Raider Needs (Combine Day 2)

Photo Credit: raiders.comThe Oakland Raiders’ needs in relation to Day 2 of the NFL Combine are as follows:

• Competition for the injury-prone Justin Fargas, and talented enough to start one day.
• A 2nd-3rd round pick on a future starting Wide Receiver.
• An explosive 4th-5th round Wide Receiver with no higher than 4.35 40 (AKA, Al Davis’ yearly pick).
• A late round quarterback that can be develop into JaMarcus Russell’s dependable backup.

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 quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, and the few scores that matter for fullbacks.

40-yard dash: 4.85-4.65 seconds (QB), 4.55-4.40 sec (WR, RB), 4.60-4.50 (FB)
225lbs Bench Press: 10-15 repetitions (QB), 15-20 reps (WR, RB), 20-25 (FB)
20-yard shuttle: 4.35-4.30 seconds (QB), 4.15-4.05 sec (WR), 4.25-4.20 (RB)
Broad Jump: 9’0”-9’5” long (QB), 11’0”-11’5” long (WR), 10’6”-11’0” (RB)
3-cone drill: 7.00-6.80 seconds (QB), 6.60-6.45 sec (WR, RB)
Vertical Jump: 28-30 inches (QB), 36-39 in (WR), 35-38 (RB)
60-yard shuttle: 12.00-11.50 seconds, (QB) 11.00-10.80 sec (WR, RB)

I believe the Raiders 2nd biggest need in this years draft is at right tackle, but if Lane Kiffin stays around, then LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes will be gone, and the Raiders 2nd most important draft need would turn to the running back position.  The Raiders excelled at running the ball this last season, but lost Jordan early in the season to injury, and Fargas late in the season to injury.  Michael Bush will get his shot at proving he would’ve been a 1st round selection a year ago if he were to have been healthy.  Like my assessment of the offensive tackles on Day 1 of the Combine, there is a lot of early round talent at running back.  It all depends on which OT’s and RB’s remain when the Raiders make their 2nd selection.

There are a lot of very talented running backs coming out this year, and if the Raiders get lucky, they could end up with one hell of a prospect.  Rashard Mendenhall may not make it out of the first round, but he certainly would fit in perfectly in Oakland.  Mendenhall was the Big-10 offensive player of the year, and did well running the ball both inside the tackles and outside.  He also did an excellent job receiving the football.  Mendenhall had a very good Rose Bowl, and showed a lot of agility at ESPN’s College football All-Star skills & drills competition.  Mendenhall made things even more difficult for him to drop to the Raiders by performing so well yesterday.  He put up 26 reps at the bench, a surprisingly great 4.45 40, and won what I consider the best test for a running back in a zone-blocking run scheme; the 20-yard shuttle (4.18 seconds).  It’s hard to rule Mendenhall or Vanderbilt OT Chris Williams out of the 2nd round because there are just so many talent players at every position this year, there’s going to be somebody that will drop to the Raiders at the 38th overall pick.

Then there’s Darren McFadden who destroyed the Combine and all the numbers that Adrian Peterson put up last season.  McFadden ran an amazing 4.33 40, and moved fluidly through every drill he attempted.  There is more that is needed to be seen at the bench press from McFadden, and if he doesn’t show all the undeniable physical attributes that warrant a top 3 selection, then the Raiders might be forced to pick the potential that McFadden has over Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis.  I’m not going to get to far ahead, but if Ellis destroys the weight room and skills tests like he did to every elite o-lineman at the Senior Bowl, then he might go ahead of McFadden.  In other words, Ellis would be the surer pick, but only because McFadden isn’t flawless, and Ellis just might be.

But I’m going to stay with my gut and say the Raiders will have Ellis as the best prospect when they pick at #4, and that the Raiders will look to the best offensive tackle or running back on the board when they make their 2nd selection.

So if Mendenhall doesn’t end up dropping to the 2nd round, I’d be just as satisfied with the selection of McFadden’s backup, Felix Jones.  He came in 2nd right behind Mendenhall in the 20-yard shuttle, and ran a very respectable 4.47 40.  Jones scored well with a 10’4” broad jump and 33.5 inch vertical.  He had an above average bench (20 reps) and 3-cone drill, but scored in the top 10 in 5 out of the 7 drills being tested.  Best part; because of McFadden’s presence, Jones only got about 1/3 of the carries during his career at Arkansas.  That means he’s got far less miles on his legs.  I love Rutgers’ Ray Rice, but the little guy’s averaged over 30 carries a game during his 3 year college carrier.  The Raiders need a guy that can handle splitting carries with the newly re-signed Fargas, and as much as I’d love for Mendenhall to become a Raider, his off-season workouts make him less and less of a possibility.  Jones is use to sharing the role, and knows how to excel in a backup role, so he might end up being the best player left, and the best fit. 

Now staying on the whole best o-linemen or running back available, even that plan needs a backup.  If none of the o-linemen or running backs are left in the 2nd round, then the Raiders need to next look at the best available wide receivers.  The wide receiver position is not littered with much early round talent, and because of that some of the top 3 receivers could be there where the Raiders select.  Mario Manningham has not wowed scouts with any impressive numbers, but neither has he hurt himself (I’ll have all his Combine numbers in his profile when my draft guide goes up on Wednesday).  If Manningham or Limas Sweed of Texas are available when the Raiders make their 2nd selection, and there aren’t any top ranked running backs or linemen (either defensive or offensive), then I’d be satisfied with either wide-out.

Then there’s Al Davis’ yearly selection of speed.  Well there’s plenty of speed in the Raiders secondary already, but not that much at wide receiver.  There are a couple of guys the Raiders are looking at possibly selecting on Day 2 of the draft; Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State, and Donnie Avery, Houston.  Avery had an alright week of practice at the Senior Bowl, but only ran a 4.50 40 yesterday, and after that; there’s no way Davis will select him.  Jackson comes from a great program, but out of a sub-par division.  Jackson ran an incredible 4.37 40 yesterday, and might be worth a look at the beginning of the 5th round, but not any earlier.

But one thing I’m worrying about is the Raiders wasting a 2nd or 3rd round selection on local boy DeSean Jackson.  He out ran a superb 4.32 40, but has the body of a 15 year-old girl (5’9″ 165lbs), and won’t except that his career will never be as a #1 wide-out.  If he drops to the 5th round where he deserves to be, then the Raiders shouldn’t hesitate to select him as a possible kick-off specialist, but nothing more.  Look for Jackson’s profile in my upcoming draft guide for my complete overview, and a little inside info that’s been fed to me by some of his former teammates.

But there is one local boy that I think the Raiders should draft in the 6th or 7th round, and that’s former University of Miami quarterback Kyle Wright (6’4″ 220lbs, 4.85 40, 4.32 20-yard shuttle).  The Bay Area native was considered the best prep quarterback in the country when he declared to attend Miami, but never became the player that everyone thought he would.  He has all the physical intangibles that NFL coaches look for in a quarterback, but I believe found little success due to a couple pathetic recruiting classes by the Hurricanes.  I think Wright will find comfort in coming back to the Bay, and under Josh McCown could become as sturdy as Damon Huard is at being a #2 quarterback.

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.  It’s gotten so crazy that I can’t even keep up.  Today the Combine features defensive linemen and linebackers, and after the 2 groups of defensive backs go tomorrow, 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.

Player being talked about: Running back Chris Johnson from East Carolina ran an amazing 4.24 40-yard dash, but showed me nothing else that says he’s worth drafting before the 4th round.  His only other top 10 scores yesterday were in the broad jump and vertical leap.  Any guy with a 4.24 40 that doesn’t even rank in any of the quick twitch speed drills (20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill) tells me he’s just a straight line sprinter.  He doesn’t have the hands or size to be a receiver, so he looks to at best become a good kick-returner.

Only Fullback worth mentioning:  West Virgina fullback Owen Schmitt loves football and showed it in every drill.  The 6’2″ 250lbs run blocker hit-up the 225lbs bench 26 times, and ran through drills better than most running backs yesterday.  Raiders’ first year fullback Oren O’Neal had an above-average season, and it maybe because I’m just trying to find a place for this guy in Oakland, but I think Schmitt could be worth selecting at the beginning of the 5th or 6th round. 

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