The Oakland Raiders came into the 2013 NFL Draft as one of a small group of teams almost completely devoid of any talent. Between bad contracts, bad cap management, and brutal drafting, the Raiders are as heavily favored as any team in the league to be the worst run organization. After the passing of long time owner Al Davis, the Raiders brought in Reggie McKenzie to be their general manager and try to dig themselves out of this ridiculous hole and improve their team through the draft. Sadly for McKenzie, he is still suffering from one of the worst trades in the history of the NFL when the Raiders gave up a first and second round pick for quarterback Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders were without the second round pick on the back end of that deal and have also rid themselves of Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals. In the month leading up to the draft, the Raiders punted on taking a quarterback in the first round when they dealt their fifth round pick for Matt Flynn as a stopgap measure for the quarterback position along with Terrelle Pryor who McKenzie inherited. With few exceptions, the Raiders were starting from scratch and nine of their projected eleven starters on defense were free agents they signed; most of which were backups on other teams. They were just looking for bodies. McKenzie’s challenge was to collect as much talent as possible in an effort to give the Raiders something, anything to hang their hat on as they move forward.
The Raiders entered the draft with the third pick of the draft and many projected them to take one of the premier defensive linemen in the draft. They shocked everyone when they traded the pick to the Miami Dolphins to move down nine slots and get an extra second round pick. The Dolphins made the move to select Dion Jordan. Presumably, the Raiders were moving down and hoping one of the premier defensive linemen would last to them at the twelfth pick in the draft and being able to get that player in addition to a second round pick. There are people who criticized the value the Raiders got in this trade but just about everyone wanted to move down. The Raiders did it, got an extra second round pick and still get a top level talent at twelve. The defensive tackles kept slipping and the Raiders had the chance to look brilliant as they came up on the clock; Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, and Sheldon Richardson were all sitting there as options for the Raiders to pick. The card goes in and Roger Goodell goes up to announce the pick and the Raiders picked… D.J. Hayden, cornerback, Houston.
The Raiders picked the best story in the entire draft in Hayden, because he suffered an injury that severed a vein that supplies the bottom half of the body with blood. The survival rate for this injury is 19:1. Hayden was part of the 5% as the medical professionals who worked on him were able to save his life. This is a fantastic story and it is improbable that Hayden was able to live, let alone continue to play football as a professional. Everyone can be extremely happy for Hayden in this situation and wish the best for him as he goes to Oakland to continue his career.
That being said, Hayden going twelfth in the draft was extremely curious. Reportedly, the Raiders were all set to take him at three before landing the trade, which if true, is good that they were able to get the second round pick in addition to Hayden. There are some analysts who had Hayden ranked as the best corner in the draft, but he had not played football in a year and while he has displayed great movement skills and aggression as a tackler, it seemed like a reach. And while the heart issue should not be a problem in the future, it could have a mental impact on Hayden going forward and his willingness to hit and being conscious of how close he came to dying while playing football.
Perhaps just as important as who they took is who they did not take. Raiders fans are going to follow the careers of Floyd, Lotulelei, and Richardson and if they turn into studs and Hayden is anything short of a great player, there is going to be a ton of second guessing after already having a lot of first guessing. It is a big gamble for McKenzie and their head coach Dennis Allen.
Hayden should end up as one of the starting corners in Oaklandand the question is who will be playing across from him. The two likely candidates who will battle in camp are Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, both free agents brought in during the offseason. The loser for that position then has to fight Joselio Hanson for the nickel spot and while they should win it, it is not a given as he is a great fit for that spot. For the Raiders, this position and to be an area of strength for the team after this move or it will leave many scratching their heads.
With the pick they received from the trade down with the Dolphins, the Raiders picked Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson. The Raiders offensive line has some decent pieces but no guys that stand out on a national level aside from Jared Veldheer but more for his Hulk-like physique rather than his play on the field. Watson had a lot of buzz at the end of the draft process and many analysts that swore he would go in the first round despite being a little raw still and being older than a lot of prospects as he turns 25 years old during the season. Many projected Watson as a potential left tackle because of his athleticism and skill set but he actually played right tackle for the Seminoles during his career, so he gives the Raiders some options.
The British born tackle will likely come in and compete against Khalif Barnes for the right tackle spot and the Raiders will hope he can unseat Barnes for that job. Potentially, down the line, there could be a situation where he would compete with Veldheer for the left tackle spot but in the end, the tandem of Veldheer and Watson is where they want to go, regardless of which side each are playing. If Watson has trouble adjusting to the NFL as a rookie and cannot take the job from Barnes, he becomes a nice swing tackle option to back up both spots. Conceivably, he could fight for a guard spot as well.
In the third round, the Raiders made their most interesting pick of the NFL Draft when they selected Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore. The reason this move is interesting is during the draft process, Moore said he was looked at for all three linebacker positions in the 4-3 as well as spots in the 3-4. From that standpoint, the Raiders bring in a linebacker that can contribute at all three spots potentially and the Raiders have a unit that has two question marks at starting linebacker spots; the strong side and middle linebacker spots. Moore also has experience putting his hand on the ground and rushing the passer from a defensive end spot, so he could play running downs as a linebacker and then move to an end spot and get after the quarterback. Moore brings a lot of versatility to a team that needs basically everything.
Moore’s skill set suggests he is best suited to play the strong side linebacker in the Raiders system and then moving to end in certain situations but middle linebacker cannot be ruled out. Currently, the Raiders are slated to have Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava start at the SAM and MIKE respectively. It seems like a matter of when and not if Moore takes one of those starting spots.
Moore is a tremendously confident player who believes he is the best linebacker in the draft and expects to be great at the next level. He has shown the ability to take on and shed blocks and attack the running game as well as contribute in coverage and get after the passer. Moore has the tools to be a complete player at the next level and it will be interesting to see how far he can go in Oakland. He has a nonstop motor and a tremendous passion for the game that has already endeared him to the fan base but should only improve when he gets on the field. Not only does this pick make a ton of sense given the Raiders needs, but he represents a great value and a player with a lot of upside and production.
In the fourth round, the Raiders made a pick that has gone under the radar when they selected Tyler Wilson, the quarterback from Arkansas. This move comes with a few connotations with it. When Matt Flynn was brought in, they had Flynn and Pryor who could not be more different in how they play the quarterback position. Flynn represented a West Coast/horizontally based quarterback while Pryor is the big, athletic kid who is at his best in a vertical offense that causes the defense to have to cover the entire field which opens up running lanes for Pryor with his incredible athleticism. Wilson is another west coast style quarterback and this could signal the way the Raiders offense is going. A west coast style, timing based offense that has a guy like Pryor who can potentially come in and be a change up with his athleticism and the threat of the run-option in the mold of a poor man’s Colin Kaepernick.
The pick itself was great on value and while Wilson had a rough senior year, he was victimized by receivers who did dropped balls and linemen who did not block with any consistency. Wilson took a beating and kept getting up and trying to win games, showing his incredible toughness and will to win. He made plays for a team that struggled and never gave up or stopped trying and could have thrown teammates under the bus but did not. Wilson was substantially better as a junior and looked the part of a quarterback who had a future in the NFL. He did not simply forget how to play after he suffered the concussion early in the year. Wilson still demonstrates the ability to make accurate throws, throw with timing and lead a team. This past year, he had some questionable decision making and forcing passes into bad situations because he was under siege or his receivers dropped passes. His arm is basically just as strong as Matt Barkley and can make throws down the field but is not a consistent threat in that area. Getting to play in Oakland and being in a timing based offense that focuses on accuracy and decision making is the best chance for Wilson to succeed. The question will be if the Raiders front office can get a good team to support whichever of their quarterbacks they like.
It stands to reason that Matt Flynn will get the starting job this season but unless he has a much better year than anyone is expecting, Wilson will have a shot to unseat him next year after a year of getting adjusted to the NFL and their offense. This could be a much bigger deal in a year or two if Wilson can get the starting job down the road but it represents a good value even if Wilson is never more than a backup there.
In the sixth round, the Raiders opted to use the first of a four picks in the round another pick for the future rather than present in Nick Kasa, the tight end from Colorado. Kasa, a converted defensive end is huge at about 270lbs with impressive athleticism. He has been a tight end for about a year and a half of the results have been impressive. Kasa can be a terrific blocker initially and that is likely the role he will be used initially, but he has shown the ability to catch the football and if he has open field, he can take it to the end zone. It would be a mistake to dismiss him as just being a big, slow tight end. He ran a 4.71 at the combine which is a good time for that size, but a sore subject with Kasa. It bothers him to no end that he had a slight hamstring pull at the end of the run that cost him from getting to the mid 4.6’s.
In addition to having the potential to being a great blocker who just needs experience to get more comfortable blocking as a unit, he is a huge body that can block out the sun in the red zone. He is a giant mismatch and finding guys with the ability to cover someone of that size and strength is not easy to do. It might take him a year, maybe even two, but if the Raiders stick with him and he continues working at it, he has the potential to be a steal down the road and a great tight end in the league as someone who can do it all but as his enormous size. It would be easy to mistake him as an offensive lineman. No one could have blamed the Raiders if they took Kasa in the fourth round, so getting him in the sixth round comes at a nice value for them and a good opportunity to have a terrific player down the road, potentially withWilsonif all goes according to plan.
Later in the sixth round, the Raiders went high upside again with Latavius Murray, running back from Central Florida. The first thing that stands out about Murray is his size and speed. Murray is over 6’2” over 230lbs and ran a 4.4 40. That probably sounds eerily similar to a prospect that went in the second round of the draft. Le’Veon Bell is not quite as tall as Murray but far taller than average and they are basically the same on the rest of the measurables. The Raiders got their back four rounds later than the Steelers did, which will be interesting to keep an eye on going forward.
Murray was not the feature back for the Golden Knights until his senior year but he was a touchdown machine with 44 touchdowns during his career and some big moments, such as being the work horse in the team’s first ever bowl victory against Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. Murray plays incredibly fast on the field and has breakaway speed, so if he gets an opening, he can take it to the house. He has the power to lower his shoulder and drive run people over or push the pile and has proven to be a reliable weapon down near the goal line and in short yardage situations.
The issues that Murrayruns into include the fact that he does struggle to play with a low pad level and defenders are able to get to his midsection to hit him as well as hit the football. He is also extremely patient, sometimes too patient and he looks hesitant not unlike former Central Floridarunning back Kevin Smith. There are times when his patience works out and he finds a hole and makes teams pay but there are too many instances where defenders will get him in the backfield before he can get his momentum started and stop him before he starts. If he is put into a situation that forces him to be more decisive, he could be much better simply because he is so big and strong who can get an impressive head of steam that he can punish defenders trying to tackle him.
Murrayis not just a runner and he has shown a willingness to block and protect his quarterback, which will be important for him being able to get playing time, especially early on in his career. He moves well and blocks like it is important to him. Murraycan also contribute as a receiver and has natural hands out of the backfield on swing passes and screens, but shows the potential to run more routes that can put defenses at a disadvantage.
Murrayhad a good year as a senior but never really took off and the Raiders could be getting him at a premium value as the upside is near endless here with everything he brings to the table. He is also an intelligent kid who can soak up information and ran out of a ton of different formations atCentral Floridaso he can learn the offense quickly and make an impact early. At UCF, he ran out of a single back, shotgun, and two back sets, so he is used to seeing it all an will not be fooled in the NFL.
The depth chart at running back for the Raiders is really interesting with Murrayon it because they have Darren McFadden, who is outstanding when healthy, but has had injury issues. They also brought in another big back in Rashad Jennings as a free agent from Jacksonville. The group of running backs they have share some interesting attributes in common. They are all quite tall for the position; McFadden and Jennings are both 6’1” and Murray is over 6’2”. McFadden is the smallest of the group at 210lbs with Jennings coming in at 235lbs. They all have some speed as well, so the Raiders have a 3-man rotation of these huge, athletic power backs that just keep coming. It will be interesting to see how they opt to use them all this year, assuming they can all stay healthy. They still have Marcel Reese as their fullback so they have a lot of power coming through the hole.
With their third pick of the sixth round, the Raiders selected Mychal Rivera, tight end from Tennessee. In many ways, he is the opposite of what they picked in Kasa. He is a smaller, sleaker, more fluid tight end that is more ready to contribute as a receiver than Kasa. Rivera is a more comfortable receiver now and has experience finding holes in the zone to get open and make plays. He does not have the top end speed, size or potential Kasa does but he might be a better tight end in the short term and might find playing time this year as their second tight end.
On the depth chart, Rivera is the fourth tight end which makes this pick a little perplexing, but it might be an indication of what this front office and coaching staff feel about the undersized Richard Ausberry. Rivera could kick out to the slot like Ausberry could but he can also play inline. The argument can be made that any pick that can contribute in the sixth round is a good one but it seems unlikely they took two tight ends in the sixth round just to compete for the third tight end spot with the loser on a team so low on talent trying to be snuck onto the practice squad. It seems more reasonable that unless Kasa or Rivera seriously underperform, they will be some combination of the second and third tight end behind Richard Gordon.
The Raiders finally took a defensive lineman with their last pick in the sixth round with Stacy McGee, defensive tackle out of Oklahoma. The Raiders opted for a reasonable gamble here with McGee as a 3-tech defensive tackle with athleticism who has shown flashes of being a big time player but has never been consistent and has had his fair share of off field issues. Currently, the Raiders have the newly signed Vance Walker as their starting 3-tech tackle and bring in McGee as competition but more likely as depth. In many ways, McGee is a homeless man’s Lamarr Houston that could potentially contribute as a defensive tackle or on the edge with his legnth and athleticism. McGee is a guy who clearly has talent but has never lived up to it. The Raiders hope they can finally light a fire under him and get the player he could be, but it seems like a long shot. If it works out, they have another impressive athlete on their defensive line along with Houston that can do a few different things for them in various situations. The rotation at defensive tackle is pretty weak at this point so he should be able to make the team and get plenty of chances to prove he can be a player for them now and for the future.
With their first pick in the seventh round, the Raiders took Brice Butler, wide receiver from San Diego State. With this pick, the Raiders appeared to take a combination of triangle numbers as Butler is a 6’3″ 205lb receiver as well as a guy based on what he could have been coming out of high school. Butler got to San Diego State after transferring from USC. Obviously, USC has a tremendous reputation when it comes to recruiting athletes and while the Raiders have to have seen Butler work out, picking a guy who was recruited highly and ultimately did not work out in his college career is not this is not as unheard of as it sounds. The Eagles had success with this move when they selected Bryce Brown, who barely played in college after being the #1 high school running back by most rankings when he committed to Tennessee. Brown’s career was a disaster in college but the Eagles took a flyer on him in the seventh round and while he is hardly a superstar, he has contributed for them and will have an opportunity to prove how much he can do for that roster this year. The same logic could be applied to this Butler pick.
With the last pick of their draft, the Raiders picked up David Bass, defensive end from Missouri Western. This is a logical pick for a number of reasons. The Raiders could use any and all talent they can add to this defensive line and Bass was a record setting player at Missouri Western. It is surprising that Bass lasted this long considering how well he played during the East-West Shrine Game week. By many accounts, he was the most effective pass rusher there, yet he still was available here in the seventh round. Bass has played a ton of football in his career in college and had a ton of production. For the Raiders, they are hoping he can get after the passer for them. If he can crack their rotation, it will likely be on obvious passing downs with one goal in mind; get to the quarterback. This pick has the potential to really pay off as Bass has shown ability and could be a steal for them.
My Thoughts: The Raiders were put in an incredibly difficult situation and Reggie McKenzie will have to be extremely effective in order to get this team out of their cap mess and get a quality football team on the field again. I love the trade down they made. It was a slight gamble, but they got an extra second rounder for something they were going to do anyway. It is gravy in addition to being a smaller contract at twelve than at three. I love the Hayden story and would like to see him succeed there, but I do not understand the thought process there. I did not see enough tape of Hayden to be comfortable in really breaking him down, but saw good strength and aggressiveness to tackle and play the run combined with good movement skills. He has the athletic ability to be a good cover corner but was more conservative and let people catch passes underneath and then go up and hit them. There is significant upside and he could become a great corner but he needs to get more comfortable playing in a receiver’s hip pocket. They had a chance to get a second round pick and get any of Floyd, Richardson, or Lotulelei. They were all good choices and would help them rebuild a depleted defensive line that has nothing but Lamarr Houston and some free agents they hope can become something. Hayden could be a franchise corner and this criticism will look stupid, but it was a confusing selection. Not only that, but they did not take a defensive lineman until round six, which is questionable as well. Menelik Watson made a lot of sense given the Raiders situation along the offensive line. He gives them options, which is good. He allows them to put the best linemen on the field, which is always a good move. The fact that he is not being pressured to perform immediately could be a good situation as well.
I am a big Sio Moore fan was fortunate enough to be able to talk to him. He is as passionate in how he talks about football as he is on the field. Mooregenuinely loves the game and is confident in what he can do. His versatility is incredibly valuable and I would expect him to end up as the SAM linebacker coming out of camp, but he could do a lot of things for them. Not only does he have talent, he could give them a voice and leadership down the road.
I do think the Tyler Wilson pick is under the radar and if it was made by almost any other team in the league would be getting more press. He is tough as nails and can make plays with the football. He also goes against everything that Al Davis would have wanted in a quarterback. He does not have a cannon for an arm, but he is a nice quarterback prospect. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NFL as a rookie and in preseason to get a sense of whether or not he will be a threat to take the starting job in the future.
The picks of Nick Kasa and Latavius Murray are great and I like both players for what the Raiders seem to want to do. Kasa has long term potential as a complete tight end but in the short term, he is a 270lb blocker who enjoys blocking. And with Murray, the Raiders have a stable of these tall, athletic, powerful backs. It will be interesting to see how they choose to use them all. They could run formations with multiple backs on the field and have a ton of options for how they want to attack defenses. It is a unique group with their height and the fact they resemble linebackers playing running backs.
In the end, the Raiders and Reggie McKenzie were desperate to grab any talent they could get their hands on to improve the overall team by just getting worthwhile players. There are some strategic moves and picks that could be criticized but the Raiders did not care where they got talent; just that they got it. The top three picks have the chance to start right away and make an impact while many of the remaining picks were made for the future as opposed to the present. If the Raiders can cash in on this draft, they will have far more clearly defined needs next year and might be more inclined to target certain areas; the defensive line and quarterback position stand out from this standpoint unless they really like what they get from the three quarterbacks they have on the roster this year.
Topics: 2013 Nfl Draft, Arkansas Razorbacks Football, Brice Butler, Central Florida Golden Knights Football, Colorado Buffaloes Football, Connecticut Huskies Football, D.J. Hayden, David Bass, Florida State Seminoles Football, Houston Cougars Football, Latavius Murray, Menelik Watson, Missouri Western, Mychal Rivera, Nick Kasa, Oakland Raiders, Oklahoma Sooners Football, San Diego State Aztecs Footbal, Sio Moore, Stacy McGee, Tennessee Volunteers Football, Tyler Wilson