FAST Free Agency
(21) LT Jerald Hawkins l Height: 6’05 ¾” l Weight: 305lbs l 40: 5.14 l Yr: JR
Reminiscent of: Saints LT Terron Armstead (3rd Rd; 75th overall ’13)
2016 Outlook: Starting LT
Even after a couple of quality drafts, the Raiders are a promising team and flirting with the playoffs after a 13 year hiatus. The future is still bright as the Raiders are young at two of the three premium positions in football (QB, DE & OT). Conventional thinking suggests that good teams resign their own free agents but their needs to be a qualification. “Good teams resign their own YOUNG free agents”. The only present danger for the Raiders now is complacency. Letting known quantities walk is not without angst, however good teams do not resign older players to big money, long-term contracts. Quality veteran players looking for their last payday don’t sign short-term contracts (as it lowers the amount the can receive in bonus money). Something has to give. After all the front office is paying for future performance and not a reward for past performance. The front office has spend to the salary cap floor and it will but prudently to secure sustainable future success.
Current LT, Donald Penn, is due for an extension but he also on the wrong side of 30. It’s hard to say goodbye to a guy who grew up a Raider fan but, previous to coming to the Raiders, Penn was considered to be spent and found the FA market lean. In my opinion, much of Penn’s play has been propped up by Carr who gets rid of the ball quickly, converse to other guys of similar youth, many of which were more highly touted, who tend to hold on the ball and are taking sacks and suffering physical attrition as a result.
Based on recent history it is highly unlikely that McKenzie will sign Penn to a mega-extension despite playing at a high level, top 10 NFL OT. Potentially, the Raiders could franchise Penn for one season and let a rookie OT begin his career at RG but that is provided Penn does not price himself out of the market. We are all aware that McKenzie is very patient with his free agent signings so it’s almost assured Howard will be the RT in 2016. In addition, Howard has been playing acceptably at RT recently. RG is probably the most likely position to get a rookie offensive lineman on the field provided the Raiders don’t address the position in FA.
Hawkins is nearly anonymous at this moment. However, he will be getting a lot of buzz by the time the draft approaches. Despite his outstanding measurables, Hawkins is still a project. That fact will be reflected in his draft stock. You don’t get a guy with this much athleticism and length at his position unless something is suppressing his stock. In this particular case that would be LT experience. Hawkins is a finesse OT in the mold of Tyron Smith, D’Brickashaw, Okung or Armstead. He isn’t going to overpower people but he is very agile for a man his size. Hence, Hawkin’s run blocking needs work. It would be very exciting to see OL coach Mike Tice working with an athlete like Hawkins.
(53) CB Williams Jackson III l Height: 6’00 ⅝” l Weight: 195lbs l 40: 4.52 l Yr: SR
Reminiscent of: Rams Trumaine Johnson (3nd Rd; 65th overall ’12)
2016 Outlook: Starting Boundary CB
Williams Jackson III’s draft stock has experienced a meteoric rise. He is the cornerstone of the Houston Cougar’s secondary that nearly exclusively runs man coverage. Jackson has the length and size that NFL defensive coordinators covet and has been rumored to have been clocked as low as 4.42 in the 40.
JDR and KNJ have given the Raiders defense the identity it sorely needed. The focus of the defense is run stopping but also highlights two elite pass rushers as bookends. The pass has been cumulatively effective but sacks have been elusive because opponents have been able to nullify the daunting pass rush by getting rid of the ball quickly. However, the Raiders CBs have not been apply to capitalize on rushed QBs. When what would be a solid team is hemorrhaging at a particular position the front office deploy a two tiered attack to address the position by bringing in both a draft pick and a high profile free agent.
Some Raider fans will be weary of drafting another CB from Houston, fortunately most GMs & owners (*ahem, Texans) are not superstitious. Jackson is a perfect fit for a Cover 3 system. Should the Raiders acquire a high profile CB like Sean Smith or even a tier II CB, like Trumaine Johnson, the Raiders could go into 2016 with a completely new look on the perimeter and the Raiders could deploy the man heavy scheme KNJ hasn’t been able to.
(85) LB Terrance Smith l Height: 6’03 ¼” l Weight: 232lbs l 40: 4.64 l Yr: rSR
Reminiscent of: Eagles Jordan Hicks (3rd Rd; 84st overall ’09)
2016 Outlook: Starting WILL ILB
Last season one of my favorite mid-round LB prospects was Texas Longhorn Jordan Hicks. I used him numerous times in mocks but failed to add him to my Mancrush List. This season I won’t make that mistake. Florida State LB Terrance Smith, a projected mid-rounder, has length, range and athleticism comparable to Notre Dame’s highly touted LB Jaylon Smith. The major difference between the two is scheme and Jaylon plays a high profile position at one of the most high profile universities in America and Terrance is considered just another athlete in a program know for having athletes. Terrance Smith is a quality prospect that could be a better pro, a la Jordan Hicks, if he plays in a system that accentuates his skills.
(117) WR Corey Robinson l Height: 6’04 ⅝” l Weight: 215lbs l 40: 4.59 l Yr: JR
Reminiscent of: Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (4th Rd; 118th overall ’14)
2016 Outlook: Redzone WR; 4th WR
Recently, I called Robinson a late first rounder. While he still has 1st round abilities, Robinson is having a down season. Apparently Robinson is playing through a knee injury that has worked its way to his hands because he’s had a number of high profile drops where he was once considered sure handed. The injury has limited Robinson’s time but he’s definitely THE go to target in most redzone situations. I doubt Robinson declares after his junior year, he doesn’t need the money and he plays for one of the most prestigious programs in the country but if he does right now I’ll put Robinson in the 4th.
Carr has a lot of targets that can get open between the 20s with short area quickness but he could use a jump ball WR like Robinson in the redzone when there isn’t space.
(139)* WR Charone Peake l Height: 6’02 ⅛” l Weight: 215lbs l 40: 4.43 l Yr: rSR
Reminiscent of: Raiders WR DeNarius Moore (5th Rd; 148th overall ’11)
2016 Outlook: 5th WR; KR
Peake, despite being an impressive athlete, has always been overshadowed by other WRs at Clemson. Similar to Martavius Bryant, who was also got lost in the shuffle, he came out early and became a better pro than college athlete, Peake could find similar success. In addition, Peake has return experience which could fill another hole.
(149) SS Myles Killebrew l Height: 6’01 ⅞” l Weight: 223lbs l 40: 4.49 l Yr: SR
Reminiscent of: Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor (late rd; 133rd overall ’10)
2016 Outlook: Practice Squad
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Killebrew is one of the most intriguing prospects of the 2016 draft. He plays every position in the Thunderbirds secondary but is best suited as an in the box SS in the mold of Seattle’s Kam Chancellor in KNJ’s defense, which is a clone of Seattle’s. What I like the most about Killebrew is that he tackles threw his target and lowers the boom when he gets there. If Killebrew can crack a sub-4.5 40 his stock could be on the rise after the 2016 NFL Combine.
(174) * TE Darion Griswold l Height: 6’04 ⅝” l Weight: 264lbs l 40: 4.83 l Yr: rSR
Reminiscent of: Giants TE Larry Donnell (UDFA; UDFA ’11)
2016 Outlook: Practice Squad
Small school developmental TE, Darion Griswold, was one of my favorite prospects last season at his position. This season the TE class might be even more shallow. The Raiders have a few one dimensional TEs that either block or move but the only balanced TE on the roster is Walford. Similarly, Griswold is a willing blocker and knows how to use his length and size to give the QB a large target. I know the Raiders like developmental TE Gabe Holmes but his presence shouldn’t preclude the Raiders from addressing the position further.
Reminiscent of: Bengals Vontaze Burfict (7th – UDFA; UDFA ’12)
2016 Outlook: Rotational 34 OLB Depth
In my opinion, the 7th round should ALWAYS be saved for a 1st round talent that has experienced a precipitous fall in the draft for whatever reason. I loved it when the Raiders drafted WKU FS Jonathan Dowling in the last round. Ultimately it didn’t work out but the Raiders would be in a completely different position had they given , MLB Burfict, OT Tiny Richardson & OG La’el Collins chances late and took the risk that the players in question would prefer to play rather then go back in the draft the next year.
Two years ago Spence was considered a 1st round pick. Still a flawed person, there would be absolutely no risk in bringing Spence for a chance to compete. I’m betting that if the Raiders were heading into 2016 with the status quo, Spence beats out Ray Ray at backup SAM.