Raider Needs (Combine Days 3 & 4)

The Oakland Raiders’ needs in relation to Day 3 of the NFL Combine are as follows:

Photo Credit: raiders.com• A defensive lineman that can start Week 1.  With the signing of Tommy Kelly, I think they’ll go defensive end.
• Depending on the 1st round pick, either a 2nd or 3rd round linemen.  With poor play all over the D-line, the Raiders are in need of two D-linemen on day 1.
• Competition at strong-side linebacker.  Too many needs to fill for this to be high on their list, and with the weak linebacker crops, don’t expect them to pick a linebacker high; unless a 3rd round value drops to the 4th or 5th.

Each player was asked 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 defensive tackles, ends, and linebackers.

40-yard dash: 5.05-4.95 seconds (DT), 4.85-4.60 sec (DE), 4.60-4.50 (LB)*
225lbs Bench Press: 27-32 repetitions (DT), 24-28 reps (DE), 20-25 (LB)*
20-yard shuttle: 4.65-4.55 seconds (DT), 4.45-4.35 sec (DE), 4.25-4.15 (LB)
Broad Jump: 9’0”-9’5” long (DT), 9’8”-10’3” long (DE), 10’2”-10’6” (LB)*
3-cone drill: 7.50-7.35 seconds (DT), 7.35-7.25 (DE), 6.85-6.75 sec (LB)*
Vertical Jump: 28-30 inches (DT), 31-33 in (DE), 34-38 (LB)*
60-yard shuttle: 12.50-12.30 seconds (DT), 12.00-11.80 (DE) 11.75-11.50 sec (LB)*

* Note: Former college defensive ends that will be moved to 3-4 outside-linebackers apply to linebacker numbers in these drills.  Just think about it like this, they’re better off as linebackers at the professional level, but unlike most linebackers, the outside-linebackers in a 3-4 still put up some numbers similar to highly rated defensive ends.  So in other words, DE Vernon Gholston put up a 40-yard dash time that was better than most linebackers, but ran a 20-yad shuttle equal to most highly regarded defensive ends.  It doesn’t mean Gholston runs a slow shuttle; it just means there are some numbers that will still remind us that this isn’t an average 6’2” 250lbs linebacker.  Guys like Gholston (i.e. Shawn Merriman, Terrell Suggs, DeMarcus Ware, etc.) are 6’3-5” and 260-270lbs, and were born to put their hand on the ground.  Bill Parcels found a way to get these slightly undersized defensive ends in space where they can utilize all their abilities.  I hope that makes sense.

I believe the Raiders biggest need in this years draft is at the defensive line.  The signing of Tommy Kelly makes me think that the Raiders know he’s on track to recover soon; so I’ll take it as an indication that Kelly will be ready Week 1.

I think Kelly will play all over the Raiders D-line, but he’ll start at defensive tackle more often so that the Raiders can pay him a defensive tackles salary and not a defensive ends.  But the Raiders will still need to draft at least two D-linemen to fill their need for another starter, and a backup that will see a lot of playing time.  With Terdell Sands being locked up, I don’t think they’ll go with another starter at DT.  Not because I think Sands should start, but because the Raiders now need a starter at DE due to all the time Kelly’s going to play at tackle.  Sands gives the Raiders depth that they’ll need, and might even start if the Raiders pick a DE in the 1st round of the draft, and go to the offensive side of the ball in the 2nd.

So with that said, let me get to what I think the Raiders should do.  I’m going to give you a hint about the mock draft I’ll be posting soon; I think the 1st overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft will be Sedrick Ellis.  This might be a surprise to some, but I think Chris Long played himself out of the #1 spot.  And Bill Parcells is the reason.  Parcells is known for many quotes but the one that fits this scenario is, “this is why you lifted all those weights” (a Parcells quote before one of his Super Bowl titles).  I used that quote because Chris Long DID NOT LIFT at the Combine.  There is no way in hell Parcells drafts a player that can’t tear apart the weight room.  I’m not saying Long isn’t a workout warrior, but the man refused to show what he can do at the bench, and that tells me he doubts his upper body strength.  Unless he hits up 225lbs over 25 times on his Pro-Day (workout), Parcells will never take him.  So as of right now I have Ellis going to the Dolphins at #1.  Ellis is a beast who’s dominated every player he’s ever gone against, and has the size and power that Parcells loves (6’0″ 309lbs, 34 reps).  Ellis lacks some weight, but I think he’s got room to get himself to 315lbs without lossing any strength or quickness.   

Glenn Dorsey doesn’t fit the scheme Parcells runs, and has injury concerns, so he’s not in contention.  Chris Long has looked for weeks like a lock at the #1 spot, but I’m starting to doubt his ability in a 3-4 front.  Long doesn’t have the speed to be a 3-4 outside-linebacker (4.75 40), or the power (I’m inferring) to play defensive end in a 3-4. 

Now getting back to the draft; if Ellis is taken at #1, then I again think Long will be past over.  I think the St. Louis Rams will take Jake Long over Chris Long, and only because Jake showed he has all the tools to start right away, and as much as Chris Long is a great prospect, you can’t select Chris’ evaluations over Jake’s.  I then see the Atlanta Falcons drafting Darren McFadden at the #3 spot.  McFadden again beats out Chris because the Falcons need a crowd gatherer, and nothing Chris Long does on the field will fill seats, but a couple incredible runs by McFadden could mask some of the games the Falcons will inevitably lose.  The Falcons drafted Jamaal Anderson to play the position Long would play with them, so withat all that, I think McFadden will be selected instead. 

So that leaves the son of Howie Long dropping to the Raiders at #4. 

I’ll examine this further, but that’s where my gut is right now.

There’s one guy I think that could really help the interior of the Raiders D-line and he won’t cost them a 1st or 2nd pick.  Dre Moore of Maryland was my defensive MVP for the Senior Bowl week of practice.  With hands that seemed to strike his opponents quicker than any other prospect, Moore pushed around every interior blocker he faced.  At 305lbs he ran a 4.85 40, and even though I hold the DT’s running of the 40-yard dash with little regard, it shows athleticism that few men his size has.  He hit the bench up 31 times, and scored in the top 10 of all the skill tests (for a defensive tackle).  I think that Moore would be a great fit for the Raiders in the 3rd round.

Now if the Raiders take Glenn Dorsey with their 1st selection then I can see them taking Lawrence Jackson at the start of the 2nd round.  Jackson is a 6’4” 271lbs defensive end from USC that ran a 4.80 40, and had 31 reps at the bench.  Jackson looked so good at the Combine that he might find his way into the first two rounds even though he’s never been a star.  If some teams avoid his raw ability, then he could be around when the Raiders make their 2nd or 3rd pick.  The Raiders could also take Jackson at the beginning of the 2nd round if McFadden ends up being the best player available when the Raiders make their 1st selection, but I think he’s more of a 3rd round talent.

I’m not sure what the Raiders are going to do with the strong-side linebacker spot, but I do have a couple ideas, but I’ll get into those as we get a better look at what the free-agent market is going to look like (so many players released today that I’m holding off until the madness of the next 24 hours ends to post the free-agents that I think the Raiders should go after).

There are a couple of linebackers I’d like to see back up Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard.  I’m really not a fan of the Raiders back up linebackers, and wouldn’t mind seeing most of them cut (Robert Thomas, Isaiah Ekejiuba, and Ricky Brown).  Ben Moffitt is the guy I want backing up Morrison.  Moffitt’s a prototypical 4-3 inside linebacker with good strength (23 reps), and great ball hawking skills.  He didn’t run a 40 at the Combine, and probably won’t run anything better than a 4.85 when he does, but he was born to play football.  Geno Hayes (6’2” 220lbs, 4.69 40, 22 reps) of Florida State is another linebacker that I think could be a great contributor on a special teams that struggled last season.  Xavier Adibi is the final linebacker that I think could drop to the last 2 rounds that would be worth a pick.  Adibi could be a great asset on special teams and provide great competition at training camp.  Adibi would get drafted early if it weren’t for his size (6’1” 234lbs) and Combine performance (4.72 40, and did not bench).  He’s a great football player, but unless Tampa Bay or Indianapolis (he could only start in their schemes) are willing to take a chance on him, I don’t see him getting drafted until at least the 4th round.

There are still a lot of other players that could really help the Raiders but I didn’t want to drown you with all of them.  I think these are the players that fit the Raiders right now, and will post any adjustments as free-agency alters their needs.

Photo Credit: ESPN.comThe Oakland Raiders’ needs in relation to Day 4 of the Combine are slim to none at the present time, but here are some players that fit the Raiders system, and that I think should be of interest if the Raiders release or trade any of their secondary.

Here’s a list of scores that are considered good for cornerbacks and safeties.

40-yard dash: 4.50-4.40 seconds (CB), 4.55-4.45 sec (S)
225lbs Bench Press: 14-18 repetitions (CB), 18-22 reps (S)
20-yard shuttle: 4.09-4.05 seconds (CB), 4.15-4.10 sec (S)
Broad Jump: 10’8”-10’10” long (CB), 10’5”-10’7” long (S)
3-cone drill: 6.70-6.65 seconds (CB), 6.75-6.70 (S)
Vertical Jump: 35-37 inches (CB), 34-36 in (S)
60-yard shuttle: 11.25-11.15 seconds (CB), 11.25-11.20 (S)

Josh Barrett is a big safety from Arizona State that could add a great deal of competition.  Barrett was a solid player in college, but destroyed the Combine, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders/Al Davis spend their 3rd selection on the track star (4.35 40, 17 reps).  I don’t think spending a 3rd round selection is a good idea, but I could see Davis pulling them trigger.

Dominique Rogers-Cromartie is by far the best cornerback prospect in the draft, and has all the typical numbers that the Raiders look for (6’1” 184lbs, 17 reps, and a 4.33 40).  Cromartie would also do a great job in the man-to-man coverage scheme the Raiders run.

Another physical freak that Al Davis would love to get his hands on is Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson.  Johnson had a 10’7” broad jump, 11.17 sec 60-yard shuttle, a linemen like 27 reps, and a great 4.43 40.  It’s hard to say what round Johnson will find a home in, but if he’s around when the Raiders make their 3rd round pick, like Barrett, I can see him being taken by the Raiders there.

The guy that would do great in Oakland is Tom Zibikowski.  The Notre Dame alum could start at strong safety this year.  He’s a former heavy-weight boxer that runs a 4.52 40 and can bench 225lbs at least 24 times.  There are some rumors that Michael Huff’s on the trading block, but I’ve found nothing from my local sources that makes believe there’s any validity to it.  The only news I’ve heard is that Huff will move to free safety to better utilize his speed (4.33 40), and that the Raiders are looking to add a veteran or two to compete for Huff’s vacated spot.  Zibikowski could fill that void right away.  Unlike the possibilities of Barrett and Johnson, Zibikowski is one DB that I would be in complete favor of the Raiders using their 3rd selection on.

Craig Steltz is the only other safety that I thought was worth a pick, but after he decided not to bench or run a 40, I think he’s only worth signing as an undrafted free-agent.  The LSU DB might be banged up, but I haven’t heard anything.  I’m hoping he works out at the LSU Pro Day and puts up some decent numbers, because my gut says this kid can play at the next level.

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