The 2011 NFL Draft results are in, and that is about it—there is no free agency, and no certainty as to the start of the season. So, it may be too early to project how this all effects the matchups on the Raiders schedule, but I am feeling reckless. Actually, I think it's just more a matter of being starved for football competition.
The draft is going to change the face of some of the Raiders opponents more than others. I am going to break this into three parts. That way I can entertain my brain with the thoughts of regular season matchups for three days instead of one. And I'll probably do it all over again whenever the powers that be allow players to sign contracts. In the meantime, jump over. Let's talk football...
Week 2: @ Buffalo Bills
Key Rooks: DT, Marcell Dareus, CB Aaron Williams, ILB Kelvin Sheppard
Summary: The Bills had the NFL's worst rushing defense in 2010. They have done a lot to change that. Just the addition of Dareus alone will make a big difference. He is likely going to command two blockers from the first instance he steps onto the field. Sheppard is also an inside linebacker that is very solid against the run and will likely be starting right away. Williams will undoubtedly figure into the D at least as a nickel corner if not starting.
I am glad the Raiders are getting the Bills early. With a new system and likely three rookies playing on defense this is a unit that should get better as the year goes on. Either way they look to be better on run defense from the first snap.
Week 3: New York Jets
Key Rooks: DE, Muhammad Wilkerson, NT, Kenrick Ellis, RB Bilal Powell
Summary: The Jets defensive line just got a lot better. And that's a scary proposition. Their defensive ends were solid, but aging and Muhammad Wilkerson will add rotation snaps if not outright take the starting job by this game. In fact this move may signify that the Jets are will to let free agent DE, Shaun Ellis walk. And that makes this move less about improvement, and more about sustaining their level of excellence.
It is rookie Kenrick Ellis that may bring about the biggest difference in the Jets D in 2011. Kris Jenkins was never healthy enough to impact the Jets D, and that left the job up to the undersized
I have never seen RB, Powell play, and I think he was a bit of a reach. But as much as the Jets run it, I would expect him to get some touches.
Week 4: New England Patriots
Key Rooks: OT, Nate Solder, CB Ras-I Dowling, RBs, Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley
Summary: I don't get the Patriots. They seem to be perpetually building for the future when they are so close to be a Super Bowl team in the present. They headed into the 2011 Draft with a bazillion picks, and they walk away from it with seemingly little impact on the 2011 season. They took Nate Solder with their first selection, and by most accounts Solder is not a player that is ready to come in and start at LT from Day one.
Their incumbent LT, Matt Light is a free agent, and his play is declining. So maybe they'll bring him back, or maybe they'll expect Solder to start. Either way, I think that is a good thing for the Raiders—a team that rushes the passer as good as anyone.
Ras-I Dowling is an excellent corner prospect, and he will certainly strengthen the Pats secondary, but they were pretty set at corner anyway. One of the two RBs will likely get some carries, but Green-Ellis is likely going to remain the lead guy.
The Patriots struggled to rush the passer last year, and they did nothing to improve on that in this draft. Of course, the Patriots had few holes last year, and they will be returning the majority of a 14-2 team. So, I am not going to celebrate too much here.