Day 2 Recap

29 04 2008

Do these look like football schools to you?

With only one pick in the first two rounds of the draft, and only four picks through rounds 3-7, the Raiders needed to maximize the value of each pick. As a whole, Oakland drafted small school prospects who are not very polished but have great potential.

To start with, the Raiders traded with Dallas to pick at the top of the fourth round. After they saw two high value cornerbacks slip, Oakland selected Tyvon Branch of Connecticut. This was an interesting pick, since the Raiders are very stocked at this position. But, this pick signaled the end of Fabian Washington’s career in Oakland. In true Raiders cornerback fashion, Branch ran the fastest 40 yard time at the combine. He will contribute mostly on special teams as a returner and in nickle-dime situations. He is fast enough to defend speedy wide receivers.

In the middle of the fourth round, the Raiders traded cornerback Fabian Washington to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for their fourth round pick. The Raiders then selected wide receiver Arman Shields out of Richmond. Shields was injured for most of his senior season, but showed great upside. Interestingly, Shields was among the leaders in all the major categories at the NFL combine for his position, including 40 yard time (of course). Shields has nice size and can also contribute on special teams as a returner.

In the sixth round, the Raiders selected defensive end Trevor Scott out of Buffalo. Scott played only one season at defensive end but still managed to record nine sacks. Look for Oakland to utilize him in the same fashion that Chris Clemons was used. But, he could supplant Jay Richardson as the starter in a few years.

In the seventh round, Oakland selected wide receiver Chez Schilens out of San Diego State. Can’t really say much about him, but he is a big receiver. I would have liked to have seen wide receiver Marcus Monk of Arkansas getting selected here. He is a more proven receiver and is 6-4 and 222 pounds.

The Raiders did not address some needs that I thought were very glaring. First was the offensive line, when Oakland had the capability to draft left tackle Anthony Collins in the fourth round. Collins is a prototypical zone-blocking prospect and I was surprised that he fell that far. However, I trust Tom Cable’s judgment in who he decides will work in his system. If he feels that the Raiders have an offensive line that can compete in 2008, then I trust him. The defensive line problem was slightly addressed with the pick of Trevor Scott. I would have liked to have seen a draft pick concerning the outside linebacker position, especially with OLBs Ali Highsmith, Wesley Woodyard and Erin Henderson going undrafted.


Day 1 Recap

28 04 2008

Who didn’t see this coming?

With the fourth overall pick in the draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. Even though Oakland is absolutely stacked at the position, Al Davis defied logic and selected one of the best running backs in the draft. Considering that the Raiders were 30th in run defense in 2007 and that Glenn Dorsey was surprisingly available, Davis could have made the perfect pick for Oakland. However, Lane Kiffin astutely noted that the Raiders have already invested big-time in Terdell Sands and Tommy Kelly to play the defensive tackle spots. Some analysts mentioned that Al Davis was looking for his own star running back in a division with Ladanian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson.

Whatever the reasoning was for taking McFadden, the Raiders must now make the best of the situation. The first order of business should be to trade or cut either Dominic Rhodes, Lamont Jordan or both. What is very intriguing is that Dominic Rhodes took a pay cut to stay in Oakland another year, and Oakland resigned Justin Fargas. It’s a very steep price to pay for two possible back up running backs. I don’t even need to bring Michael Bush into this discussion. Lamont Jordan is definitely an expensive and unnecessary luxury.

With our running backs in 2007, their success was mostly due to the offensive line scheme, as opposed to running back talent. This made our running backs interchangeable and replaceable amongst each other. That is why Lamont Jordan, Justin Fargas and Dominic Rhodes were all able to have several 100 yard rushing games. However, with McFadden in the fold, once the offensive line helps him to get into open space, he has the speed and elusiveness to take the play even further. Many draft pundits have noted that his legs go dead upon contact with defenders, but he is still capable of breaking a few tackles. Also, once McFadden turns the corner around the offensive tackle, it’s off to the races. McFadden may not be able to carry the ball 20-25 times in the NFL which means that our stable of back up running backs will be able to get more use.

During the second round, all of the top wide receivers and other positions were still available and had Oakland not traded the second round pick for DeAngelo Hall, we could have selected Devin Thomas, James Hardy, Trevor Laws or Quentin Groves. All players who could have helped the Raiders out much more than DeAngelo Hall will. The Raiders should have definitely considered trading into the second round in order to have selected Desean Jackson, Malcolm Kelly or Limas Sweed when they fell to the mid-late second round. A possible trade package of Fabian Washington and Lamont Jordan could have netted us a late second rounder.

How good were the Oakland Raiders running backs in 2007?

22 04 2008

How much did Fargas contribute to the running game?

Now with less than a week left until the NFL draft, there is going to be serious consideration for all of the top draft prospects. Darren McFadden has already met with the Raiders and many believe he will be drafted by the Silver and Black. One thing that could help determine whether or not he goes to Alameda is how effective or running backs were in 2007.

It should be noted that running back performance is directly related to how the offensive line performs. The folks at attempted to distinguish the performance of a running back from the performance of the offensive line. The following chart shows some offensive line advanced statistics for the 2007 season. In brief, Adjusted Line Yards separate the performance of the running back from the offensive line by assigning yard values contributed by the offensive line and not the running back. Also, Running back yards are the yards per carry by the team’s running backs. And the 10+ Yards % is the percentage of the team’s running yards that were 10 yards or greater, showing the amount of running plays unaffected by the offensive line. Find out about more Adjusted Line Yards and 10+ Yards % through these links.

Adjusted Line Yards Running Back Yards 10+ Yards %
Oakland Raiders 4.17 4.21 16%
NFL League Average 4.08 4.17 18%

We can deduce several things from this chart. The offensive line was responsible for most of the running backs success, due to the high adjusted line yards figure. Also, the 10+ Yards % was below league average, indicating that our running backs did not break huge runs and relied on the offensive line to do much of the blocking. However, the average yardage for our running back was above league average indicating that our running backs performed very well compared to the rest of the league. Our trio of running backs set the tone for the offense in 2007. In fact the Raiders were sixth in the league in average rushing yards per game. The running backs will only get better in 2008, especially if Michael Bush can emerge. The running backs did rely on the offensive line a lot in order to get their yards, but that does not indicate a lack of talent. It indicates the adeptness of the offensive line in the zone-blocking scheme to open up holes for the backs.

The interesting thing about our offensive line last year, is that is slightly above average in both in run blocking and in pass blocking. And, with Barry Sims gone, the line should look to get even better in 2008. Meanwhile, Robert Gallery has emerged as a mean run blocker at left guard. Our current stable of backs did very well in 2007 with an offensive line that can only get better. The line clearly showed an improvement with coach Tom Cable running the show. The front office also made some interesting signings during the off season such as offensive tackle Kwame Harris formerly of the 49ers. Many have dubbed him a draft bust, but who knows if he can rejuvenate his career in Oakland. There is still a big question at left tackle for the Raiders. If it is not addressed in the draft, then the possible starters will be either Mario Henderson or Kwame Harris.

A brief synopsis of the running backs in 2007:

Lamont Jordan

Lamont’s 2007 season was derailed by injuries. After starting out strong in the first two games of the season, Lamont injured his back and lost the starting job to Justin Fargas. However, with 144 carries he did get a decent amount of rushing attempts for the season. The Raiders will either restructure his contract to retain him for 2008 or will cut him to reduce the impact of his contract. Alternatively, the Raiders could trade him to a team looking for a starting running back for some picks in the NFL Draft.

Dominic Rhodes

Rhodes was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season, which severely hampered his chances of winning the starting job. He did start the last two games against Jacksonville and San Diego and blew up for 337 yards combined against the two teams. He renegotiated his contract to reduce the financial hit it would make on the Raiders payroll. He seems content with his current situation and will likely challenge Justin Fargas for the starting role in the 2008 season.

Justin Fargas

Fargas started the season as a reserve but was promoted to starter with Lamont Jordan injured and Dominic Rhodes suspended. He showed that he belonged with several strong outings, especially in the two game win streak against Kansas City and Denver. He finished with over 1000 yards rushing for the season and will look to increase that number coming into 2008. He signed a three year extension in the offseason worth up to $14 millon. He looks to be the starter heading into the 2008 season.

Michael Bush

Bush was expected to play during the last half of the season but was kept on the Physically Unable to Perform list because the Raiders did not want to cut a running back and have him sign with a division rival such as Denver or Kansas City. The Raiders would definitely like to see how he performs in a game situation, but for now all he can do is wait till 2008.

Chad Johnson in Silver and Black?

21 04 2008

Will Al Davis come and get him?

Disgruntled Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has stated that he will not play for the team in 2008, but he might be interested in the Raiders. In 2007, the Raiders did not have a primary receiving threat and one of our best receivers, Jerry Porter, left for a big contract in Jacksonville. However, in the 2008 off season the Raiders signed Javon Walker to a HUGE contract even though he has had numerous knee problems throughout his career. Also, Drew Carter was signed, and looks to continue his solid performance from Carolina. Adding Chad Johnson would definitely help our wide receiver corp.

Trading for Chad Johnson would only bring about past memories of the Randy Moss trade. The Raiders paid a steep price for his two years of service, and sent him to New England for next to nothing. Moss was limited by injuries, but he was also very lethargic on the offense once he realized he could not help the Raiders win. As we saw last year, all Moss needed was the proper motivation in order to keep him playing on a high level. There were questions about Randy Moss’ ego when he came to Oakland, but he was fairly low key during his stay. Chad Johnson has an enormous ego, but it would be embraced in Oakland much like in the Randy Moss situation. Having Chad Johnson on the Raiders gives Jamarcus Russell an enormously talented receiver. In fact, we would be a very dangerous team on the offense. Chad would take a double team whenever he is on the field and that would leave guys like Walker and Curry open to make plays. Even our tight end Zach Miller would be a bigger threat on the offense. This would be combined with our punishing group of running backs keeping the defense honest. The Raiders offense in 2008 would be very dangerous.

Probably the most important question of this whole situation is how the trade would be accomplished. In most cases, a trade for Chad Johnson would probably have to include a low first rounder or several second and third rounders. But in the Raiders case, a trade for Chad might involve the swapping of first round picks with the Bengals. The scenario could play out like this. In the 2008 NFL Draft, the Dolphins select Jake Long, the Rams select Chris Long, the Falcons select Matt Ryan and with the fourth pick, the Raiders have Glenn Dorsey at their feet. Cincinnati has long needed a defensive tackle to help with their run defense (sound familiar), they came close but a trade for Shaun Rogers fell through. They see that Glenn Dorsey is still on the board and the Raiders are looking to trade down with a team who might want McFadden or Vernon Gholston. A trade for the Raiders’ fourth pick and Fabian Washington is completed with a swap of Cincinnati’s ninth pick overall and Chad Johnson. Cincinnati could get their defensive tackle of the future and the Raiders could still get theirs (Sedrick Ellis).

One problem with a Chad Johnson trade would be his huge contract, but I’m sure the Bengals would have to take care of the bulk of salary. But in the future, his contract would provide quite a sizable salary cap hit for the Raiders. A small prize to pay for his talent.

Fourth Round Pick

16 04 2008

The Raiders will pick 104th overall in the 4th round. Surprisingly, this is only the second pick the Raiders will have in the draft after their first rounder. The Raiders will need to get value with this pick at either the offensive line or the defensive line. If a defensive end or tackle is selected in the first round, then this pick will need to be an offensive lineman. If an offensive tackle is selected in the first round, then this pick will need to be a defensive tackle.

Defensive Tackle

Ahtyba Rubin

A standout defensive tackle out of Iowa St. impressed at the combine. He benched 225 lbs 35 times and is projected to be a nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive system. The Raiders would be able to utilize him as a space eating defensive tackle that could tie up at least two offensive lineman, much like Ted Washington did during his stay. Rubin would be an awesome value pick in the fourth round.

Marcus Harrison

Another value defensive tackle out of Arkansas, Harrison ran a 5.00 40, which is very impressive. However, he did struggle with injury problems during his senior year and that could factor into where he will be drafted. He is capable of getting into the backfield and will look to help the Raiders with their run defense.

Offensive Tackle

Jeremy Zuttah

Zuttah would be a great pick here in the fourth round, since he has above average speed and athleticism for an offensive tackle. He would be great in the Raiders’ zone-blocking scheme and could possibly take over the left tackle spot in a few years. He ran a sub 5.00 40 which is amazing for a player of his size. Also, Zuttah is amongst the strongest offensive lineman at the combine with 35 bench presses

Oniel Cousins

Cousins has the ability to play in the zone-blocking scheme, and he has the versatility to play all the offensive line positions. He is not quite as strong as other top offensive lineman, but he makes up for it with his athleticism.

Who is Michael Bush?

16 04 2008

Do you know this man?

Many draft pundits are saying that the Raiders will draft Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick, despite the amount of running backs they already have. They mention Justin Fargas, Lamont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes. However, they fail to mention possibly the most talented running back currently on the roster in Michael Bush.

The Raiders drafted Michael Bush with the first pick of the fourth round in the 2007 draft. He played extremely well while he attended Louisville and was among the top running backs in his graduating class. But, he was injured early in his senior season and did not play again. Highlight reels of his college exploits have shown up all over the internet and he is just as great a game-breaking talent as McFadden is projected to be. Check out these highlights to see how he plays. He could be the steal of the 2007 draft in a few years, once he is given time to play. He remained on the physically unable to perform list for the entire 2007 season and is projected to compete for playing time in training camp. He could be the breakout candidate for the 2008 NFL season (The donkeys are up first!).

Bush is a compact back, 6″1 and about 245 pounds. He runs very well between the tackles in order to gain yardage. He is an absolute workhorse whenever he runs through the middle because he knocks linebackers back with his momentum. However, he can also run outside of the tackles on screens very effectively and once he gets into open field, he has the strength to break a tackle or two. He seems to always gain yardage after contact by diving forward whenever his legs get tackled. He will absolutely thrive with the zone-blocking offensive line scheme, as it will open up numerous holes for him to run through. A powerful running game will enable opposing defenses to respect the pass, further helping Jamarcus Russell to develop.

For the 2008 season, a one-two punch with Justin Fargas would be enough to power our running game. Not to mention that we also have Dominic Rhodes ready and willing to come off the bench in order to play, with his new restructured contract. Lamont Jordan will either be cut or traded since his contract is unfavorable. Our fullback Justin Griffith, will be plowing the way for our running backs and should do a great job.

Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis?

14 04 2008

Will Terdell Sands be enough next year?

The Raiders still need to improve their dismal defensive line, preferably with a game-changing defensive tackle. With the fourth pick, the Raiders could possibly either select Sedrick Ellis or Glenn Dorsey. If both are available which do the Raiders select?

Dominating, but will his knees hold up?

Dorsey had a dominant senior year, even though he had to deal with injuries. He helped lead LSU to the national championship game, eventually winning it. He did not work out at the combine, but did perform admirably at his pro day. While at the combine, doctors thoroughly examined his knees and concluded that there were some underlying injuries that might affect his play in the future. With this new found information, Dorsey slipped down some draft boards. However, after a great pro day workout, he is back among the elite prospects and looks to be selected in the top five. Compared against Ellis, he has an inch in height and weighs slightly less. Dorsey is great at getting penetration past the offensive line, and getting to the running back and quarterback. He is an excellent run stopper and will look to succeed in a 4-3 system as a possible two technique. If the Raiders were to take him, they could possibly move Tommy Kelly to defensive end and pair Dorsey with Terdell Sands at tackle.

Silver and Black Sedrick?

Sedrick Ellis also had a great senior year, when he took PAC-10 offenses by storm. He finished as the consensus top PAC-10 defensive lineman and was arguably the best defensive tackle in the nation. He followed up a Rose Bowl victory by competing in the Senior Bowl. In Mobile, he completely manhandled the best offensive lineman in the nation in practice and recorded a safety in the actual game. He is great at getting leverage right from the snap, and has enough strength to bowl over offensive guards. He was among the leaders in bench presses and was among the most athletic defensive tackles. Interesting sidenote, USC reportedly had to buy 200 pound dumbbells for him to use in the weight room. With the Raiders, he would likely see double teams, which would free up our linebackers to make plays. He would also likely replace Warren Sapp’s presence on the defensive line as a two technique, although he can also play nose tackle in a 3-4 system.

Bottom line, either tackle will immensely increase the Raiders defensive front. I would go with Sedrick Ellis over Glenn Dorsey because he does not have as much injury risk. However, if Ellis is gone by the time the Raiders select, I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on Dorsey. Both will have excellent careers in the NFL, but which one will be with the Raiders?