Raider Needs (Combine Day 1)

Photo Credit: raiders.comThe Oakland Raiders’ needs in relation to Day 1 of the NFL Combine are as follows:

• Right Tackle
• Right Guard
• Competition at Center
• A raw, but talented late round offensive tackle
• A big, but late round tight end with quick feet and good size and strength.

Each player will be asked in the next few days to participate in 7 specific drills that help scouts judge a players speed, strength, quickness, and agility.  Here is a link to help explain what each test consists of and why the players are asked to run them. 

I will be throwing a lot of numbers at you and for those with need of a little explanation, here’s a list of scores that are considered good for offensive linemen and tight ends. 

40-yard dash: 5.08-5.00 seconds (OL), 4.65-4.50 sec (TE)
225lbs Bench Press: 27-32 repetitions (OL), 22-28 reps (TE)
20-yard shuttle: 4.55-4.50 seconds (OL), 4.25-4.20 sec (TE)
Broad Jump: 9’2”-9’5” long (OL), 9’8”-10’3” long (TE)
3-cone drill: 7.55-7.48 seconds (OL), 6.90-6.85 sec (TE)
Vertical Jump: 26 in-29 inches (OL), 32-36 in (TE)
60-yard shuttle: 13.00-12.50 seconds, (OL) 11.20-11.80 sec (TE)

I believe the Raiders 2nd biggest need in this years draft is at right tackle, and mainly because there might be a great deal of talent at the beginning of the 2nd round that the Raiders can’t overlook.  Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said today that he believed there would be as many as 8 OT’s taken in the 1st round.  I think there will be needs that teams will have to fill with skilled positions before that many linemen get selected, but Chris Williams is one guy that I’m hoping drops to the 2nd round.  Williams proved to me to have everything the Raiders need in a right tackle.

Certain members of the media are able to get their hands on Raider coaches to gage their interest in potential player acquisitions, and it has come to my attention that some Raider coaches have grown a liking to Ryan Clady of Boise State.  Clady has experience in the zone-blocking scheme that the Raiders run, but just look at Robert Gallery and Barry Sims, they never played in a zone system until this year, and found great success.  I think Williams could start at right tackle Week 1, and I believe he’ll excel in the Raiders system.  I’ve been unable to find all the scores that Williams put up today, but when I do, I’ll update either this posting or his profile in the draft guide I’ll be posting after the Combine.  I might end up changing my stance on Williams, but for now, he’s my pick for the Raiders in the 2nd round; if he’s around.

I’d like to see the Raiders draft a young quick guard that just needs a year or two in the weight and film room to break the starting lineup, but I’ve only found one guy.  Mike Pollack of Arizona State excelled in the 40-yard dash (5.02- good for 3rd best), broad jump (9’2”), 3-cone drill (7.49 seconds), bench press (29 reps), and won the 20-yard shuttle.  Pollack stands at 6’4” and weights a pound under a 300; which is the ideal weight for a guard in the Raiders system.  I haven’t noticed any other players that fit that mold, and I’m thinking Tom Cable agrees.

Because of the agility demands of the Raiders zone blocking scheme, line coach Tom Cable estimated that two-thirds of the linemen are eliminated off the top.

“Maybe not quite that much if they lose a little weight,” Cable said.

If I got my wish, the Raiders would sign free-agent guard Alan Faneca, and the whole offensive line would be shoved to the bottom the Raiders draft needs.  Their focus could then move to other positions.  I does not matter who the Raiders get to play right tackle if Faneca is signed.  Hell, Paul McQuistan did a decent enough job beside Cooper Carlise that he’d look like a solid starter next to Faneca.  But I’ll get into free-agency after the Combine; besides; nothing can happen until free-agency begins on February 29th anyway.

Zach over at the Arrowhead Addict pointed out earlier today how well TE Dustin Keller of Purdue performer this morning (4.53 40, 38-inch vertical jump, 26 reps at 225lbs, and an absurd 10’11” broad jump), but the guy I like in Silver and Black is Tennessee’s Brad Cottam.  24 reps at the bench press and a 4.63 40 are good, but not as good as Keller’s.  The thing is Keller’s 6’3” and 242 lbs.  Cottam is 6’8” and 271lbs.  Cottam also has better hands than Keller, and comes from a far better program.  The Raiders’ Zach Miller catches nearly everything thrown at him, but struggles with blocking.  Miller’s meager 16 reps at the bench last year shows why, but Cottam’s 24 reps, and 171lbs frame (nearly all muscle) could take the Raiders run and pass blocking to a higher level. 

So out of Day 1 there looks like 3 players who I could see excelling in Oakland.  Cottam will probably not go in the first two rounds of May’s draft, but after a good Senior Bowl, incredible physical intangibles, and a strong showing at the Combine, Cottam looks more like a 3rd round prospect.  Cottam did miss the entire season due to injury, and has had 5 major surgeries during his college career, so there might be a chance he could fall to the Raiders at the beginning of the 4th round.   But sadly, he’s not worth the Raiders drafting any higher, and partly because Miller has progressed so well.

There is a good possibility that Chris Williams will be gone when the Raiders make their 2nd selection, so because there are only a handful of teams that will be looking for an undersized guard, Mike Pollack could end up being the only option.

Then there’s the biggest offensive tackle prospect in the draft (Jake Long).  I honestly was blown away by his bench press.  I thought of him as a great tackle with quick feet and great instincts, but I never thought he had anything near the power he showed today.  38 reps at 225lbs is something I’ve never seen from an offensive tackle.  He stands over 6’7” and weighs 315lbs with little to no fat on his body, and is in obviously superb cardiovascular condition.  Whoever drafts him may have picked the greatest OT of all time.  Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden came into the league with more praise, but have nowhere near the amount of brute strength that Long has.  How can one man be so ready to dominate at the next level?  I mean the guy gave up a sack in his freshmen season and one this year, that’s it.  It’ll suck to have to deal with him in Kansas City for the next 15 years, but the Raiders just can’t draft him.  They established the 4th best running game last season, and with all their other needs, are probably better off spending the early rounds drafting other players than O-linemen.  So as much as Long, Pollack, and Williams would fit the Raiders well, they’ll probably be gone before the Raiders look to assess any needs on the o-line.  But it’s only Day 1, and there’s still so much information left to gather.  I have a good feeling about a couple prospects at the center position, but I still have more film to watch before I start mentioning anyone.  At the end of the Combine I’ll post all the prospects that I believe should be high on the Raiders’ wish list. 

There’s still a lot to learn during the next week, and we’re just scratching the surface.  Tomorrow is the Combine’s biggest day when the quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs get tested, and after the defense wraps-up the final two days of the Combine (Monday and Tuesday), free-agency begins on Friday.  I’ll help everyone (including myself) out by posting my guide to all of the top prospects in this year’s draft on Wednesday, and I’ll add a Raider free-agent page the day before the market opens. 

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