5 Free Agents the Oakland Raiders should “Watch” in 2016

2016 will be a pivotal make-or-break year for Oakland Raiders GM McKenzie. With his career in the balance McKenzie could go all in free agency and finally let go of the purse strings. The following are five free agents that the Raiders should be pursue for a quick turnaround next season.

(1) seahawks OT Russell Okung

It’s rare that a franchise OT becomes available in free agency. So envisioning pending free agent LT Russell Okung going to the highest bidder is probably a pipe dream. However, if he does become available the Raiders need to dig deep in their pockets to lock up the position for a long time. Because of the importance of the position, Okung would the Raiders most important acquisition in some time.

(2) ramsCB Trumaine Johnson

The Raiders are hemorrhaging at CB. Opponents are nullifying what would be a premium pass rush by getting rid of the ball quickly but the Raiders current crop of CBs are unable to capitalize. It appears that former 13th overall draft pick, DJ Hayden is a washout.  Perhaps current DC Ken Norton Jr. will see something in Rams CB Trumaine Johnson (6’02” 204lbs 40: 4.6) as his measurables are eerily similar to his former star CB Richard Sherman (6’03” 195lbs 40:4.6) in Seattle.

(3)titans SAM LB Zach Brown

Another position of contention in Raider Nation has been SAM LB. Every week opponents TEs are teeing off on a defense that does not have a LB that can both set the edge on run downs and cover elite TEs in the seam. OLB Zach Brown (6’01” 244lbs 40: 4.5) is a man who statistically is a team leader in tackles and grades out well in coverage. A man of his abilities would serve Raider Nation well.

(4) washington DT Terrance Knighton

Last season it was presumed that DT Terrance Knighton (6’03” 320lbs) would follow his former DC in Denver, JDR, to Oakland. However, Team Knighton priced themselves out of the market and Knighton had to accept a one-year “prove-it” deal in Washington. This season when DT Jelly-Bean Ellis went out the Raiders were gutted on the ground. Adding Knighton would not only provide insurance for run defense but also create a solid rotation to keep the big boys fresh and mean.

(5) texans RG Brandon Brooks

The Raiders offensive line is a tale of two cities. While the left side composed of LT Penn and LG Jackson has been stellar the right side has been a work in progress. Recently, much beleaguered RT Austin Howard has been coming on but he could be helped out tremendously if the RG position wasn’t weighing the unit down. Former OT J’Marcus Webb isn’t much better at OG than he was at OT and rookie OG Feliciano has been nondescript. Adding an under the radar FA like Brooks (6’05” 336lbs 40:4.99) could take the offensive line to the next level and lock up the unit for the near future.

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2016 Oakland Raiders Mock Draft 1.0

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Raiders Draft Preview: McKenzie era has been marked with a few successes (Carr & Mack) and some notable voids (wins) but now the Raiders finally have some pieces to draft around and will probably go into the 2016 in replenishment phase rather than looking for building blocks.

Round One

F                                                   OT Ronnie Stanley

Height: 6’05 ⅝” Weight: 315lbs 40: 5.17 Status: rJr

Reminiscent of: Jets OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (Top 5 draft pick; 4th overall ’06)

2016 Outlook: Starting LT

Even after a couple of quality drafts, the Raiders are still a bad team with enough holes to BPA. The future is still bright as the Raiders are young at two of the three premium positions in football (QB, DE & OT).

Current LT, Donald Penn, is due for an extension but he also on the wrong side of 30. 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 Stanley begin his career on at RT but Stanley is ready to go day one and Howard has been playing acceptably at RT recently. 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.

Stanley isn’t going to overpower people but he is very agile for a man his size. Stanley’s disposition has been criticized for not having a mean streak but Penn isn’t overly demonstrative either. It would be very exciting to see OL coach Mike Tice working with an athlete like Stanley.

Round Two

h                            WR Kory Robinson

WR Cory Robinson

Height: 6’04 ⅝” Weight: 215lbs 40: 4.59 Status: JR

Reminiscent of: Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (late 1st – early 2nd; 28th overall ’14)

2016 Outlook: 3rd D; Redzone WR

In 2016 the bulk of the Raiders present WR corps will be free agents: Crabtree (29yo, 6’01” 214lbs), Holmes (28yo, 6’04” 210lbs), Streater (28yo, 6’03” 200lbs) and ERFA Seth Roberts (25yo, 6’02” 195lbs). Potentially leaving only 2015 1st Rd pick Amari Cooper as the only WR under contract for 2016.

More than likely, most of the Raiders FA WRs will not be back in 2016. Hence, WR prospects will be heavily on the radar for the 2016 draft. There were unsubstantiated rumors that Carr prefers bigger WRs with a large catch radius. A big target would also complement Cooper’s skill set nicely.

Cooper isn’t small but Raider’s GM McKenzie tends to favor large WRs, acquisitions Holmes, Butler, Streater and Roberts were all at least 6’02”. Robinson is a HUGE target at 6’05” who finished the 2014 strong for the Irish but has been muted so far this season. To this point it is unsure if Robinson has an undisclosed injury, has fallen out of favor for such prized recruits such as St. Brown or if all the off-season publicity of 2014 has gone to his head. The Irish have an embarrassment of riches at WR, if the season continues like this perhaps Robinson will opt for the NFL rather than transfer.

I have given Robinson a late 1st round grade but the 2016 draft is loaded with WRs and Robinson will probably fall into the 2nd. If I’m the Raiders I franchise tag Crabtree for one season to get Robinson acclimated to the NFL. Even if Crabtree signs longterm, Robinson’s ability as a redzone threat would round out the WR corp nicely.

Round THree

)0                                             S Karl Joseph

Height: 5’11 ⅛” Weight: 197lbs 40: 4.57 Status: SR

Reminiscent of: Colts S Bob Sanders (2nd – 3rd; 44th overall ’04)

2016 Outlook: Primary backup at both S positions

Many people will want to go CB here and reasonably so. However, if I could give another perspective, the Raiders are woefully thin at safety with only only FS Nate Allen returning under contract who’s coming off of a knee injury, Woodson who will be 40 next season will probably return on his last 1 year contract, Asante will be a FA in 2016 and rest of the revolving door at safety is made up of UDFAs and castoffs. If TJ Carrie sticks at FS then this conversation is moot and CB becomes a serious need as Carrie is also the best cover corner. My guess is that Carrie eventually returns to CB. Adding a quality safety gives the Raiders options when Woodson retires, this year or next.

Although Joseph  doesn’t have ideal H/W/S for the safety position he can play either spot. Joseph has a knack for the big hit and makes tons of highlights but he needs to wrap up consistently more. Measurables will hurt Joseph’s draft stock. Currently, Joseph is projected to go 5th round but I have him as a draft riser.

Round Four

î                        OG/OT Brandon Shell

Height: 6’05 ¼” Weight: 328lbs 40: 5.19 Status: rSR

Reminiscent of: Cowboys RT Doug Free (4th; 122nd overall ’07)

2016 Outlook: OG or Swing OT

I try to be as reasonable as possible in my mock drafts, however, here I’m going to go off the rails a little bit and draft another offensive lineman. Some won’t like the thought of drafting two offensive linemen with two of the first four picks. Offensive lineman are boring, fans like sexy picks in mock drafts because they invoke the imagination but if Shell is able to run a sub-5.2 40 at 328lbs he will be a high quality value pick in the 4th. In 2016, OTs Penn(LT), McCants(LT), Webb (G/OT) & Barnes(G/OT) will all be FAs.

The Raider’s HC JDR wants to play old school football; hard nosed defense and a run oriented offense. However, the right side of the offensive line is atrocious. OT J’Marcus Webb starts at RG and FA bust Austin Howard starts at RT. Under-performing Menelik Watson blew out his Achilles, which takes 11 months to heal, and most players with that injury rarely return to previous form. GM Reggie McKenzie has been notoriously patient with offensive lineman (Bergstrom) as teams with good roster management usually are, but in this particular case the Raiders (e.g. McKenzie) need a quick turnaround by the offensive line for job security reasons and I would not trust the likes of Bergstrom, Watson or Howard with my career in balance.

It’s early but by most accounts, Feliciano is struggling to establish himself. As noted earlier, McKenzie is rightly patient with draft picks but he has rebuilt the team enough to go BPA if Shell is available here. Due to the nature of South Carolina’s offense, Shell’s pass blocking skills are weak and despite his quickness struggles with speed rushers. Shell’s detractors  often use the labels “waistbender” and “heavy-legged” but if Shell exhibits the necessary flexibility perhaps his best position might be OG.  Given Shell’s labrum injury history and long arms Shell’s strength might not test well at the combine further suppressing what would be the higher graded stock of a prospect of similar measurables.

Round FIVE

∂                              WR Kolby Listenbee

WR Kolby Listenbee

Height: 6’01 ¼” Weight: 183lbs 40: 4.36 Status: rSR

Reminiscent of: Patriots WR Josh Boyce (4th; 102nd overall ’13)

2016 Outlook: 4th WR; KR

Every year it seems TCU reaffirms it’s penchant for developing speed demons at WR. Listenbee, who is a bona fide world-class sprinter, is of that mold. His stock is reflective of a developmental WR of his skill set. Listenbee doesn’t have a lot of routes in his repertoire. Currently, he is your typical  speed demon field stretcher with inconsistent hands, capable of explosive plays but disappears when forced to operate underneath. Again, the Raiders WR corps will need to be replenished and Listenbee is the H/W/S value guy late that McKenzie typically likes to target. Listenbee has KR experience to relieve Taiwan Jones of those duties and reduce his exposure to injury to allow him to be more healthy for special teams and RB2.

¿ (via Cowboys)                  SS/OLB Miles Killebrew

Height: 6’01 ⅞” Weight: 223lbs 40: 4.49 Status: SR

Reminiscent of: Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor (late rd; 133rd overall ’10)

2016 Outlook: Big Nickel Safety

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1326761/highlights/218912379/v2

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 Norton’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.

Round SIX

(184) (via Colts)                           CB Harlan Miller

CB Harlan Miller

Height: 6’00 ⅛” Weight: 180lbs 40: 4.52 Status: SR

Reminiscent of: Seahawks CB Tharold Simon (5th – 6th; 138th overall ’13)

2016 Outlook: Developmental CB/PR

No Raider mock drat would be complete without a small school guy or a late round CB who historically fits McKenzie H/S requirements. Miller fulfills both those requirements and he has PR experience (so we no longer have to hold our breath every time Cooper fields punts).

Round Seven

(197)                                    OLB/DE Noah Spence

LB Noah Spence

Height: 6’02 ¾” Weight: 255lbs 40: 4.68 Status: rJR

Reminiscent of: Bengals Vontaze Burfict (7th – UDFA; UDFA ’12)

2016 Outlook: Potential SAM LB

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 SAM.

How would you rate Raiders Mock Draft 1.0?

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OnE-2-“WaTcH” on Saturday: USC OT Zach Banner vs Stanford

USC OT Zach Banner

Zach Banner has also been an intriguing prospect since high school where he excelled as an OT in the Washington State area. Banner, the son of former Raider OT Lincoln Kennedy, definitely has NFL size at 6’8 1/4″ and weighing 360lbs but to this point has never lived up to his potential. However, after having surgery on both hips to correct abnormalities that compromised his flexibility it seems that the RS Jr. is healthy and ready to show the wares that could propel Banner into the NFL draft next season.

The first real test for both Banner and USC will begin today vs. Stanford. Banner is a RT but with as many holes as the Raiders have I could easily see them going back to back OTs if the value is there. Later this week I hope to do a follow up of Banner vs Stanford. Good luck to Banner, kindly referred to as “Hulk”, whose gregarious personality is as large as his frame.

 

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Las Vegas Future Odds NFL Mock Draft (as of 8/17)

In making this mock draft I used the most current NFL odds used in Las Vegas to determine draft order. So, no. I am not making any predictions on the outcome of the NFL season. I left that up to the experts. Second I cross referenced best player available versus need. I hope you enjoy this 2016 NFL Mock draft let me know what you think.

jaguarsOdds: 200/1

OSU DT/DE Joey Bosa  Bosa is the rare prospect whose stock could go wire to wire as the consensus overall pick. OT Joeckell has been a bust and the 2016 is loaded with highend OTs but the Jags will ultimately opt to add a base end opposite of last year’s first rounder, DE/OLB Dante Fowler, Jr.
bills  NFL Odds: 75/1

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg Rex Ryan always has a defense but he has never had a QB. Hackenberg has flaws, mainly touch, but teams will fall in love with his prototypical size and cannon of an arm. Although there are a ton of QBs coming out in 2016 they all have flaws. Hackenberg’s look like the most easily correctable.
titans NFL Odds: 75/1

Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III Tennessee has a lot of holes. They take the best player available.
buccaneers NFL Odds: 60/1

Ole’ Miss WR LaQuon Treadwell   VJax will be a FA in 2017. This gives TB two huge, athletic twin tower targets for Winston.
raiders NFL Odds: 50/1

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: Ronnie Stanley #78 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish moves to block during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – SEPTEMBER 13: Ronnie Stanley #78 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish moves to block during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley Even after a couple of quality drafts, the Raiders are still a bad team with enough holes to BPA. The future is still bright as the Raiders are young at two of the three premium positions in football (QB, DE & OT).

Current LT, Donald Penn, is due for an extension but he also on the wrong side of 30. 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. The Raiders have money to burn, perhaps it might be smart to give Penn the extension, draft Stanley as his successor, let Stanley start his career at RT and when he eventually wins the battle at LT Penn can finish his career on the right. #Winning!

browns NFL Odds: 50/1

Ohio State QB Cardale Jones The Browns look to end their carousel at QB by drafting the local prospect with a huge following. I think Cook has the higher ceiling but the fan base might riot if they pass on the Buckeye.
jets NFL Odds: 50/1

 MSU QB Connor Cook The Jets solidify the QB position by taking the gritty QB whose familiar with playing in the cold and wind.
vikings NFL Odds: 40/1

Ole’ Miss OT Laremy Tunsil LT Matt Kalil cannot stay healthy and both RT Loadholt and LT Kalil will be FAs in 2017.
dolphins NFL Odds: 40/1

Oklahoma St. DE Emmanuel Ogbah The Dolphins select an edge rusher to either pair opposite of Cameron Wake or succeed him in 2017 when he becomes a 34 year old FA. DEs also go higher than expected.
washington NFL Odds: 40/1

California QB Jared Goff  Picking this high Washington will be moving on from RGIII. Goff could be a bit of a reach at this point in the draft but if you don’t have a QB you can’t win.
chargers NFL Odds: 40/1

OSU OT Taylor Decker The Panthers need to shore up their offensive line to protect the franchise QB that they just signed to a long-term contract.
panthers NFL Odds: 40/1

Michigan State OT Jack Conklin The Panthers will be desperate at the OT position in 2016.
falcons NFL Odds: 40/1

Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith  Atlanta gets the defensive field general they need.
chiefs NFL Odds: 35/1

Alabama MLB Reggie Ragland The Chiefs are already doing the background research on Ragland. He’s a stout fire hydrant in the middle and could learn from ILB Derrick Johnson who is getting long in the tooth.
cardinals NFL Odds: 35/1

UCLA LB Myles Jack The Cards get more range and speed at LB.
texans NFL Odds: 30/1

Alabama DE/DT A’Shawn Robinson DE Crick is a FA in 2016. A 34 DL of Watt, Wilfork and A’Shawn is quite formidable.
cowboys NFL Odds: 30/1

Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliot As talented as Dallas’ Offensive line is, a special RB behind THAT OL could put the Cowboys over the top.
rams NFL Odds: 28/1

Florida State S/CB Jalen Ramsey Both Janoris and Trumaine are FAs in 2016.
lions NFL Odds: 25/1

Virginia Tech CB Kendall Fuller The Lions will have a hole in their secondary.
giants NFL Odds: 25/1

Baylor DE Shawn Oakman JPP’s eventual successor? We all know how the Giants LOVE 43 DEs.
bAravens NFL Odds: 25/1

Ole’ Miss DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche Tremendously athletic but an underperformer.
bB steelers NFL Odds: 20/1

Arkansas TE Henry Hunter TE Heath Miller will be a 33 free agent and his doppleganger  just got drafted. He gone.
bC bearsNFL Odds: 45/1

 Michigan State OLB/DE Shilique Calhoun Perfect fit for Fangio’s 34 and the edge rusher they desperately need.
bD colts NFL Odds: 18/1

Alabama TE OJ Howard The Colts surround Luck with yet another weapon.
bE bengals NFL Odds: 18/1

Tennessee CB Cameron Sutton Cincy CB Leon Hall will be a FA in 2016 and on the wrong side of 30.
bF eagles NFL Odds: 15/1

Oregon DE/DL DeForest Buckner Oregon connection. Steal at this point in the draft.
bG saints NFL Odds: 14/1

Pitt WR Tyler Boyd BPA. Plus, a big WR is a need.
bH patriots NFL Odds: 8/1

*forfeit*
bI packers NFL Odds: 7/1

UCLA DT Kenny Clark BPA.
cJ 49ers NFL Odds: 5.5/1

LSU OT/OG Vadal Alexander SF likes OL that can bully people. Vadal fits the mold and potentially could be a plug and play player at either RT or RG.
cA seahawks NFL Odds: 5/1

OT Germain Ifedi Seattle must address it’s OL. Okung could walk and their OL is already porous.
cBbroncos NFL Odds: 5/1

USC ILB S’ua Cravens Cravens plays the hybrid S/OLB role for the Trojans. His coverage skills, athleticism and range transition nicely into an ILB. Both ILBs Marshall and Trevathan will be FAs in 2016.

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P.W2 “Raider-2-Watch”: Ben Heeney

MLB Ben Heeney mans the middle.

Last week vs. St. Louis Raiders rookie MLB showed instincts and range. Could this late round pick become the Raiders’ Chris Borland? An unheralded overachiever whose sum is greater than his individual measureables? Some are even starting to question whether Heeney could unseat recent free agent acquisition Curtis Lofton. Let’s compare the two:

Curtis Lofton
Ht: 6’00”
Wt: 246lbs
40: 4.67
10 split: 1.61
Bench: 23
Vert: 32
Broad: 9’04”
Shuttle: 4.54
3 Cone: 7.52

Ben Heeney
Ht: 6’00 1/4″
Wt: 231lbs
40: 4.59
10 split: 1.61
Bench: 19
Vert: 33 1/2
Broad: 10’00”
Shuttle: 4.00
3 Cone: 6.68

What this comparison suggests is that while Lofton may be more stout, Heeney might be more athletic and sudden. A “Mike” kept clean playing behind “Meat & Potatoes”, as the Raiders beefy interior defensive line duo of Dan Williams and Justin Ellis is affectionately referred to, with more range and coverage skills might be the more effective player.

Curtis Lofton was a salary cap cut by the Saints after being unable to find a trade partner for Lofton. The Raiders attraction to Lofton is that he routinely is near the top of the league in tackles and led the NFL in tackles in 2015 with 123 but was also rated the least effective inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus that same year. The numbers suggest that Lofton missed a LOT of tackles and his numbers were the result of playing behind a porous defensive line.

Against the Rams backups, Heeney showed really well and has an increasing number of Raider fans excited about his potential making Ben Heeney one “Raider 2 Watch” vs. the Vikings.

 

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My Favorite HC Candidate Bill Lazor doesn’t have an offense

Bill Lazor doesn’t have an offense. Well, technically he does but recently some of his players complained that the offense lacked an identity. On October 12, Connor Orr wrote an article for NFL.com entitled “Dolphins frustrated by lack of identity on offense”. In that article players cited frustration at being underutilized, Tannehill not being allowed the flexibility to audible, Lazor’s “abrasive” tenor and the offense’s emphasis changing from week to week. At the time the Dolphins were 5-4. Many teams would love to have such problems. Initially, these read like criticisms of concern. However, given further introspection I am intrigued by Lazor and as a Raider fan I hope the Raiders take a serious look at him.

Let’s summarize what’s going on in Miami. Mike Wallace, who has largely been considered a high-priced free agent bust, has been used more as an intermediate WR and in doing so has increased his efficiency, according to PFF (“Miami Dolphins at a crossroads heading into a crucial showdown”, Jeff Darlington, NFL.com, 11/12). Tannehill, who has also had the word “bust” swirling around him, has been handcuffed but has exponentially increased his QB rating over the last 8 weeks to average 102.2 up from 81.7, in 2013. Lazor’s disposition has been described “abrasive” and is rubbing some members of the offense the wrong way. Lazor was born in Scranton, PA and educated at Cornell (Think hard-scrabble meets high processing thinker). I’d think he could lose patience with player’s who don’t “get” what he’s doing. Lastly, the criticism which doesn’t seem like a criticism the most to me is the week to week emphasis on different aspects of the offense. Um, that’s called game planning. That’s exactly what Bill Belichick, who is considered the game’s greatest strategist, does; attack opponent’s weaknesses via the game plan, sometimes with a heavy running game, and at other times with a heavy aerial attack. The old adage of “this is my offense and this is what I do and players must conform” is antiquated and gets coaches fired. The new paradigm is to determine what player’s do best, even if it’s not what they may think they do best, and put them in the best position to win while also attacking the opponent’s weaknesses. These are not criticisms as much as it is selfish player’s used to being the focus of the offense. Bill Lazor doesn’t have “an offense” and that might be a good thing.

“Ryan (Tannehill) has more options than a lot of quarterbacks that we’ve coached,” Lazor said. “Now, we do certain things differently. Some of them are what you would call verbal audibles, some of them are right at the snap, some of them are built in options. It’s how we choose to play football. Ryan has the ability to handle those things and in my opinion does them very well. I think that’s one of his strengths. He uses all of the different options, whether they be audibles or built in options to get the ball distributed around the field. That’s probably when we’ve played our best offensively, is when he’s used all of those things.”-Bill Lazor addressing concerns that Tannehill isn’t allowed to audible (“Bill Lazor denies players are unhappy with the offense” – Kevin Patra, 11/17)

Big named coaches are hard to land, especially for Oakland. Historically, the Raiders have always taken chances on young emerging coordinators and paid them pennies. At 42, Lazor is young but he has worked with some of the greatest innovators in the game (Reeves, Holgren, Gibbs & Kelly) and Miami’s offense has experienced success in critical areas. As of this writing the Dolphins lead the NFL in red-zone scoring attempts at 4.9 attempts per game, although the Dolphins aren’t scoring TDs that still an impressive statistic. Conversely, the Raiders are averaging 1.4 red zone visits per game. A long-time QB coach, Lazor has been credited for the emergence of Nick Foles in his first season as the Eagles QB and now Tannehill. Imvho, Lazor is exactly the kind of young innovative mind the Raiders require. Good Luck, Raider Nation.

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Did Mark Davis Miss an Opportunity to Rebrand the Raiders?

It is said that in order to lead effectively a strong manager must manage the voices in the hallway. In short, sometimes those whispering at the water cooler have valid criticisms that should be addressed. The Raiders are grossly undervalued. The primary reason is that Raiders have the weakest stadium revenue streams and have had this situation for over 20 years. The Raiders have a current stadium situation that can only be resolved through relocation. However, there are great hurdles to the location that the Raiders covet, Los Angeles. Mainly, getting public contributions will be the greatest hurdle. The already overtaxed locals are very tax adverse to any increases. However, there is another issue that Mark Davis has completely ignored.

Many Los Angelinos don’t want the Raiders mainly because of what they perceive as the team’s thug image. Recently, the Raiders had a joint practice with the Cowboys in Oxnard and Raider fans came out in droves to support the team much to the delight of Mark Davis. However, a fight broke out near the fans and right on cue a fan took it upon himself to swing his replica helmet at a Cowboy player. In one ill-fated swing confirming the fears of those opposed to the Raiders returning. Here is the video:

(Fan swings helmet about 6 seconds in)

Days later jokes abound about “typical Raider fans”. Anyone concerned about the image of his product and its association to violence should have been embarrassed. Both owners joked about the situation but only one of the two has a very serious image problem that could impede the forward progression of his business, Mark Davis. Here’s what the two owners had to say about the issue:

“I would have at least expected [Davis] to go over there and shut that group down,” Jones said, laughing. “I don’t know what was holding him back.”
Davis interjected that he just wanted his players to keep their helmets on.
“You’re supposed to be the host here, you go shut them up,” Davis said.
Jones even lauded one of Oakland’s players (offensive linemen Austin Howard) for his feistiness against the Cowboys players. Howard was involved in at least one scuffle.
“No. 77 is a tough guy. Got one of the most effective uppercuts I’ve seen in football,” Jones said. “Boy, that 77 was putting some hurt on ’em.”

Mark Davis has done an excellent job of rebranding the organization in his image however by taking this matter lightly he clearly doesn’t get it. Voters in LA aren’t desperate for football and even less so if the team in question will give way to an uptick in crime despite the great economic benefits to the community.

With all due respect Mr. Davis, a fan swinging a helmet at a player would have been an opportune time to remind fans that they are a vital PART of the team but they are not ON the team and should respect the boundaries of fans and players. As a symbolic gesture Mr. Davis should have identified the offending fan and suspended him from attending games or practices for at least one year. Furthermore, Mr. Davis, make a commitment to safety and ensure locals that will you do EVERYTHING in your power to make your venue THE safest in the NFL. A stadium where fans feel confident they will not be taking their life in their hands attending a game would create the type of intrinsic value that could make LA home again.

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2015 Oakland Raider Preseason Mock Draft

● 2015 Moves That Should Be Made Right Now ●

DE Brandon Graham

● TRADE: OAK WR DeNarius Moore for PHI DE Brandon Graham
DE Brandon Graham ● Height: 6’01 3/8” ● Weight: 268lbs ● 10: 1.61
The Skinny: This is the most polarizing move that most of us will have a problem with. Keep in mind that Raiders want to ground and pound and won’t be using that many 3 WR sets anyways. I’m putting this move here because it will affect the draft approach.

OLB/DE Brandon Graham has fallen out of favor in Philly. Graham is quick but he isn’t long and he may be a bit stiff hipped to play standing up. Conversely, WR Moore has fallen out of favor in Oakland. Chip Kelly loves speed and wants to get something for a former 1st rounder. I would trade Moore for Graham. Graham and Woodley are essentially the same skill set. If Graham doesn’t work out the Raiders can let him walk in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Rotational DE

TE Joseph Fauria

● TRADE: 2015 7th for Detroit TE Joseph Fauria
TE Joseph Fauria ● Height: 6’07 ⅝“ ● Weight: 259lbs ● 40: 4.77
The Skinny: Fauria is buried on the depth chart and may not make the roster despite being productive for the Lions. I would use this late round pick today to solidify the position if Ausberry doesn’t come through.
2015 Outlook: Starting TE

● 2015 NFL Free Agency ●

FS Antrel Rolle

FS Antrel Rolle ● Height: 6’00” ● Weight: 198lbs ● 40: 4.50
The Skinny: Rolle turns 32 in Dec and is playing out the final year of contract. It is highly anticipated that the Giants will let him walk as contract extension talks have been quiet. If Rolle has anything left in the tank he is exactly the type of stopgap FA the Raiders need at FS as he excels in coverage.
2015 Outlook: Starting FS

CB Tramon Williams

CB Tramon Williams ● Height: 5’11” ● Weight: 194lbs ● 40: 4.57
The Skinny: As a former Ted Thompson disciple runs the Raiders front office, we are becoming very familiar with how these two organizations do things. This season GB CB Tramon Williams will have played out the final year of his contract and will be a FA on the wrong side of 30 (32 yrs old), in recent years FA has not been kind to FAs over 30. GB will let Williams walk and not receiving the offers he will be expecting, Williams will be a prime candidate to join the Raiders on a team friendly short-term contract. Oakland appears to have become the rest home for GB veterans so Tramon should feel at home.
2015 Outlook: Starting RCB

● NFL Mock Draft ●

❶ Browns: DE Leonard Williams While the Browns defense is formidable the offense will be void of weapons with WR Josh Gordon suspended. The Browns are a complete circus at QB but they are committed to the development of Manziel and pass on a QB. New HC. New OC. No offensive weapons. Tough division. High draft pick.

❷ Cowboys: DE Randy Gregory
Imo, the Cowboys are going to be a dumpster fire this season. The organization has been holding the roster together with bandaids for years. This is the year the dam breaks. RT Free is going to get Romo killed. Murray can’t stay on the field and the worst defense in league lost some key defenders to injury or free agency.

❸ Browns (via Buffalo): DE/OLB Shilique Calhoun:
Manuel isn’t the answer at QB. LT Glenn has a mysterious “illness” and the Bills have enigmatic OT Henderson at LT until he is back. The Browns use the Bills pick to add a prolific edge rusher.

❹ Texans: OT Brandon Scherff:
Some may view this as an upset but Scherff is an impressive athlete who could go high in the draft after posting incredible Combine numbers. Having missed out on the edge rusher they covet the Jags add to the trenches to protect their investment at QB.

❺ Raiders

ROUND ❶

Dorial Green-Beckham

DGB_GiF

#5th Overall: Dorial Green-Beckham
Height: 6’04 ⅝” ● Weight: 225lbs ● 40: 4.49
Reminiscent of: Terrell Owens
Strengths:
• Excellent body control
• Huge catch radius
• Easily converts speed to power
Weaknesses:
• Route running
• Short-area quickness
• Serious character flags
The Skinny: Some mocks have DGB going in the 2nd because he won’t play football in 2014 amid a host of legal woes stemming from a domestic abuse charge and a suspension involving drug possession. DGB will sit out the season, get cleaned up, rehabilitate himself and prepare for the 2015 NFL Combine (a la Tyrann Matheiu). As a former high school Track star DGB claimed the state title in the 100m, triple-jump and second in the long-jump in Class 4 Track & Field. Words cannot adequately articulate what DGB is going to do to the draft with all this preparation time. It will be a controversial pick but DGB will jettison himself to the top of draft boards by May. I don’t call bubble screens, stop-n-go and wheel routes real route running. DGB is already dangerous but if he can learn to get in and out of breaks he would be unstoppable. Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon are the cautionary tale. A reformed NFLer a la Tyrann Mathieu the hope of Raider Nation. Expect a contract full of off-set language and a short holdout.
2015 Outlook: Starting X

ROUND ❷

RB TJ Yeldon

TJ_Yeldon_vs_Kentucky_2013_GiF

#37th Overall: RB TJ Yeldon
Alabama ● Height: 6’01 ⅝” ● Weight: 218lbs ● 40: 4.46
Reminiscent of: N/A
Strengths:
• Excellent short area quickness
• Excellent lateral agility & balance
• Vision
Weaknesses:
• Pass blocking
• Receiving skills
The Skinny: Whether Derek Carr or Schaub enters the 2015 season as the starting QB, the Raiders will make a coordinated effort to surround the QB position with a stronger supporting cast. The 2015 NFL Draft boasts depth at positions of need. Hopefully the Raiders will double dip at skill positions to make the offense more dynamic.

Tj Yeldon is one of my favorite running backs in recent years. He is an excellent blend of power and elusiveness. Yeldon doesn’t hammer defenses like Peterson but he is slippery because of his laterally agility makes it hard for defenders to get good angles. Never taking hard hits also contributes to Yeldon’s durability. I’m not high on Alabama players. I think that once Alabama players go through 3 seasons of meat grinding SEC play their players are basically used up. However, Yeldon splits time and doesn’t take a pounding.
2015 Outlook: Starting RB

ROUND ❸

OT Donovan Smith

Donovan_Smith_vs_Michigan_2013_GiF
#69th Overall: OT Donovan Smith
Penn State ● Height: 6’04 ⅝“ ● Weight: 335lbs ● 40: 5.12
Stock comparison: NE OT Cameron Fleming
Strengths:
• Length & girth
• Excellent size/speed ratio
• Strong fundamentals/Excellent pedigree
Weaknesses:
• Stamina
• Run blocking
• No huddle scheme
The Skinny: Penn State LT Donovan Smith is quickly becoming one my favorite offensive lineman of the 2015 draft assuming that he makes himself eligible for the draft. Smith is a large mobile man who is an absolute wall in pass defense. McKenzie seems to have an affinity for Penn State prospects (Crawford ‘12, McGloin ’13).
2015 Outlook: Starting RT

ROUND ❹

DE Ray Drew

Ray_Drew_vs_Missouri_2013_GiF
#101st Overall: DE Ray Drew
Georgia ● Height: 6’04 ⅛“ ● Weight: 276lbs ● 40: 4.79
Reminiscent of: MIN DE Everson Griffen
Strengths:
• Good inside quickness
• Good athleticism
Weaknesses:
• Average outside quickness
The Skinny: The 2015 draft is loaded at DE, hence a solid DE prospect is bound to fall. One of my favorite prospects that I think will fall through the cracks is UGA DE Ray Drew. Coming out of highschool Drew was a highly regarded 43 DE recruit who surprised many when he signed with UGA, who runs a 34 defense base. UGA runs multiple fronts and Drew plays everything from 43 DE, 34 DE, Nickel DT to 34 OLB. Drew moves all over but his true position is 43 DE and may be a better pro than college player (a la USC alum DE Everson Griffen). Some have Drew going as high as late 1st in preseason 2015 mocks but imo Drew seems to be more effective as an interior rusher than coming off the edge. Drew is too quick for interior OL but doesn’t exhibit the kind of burst to beat long OTs from the edge. However, I think Drew does have the ability to slide inside on passing downs in the pros which makes him perfect for RDE Tuck’s role with the Raiders. Most of Drew’s sack production is the result of “effort sacks” rather than just beating OTs with quickness off the snap from the edge which is why I have him slipping. I think DEs Leonard Williams, Gregory, Calhoun, Fowler Jr., Edwards Jr., Dupree and Flowers go before Drew. Ultimately, I think the Raiders will be choosing among Frank Clark, Cedric Reed, Ray Drew, Lynden Trail, Corey Crawford or Theiren Cockran in the 4th which is not a bad lot to choose from.
2015 Outlook: Rotational LDE

ROUND ❺

C Jake Smith

Jake_Smith_vs_UCF_2013_GiF
#101st Overall: OG/C Jake Smith
Louisville ● Height: 6’03 ⅛“ ● Weight: 312lbs ● 40: 5.32
Stock comparison: Typical of an OG
Strengths:
• Versatility
Weaknesses:
• WCO Scheme
The Skinny: Smith is a combo guard that was coached in a system at Louisville that prides itself of versatility. The Raiders could use a versatile interior OL that can play all three spots. After having watched Smith on tape I love the way he was used as a pulling center and Louisville often ran behind Smith through the 0 hole. I believe that if healthy current C Wisniewski could go off this season and price himself out of range of the Raiders. Smith gives the Raiders contract leverage and roster flexibility
2015 Outlook: Starting C

ROUND ❻

FS Jaquiski Tartt

Jaquiski_Tartt_Highlights_Re-edit_GiF
#165th Overall: SS Jaquiski Tartt
Samford ● Height: 6’00 ⅝“ ● Weight: 218lbs ● 40: 4.56
Stock comparison: Typical of a safety
Strengths:
• Quality athlete
Weaknesses:
• Lack of competition
• New to the game
• Speed
The Skinny: What would a Raiders mock be without the small school prospect that GM McKenzie is drawn to? Tartt is a former basketball player who played his first year of organized football as a senior in high school. However, Tartt has used his basketball skills to transition nicely into a bona fide NFL prospect at safety as he makes most pre-season watch lists in FCS football.
2015 Outlook: Safety depth

ROUND ❼
#197th Overall: Traded in 2014 for TE Joseph Fauria

UDFA

RB Cameron Stingily

Cameron_Stingily_Highlights_re-edit_2013_GiF
RB/FB Cameron Stingily
Northern Illinois ● Height: 6’00 ⅝“ ● Weight: 235lbs ● 40: N/A
Stock comparison: Equitable value for a developmental FB
The Skinny: Stingily is a human battering ram.
2015 Outlook: Practice Squad

● Draft Summary ●
1) WR DGB
2) RB TJ Yeldon
3) OT Donovan Smith
4) DE Ray Drew
5) SS Jaquiski Tartt
6) OG/C Jake Smith
7) TE Joseph Fauria
UDFA: RB Cameron Stingily

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2014 NFL Draft Mancrush

Mancrush 2014:

DE Clowney

WR Watkins

OT Robinson

LB Shazier

FS Brooks

TE ASJ

OG Jackson

WR Janis

OT Lucas

OT Tiny

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2013 NFL Draft Mancrush

My mancrush list is a comprehensive list of NFL prospects that I think present great value with respect to their draft stock. (This is a repost of something I wrote long ago. I am posting this for historical reasons for recap project in 2016)

DT Sheldon Richardson

OT Luke Joeckel

FS Kenny Vaccaro

FS Baccari Rambo

WR Aaron Dobson

RB Christine Micheal

TE Vance McDonald

OG Manase Foketi

WR Ryan Swope

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