I think the draft of the Oakland Raiders has a lot of potential, more so than other years. It's just a matter of coaching and using the pieces we acquired correctly. Other than Wis and Barksdale, this was a draft of depth and developmental starters. For a team that came to close to the playoffs, it's not a bad way to draft. However, I think this was more than just drafting some depth and a couple O-Line starters. My interpretation of the draft plan after the jump.
Now then let me start by saying that obviously, none of this is for sure. I'm pretty much just speculating as I obviously don't know what Davis and Jackson were planning. It's just how I think they were looking at the draft.
Let's just start with those O-Line guys. Barksdale and Wis can both come in and start immediately and most likely will. Both bring the size and power we need for the power block scheme, and both immediately upgrade the line. This is pretty much cut and dry. We may have been top-10 in offense last year, but that O-Line was getting Jason Campbell killed (by the way, glad we didn't take Kaepernick or Mallett) and had trouble opening up holes against above average run defenses.
Now then, let's look at our two DB's, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Checkwa. Both are fast, fluid, and physical. Both fit the press-man scheme. Both have high upside. Both give us a deep group of defensive backs. Look at what our cornerback group looks like
- Stanford Routt- One of the most targeted corners in the NFL who was almost exclusively on the offense's number 1 receiver. Despite all this, still managed to allow only a handful of touchdowns. Could be even better with our next corner taking some of the heat away from him with:
- Chris Johnson- Just like Stanford Routt, sucks in the slot, great on the outside. Was in Routt's position two years ago and had very similar stats in terms of touchdowns allowed.
- Jeremy Ware- Can play safety or corner. Showed flashes of excellence last year. Rookie mistakes led to allowing big plays but was solid and improving as the year went on.
- Walter McFadden- Still developing but gave up a lot of big plays. Never really seemed to get it. Coaching staff has high hopes but might not even make team when competing with:
- DeMarcus Van Dyke- Looks like Walter McFadden but a more physical guy who can better play the bump-and-run scheme and with higher upside. Tall, fast, physical and at worst is good depth.
- Chimdi Checkwa- Guy looks like he could end up our nickel corner if it wasn't for Jeremy Ware. Checkwa loves to play physical and has enough speed to hang with any slot receivers who might beat his press coverage. Has great recovery ability and once again fits the scheme like a glove. I love this kid.
Many said we needed a starting corner to replace Nnamdi. If Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt have been playing number 1's and been two of the most attempted on corners in the NFL during their starting stints with Nnamdi, but only allowed 3-5 touchdowns, I think we've got two quality starters. The problem wasn't starters last year, it was the nickel and dime backs who were getting beat constantly in the slot. Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt can't play in the slot, plain and simple. They just can't.
So what did Al Davis do? He gets two corners who can play in the slot very well and actually are nickel corners, especially in the scheme. Two guys who are physical enough to press against big slot receivers, yet fast enough against speedy slot guys and to recover if they get beat at the line. Both have potential to be great corners, and at worst are improvements and great depth.
Next we were given a "speed receiver", the speed back Taiwan Jones, a big receiver who might develop as a TE, FB, or just stay as a big Chaz Schilens-type receiver, and a big blocking TE that I've seen scouting reports call, "an extension of Miami's offensive line".
Now why the air quotes around speed receiver for Denarius Moore? Speed receiver implies that he's just fast. That he's not tough, not a good pass catcher, not a good route runner. Moore however is all of these. He's fast, has great hands, plays tough versus press, and runs solid routes (needs some improvement but isn't like JLH out there). Moore has potential to be a starter. I'll go ahead and say it, he is currently the most sure-handed receiver we have. Amazing pick.
Now then, why did we draft so many offensive players and offensive weapons when we were a top-10 offense last year? Those numbers were inflated and misleading. When you tie an NFL record for points scored in a single game, it'll tend to inflate a couple stats. Face it, we lit up the scoreboard only against bad defenses. The only one I consider decent that we did well against was Kansas City.
But when it came time to face Pittsburgh, Tennessee, San Francisco, etc, our offense came to a screeching halt. This team didn't just need a new O-Line, it needed a guy who can come in and just flat-out out run even the fastest of NFL corners whenever McFadden is out or playing badly (Taiwan Jones).
The offense needed a true number one receiver with sure hands and speed who will be our indisputable number 1 receiver week in and week out (Denarius Moore).
The offense needed a big huge red zone target other than just Zach Miller who can outreach, out-jump, and out-body anyone covering him (potentially David Ausberry).
FInally and maybe most importantly, the offense needed a real blocking TE who can catch here-and-there, but mostly stay in an be a reliable blocker for Hue's two TE sets to free up Miller to do what he does best, be a playmaking TE (Richard Gordon).
This is going to be a smashmouth, grind-it-out team that will dominate time of possession. Just when you're lulled to sleep by the constant first down grabs for Miller, Reece, or the running backs, or the constant churning of 4 yard gains by DMac and Bush, or even just the sure handed grabs of Denarius Moore on the ouside, BAM!
Oakland depth on offense and its many weapons come alive. Whether it be Taiwan Jones crashing through corners or racing past backers and safeties on screen passes, McFadden bursting through the middle of a tired defense, Denarius Moore showing why he averaged 21 YPC, Jacoby Ford's amazing speed and YAC ability, Miller busting through the secondary thanks to being freed up by Richard Gordon, or maybe even Murphy or DHB finally catching a pass and showing their jets.
This offense will finally have some options on third and 5's, some options if the running game is stale, and finally a complete package receiver on the outside. All three were things we lacked last year, all three cost us games, all three were majorly underrated needs.
Am I upset we didn't get a linebacker or some help for the run D in the draft? Of course I am. However, I'm excited at the possibility of our offense finally playing great against any defense in the NFL, not just the bad ones. I love that slot receivers might finally no longer be our worst nightmares. And of course, I love having finally gotten help for the offensive line.
While the offense lights up the scoreboards and dominates time of possession, opposing offenses will struggle to play catch up with multiple receiver sets against a very deep cornerback group and an elite pass rushing front four.
This draft made Oakland a much deeper team, a more consistent team, and quite possibly a playoff team. We'll just have to wait and see. Nothing is ever certain in the NFL.