5 Possible Solutions to the Raider’s RT Problem

The Raiders have spent a lot of capital shoring up it's offensive line. McKenzie always promised a bullying offensive line and, true to form, the Raiders now boast arguably the largest offensive line in the NFL with the addition of OG/OT Kelechi Osemele. By most media accounts the Raiders are "winning the off-season". Big things are expected from this unit and OL coach Mike Tice but injuries at RT threaten to derail the party before it starts. Starting RT Howard, who had a breakout season finishing ranked as the 15th most effective OT according to PFF, is still out with a knee injury and promising OT Menelik Watson is coming off an Achilles tear that can take up to 18 months to fully heal.

In should be noted that Menelik is in a contract year and will be a free agent in 2017. He needs to do something NOW if he wants to be with the team long term. McKenzie likes durable players and Watson has been nicked up every season. Perhaps the front office does something with RT and lets Watson walk. In addition, it would be hard to justify keeping Howard as a $6.4M back up in 2017 if the Raiders are forced to spend a high draft pick on an OT and he performs well.

How McKenzie & Co. responds will keep us on the edge of our seats on draft day and possibly beyond. The question at hand is will the injuries at RT impact the Raiders big board on draft day? Here are 5 possible RT solutions.
   OT Jack Conklin  Height: 6'05 ¾   Weight: 308lbs  40 (10 split): 4.98 (1.76)

Kudos to Mr. Conklin who has transformed himself from a former walk-on at MSU into a potential Top 15 selection in the NFL draft. In part, Conklin has accomplished this feat by having an outstanding NFL Combine where he showed significantly more quickness and agility than anticipated. Despite his Combine performance however, Conklin is widely projected to begin his career at RT because he has technique issues that need to be resolved.

Conklin would give the Raiders at boost a RT but could potentially become the LTotF as early as next season. However, scheme fit & technique are issues. Philosophically, the Raiders want a physically dominating offensive line unit. Already a great run-blocker, with typical Michigan State toughness, at 308lbs Conklin would be the runt of the group at OT. However, Conklin has the frame to carry more weight and OL coach Mike Tice has proven he is quite capable of doing wonders with technique. The only issue is stock price. In my opinion, Conklin is a draft day riser primarily because of his potential to play LT and likely won't be available at #14, but if he is the Raiders should strongly consider him.

Cost: Top 15 pick
Probability:
10% - If Conklin falls this far he definitely has to be in the conversation for BPA.
Endorsement: Lukewarm
- Not an exciting pick but definitely not a bad one. It's a pick with upside.
      OT Taylor Decker  Height: 6'07"  Weight: 310lbs  40 (10 split): 5.21 (1.80)

Pre-combine OSU OT Taylor was one of my favorite prospects heading into the draft. I wrote about him extensive HERE. While I still feel he is going to be a solid prospect, I think Taylor's best suited position is RT. Like Conklin, Decker also has the frame to carry more weight in addition to having solid H/W/S ratio. However, his lateral agility isn't elite and is probably a RT in the NFL. Decker doesn't have the upside of Conklin but he would solve the Raider's RT situation in both the long and short term.

Cost: Top 15 Pick
Probability:
3% - Decker at #14 would probably signal a grave concern about RT
Endorsement: Tepid
- Decker has less upside than Conklin which is reflected in the endorsement.
     OT Germain Ifedi  Height: 6'05 ¾"  Weight: 324lbs  40 (10 split): 5.25 (1.78)

Texas A&M OT Germain Ifedi is an intriguing prospect that fits the Raider's mold. Ifedi is a naturally large man, a physically intimidating road grader, however, he has technical problems with pass blocking that are typical of offensive lineman playing in a college spread offense. If OL coach Tice could fix those issues, Ifedi has the versatility to play multiple positions on the o-line and could be the long-term solution at RT.

Cost: 2nd Round
Probability: 15% - Historically McKenzie & Co. has focused on prospects like Ifedi , very athletic, high ceiling whose stock has been stunted for some reason (Menelik Watson, Mario Edwards Jr.), in the 2nd round. The 2nd round is where typically the front office has gambled on 1st round potential while also reducing the associated risk.
Endorsement: Warm - Once projected 1st rounder with tremendous athleticism, upside, versatility but with technique issues
raidersOG Jon Feliciano  Height: 6'04"  Weight: 323lbs  40 (10 split): 5.33 (1.89)

The Raiders definitely believe in a "next man up" philosophy. In this scenario, Feliciano is the next man up. Based on skill set and experience Feliciano is probably best suited for RG, Jackson would remain at LG and KO would be RT. It would not be the glitzy unit Raider Nation was expecting but this patchwork offensive line could save assets while allowing OTs Watson & Howard to get healthy. The success of the unit would hinge greatly on the performance of highly touted free agent Kelechi Osemele at RT but also reduces the growing pains of starting an inexperienced Feliciano at RG.

Cost: $0
Probability: 70%
Endorsement: Cool - I believe in not overreacting to injuries. Feliciano is next man up. It's an opportunity to get a good look at Feliciano as an interior swing OL. He'll probably play some OC in 2016 as well.
       49ers OT Anthony Davis  Height: 6'05"  Weight: 323lbs  40 (10 split): 5.37 (1.82)

In a bit of a curve ball I wanted to suggest that perhaps the Raiders should trade a late round draft pick or either of currently injured RTs Howard or Watson to the 49ers for the rights to embattled retired RT Anthony Davis who is bumping heads with GM Balke about his reinstatement. Anthony "Bam" Davis wasn't playing an April Fool's joke when he posted:

Later, it was leaked that Davis was on the trading block and Davis responded:

The 49er drama continues and the Raiders could again be in a position to capitalize. Menelik Watson will be a free agent in 2017. If the Raiders aren't confident in Watson's durability or if Howard projects to be too expensive moving forward, it could be beneficial to both teams to facilitate a trade as the relationship between Balke and Davis is tenuous.

Cost: 7 round and/or OT Menelik Watson
Probability: 2%
Endorsement: Hot - This deal won't happen but it is intriguing to think about if Feliciano fails to distinguish himself. Mark channels his inner Al Davis circa the 90's as he continues to position the Raiders as the premiere destination of disgruntled 49ers.
Raider Nation let me know what you think!

What should the Raiders do about RT?

  • Trade a late round pick for 49ers Anthony "Bam" Davis (100%, 1 Votes)
  • Nothing. One of Howard or Watson will be healthy enough to play. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Draft Jack Conklin at #14. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Draft Taylor Decker at #14 if Conklin is gone. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Draft Germain Ifedi in the 2nd Round. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Next man up! Start Feliciano at RG and Osemele at RT. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 1

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