112th overall: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
This is another home run pick for the Raiders. They got Wilson at a good spot, and like third rounder Russell Wilson last year with the Seahawks, Tyler Wilson has a chance to come in and steal the Raiders’ starting QB job away from Matt Flynn, the same guy Russell Wilson stole the job from last year with Seattle. He will have to get past Terrelle Pryor as well-a guy I was really high on-but Wilson has as good a chance to start year one as any rookie QB in this draft, probably. He has a very strong arm, and while he regressed as a senior, you can’t question his toughness on the field. I think going through the coaching change at Arkansas really hurt him, coupled with the fact that his top three receivers went off to the NFL. This should turn out to be a very good selection for the Raiders.
5. Sixth round, 172nd overall: Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado
This is a guy who has a lot of upside, and while he has struggled with injuries throughout his career, I think the 6’6″ 279 pound beast could be a great addition for the Raiders, who really needed help at the TE position. He is a former defensive end who battled injuries throughout his career at Colorado, but finally came into his own as a senior. I really like his potential athletically. Still a very raw prospect, though.
6. Sixth round, 181st overall: Latavius Murray, RB, Central Florida
The late, great Al Davis would be very, very proud of this selection. Murray largely went unnoticed over the last year, and he shouldn’t have. He was a first-team All-Conference USA selection after rushing for over 1,1oo yards with 18 rushing touchdowns and four more receiving, catching 27 passes on the season. I think this could be the biggest steal of their draft given the fact that Murray produced at Central Florida, and then showed up at the UCF Pro Day at 6’3″ 223 pounds, running a 4.38 second 40 yard dash with 22 bench press reps and a 36-inch vertical jump. Those numbers are off the charts for a man of his size, and he’s not just a good athlete who underachieved. He worked his butt off to be a thousand yard back last season. This is a great pickup for the Raiders, who needed a backup RB.
7. Sixth round, 184th overall: Mychal Rivera, TE, Tennessee
Rivera had a solid senior season at Tennessee with 36 catches for 562 yards and five touchdown grabs, and I think he’s a better pass catcher than their previous TE pick in Nick Kasa. This is a guy who doesn’t have the greatest speed at 6’3″ 242 pounds, but he has some potential as a TE/H-back for the Raiders who can move around the offense. I think he’s a good developmental guy in the sixth.
8. Sixth round, 206th overall: Stacy McGee, DT, Oklahoma
Player coming off of a suspension last year who had some red flags going into the draft, but may be worth the risk here in the later portion of the draft. This is a bit of an odd pick for the Raiders, considering they are moving toward adding guys who don’t really have a lot of baggage coming out, but they obviously feel like his past will not be an issue. They need help on their defensive line rotation.
9. Seventh round, 209th overall: Brice Butler, WR, San Diego State
When you draw up an NFL wide receiver, you want them to look like Brice Butler, who checks in at 6’3″ 214 pounds and runs a 4.37 40 yard dash, has a 39-inch vertical jump, and a 10’9″ broad jump. He will compete for the fifth receiver spot in Oakland, but he may have a leg up since his new WR coach is also the WR coach that he had at USC before he transferred to San Diego State. There is a lot of untapped potential here.
10. Seventh round, 233rd overall: David Bass, DE, Missouri Western
Bass put up freakish numbers in terms of making plays behind the line of scrimmage at Missouri Western, and is one of the best division II prospects coming out in this draft. I’m not trying to be overly positive about every single pick teams make, but this is a guy who could come in year one and contribute in the Raiders’ defensive rotation due to his specific skill set and the Raiders’ lack of pass rushers. I really like his quickness and overall athletic ability, and think he’s more than worth this pick in the seventh round.
I really like the Raiders’ draft. They added ten players who give them depth, give them some fresh new talent, and I think they are really beginning to change the culture of this team. Really solid overall draft.