This is the second in a series discussing how the 2011 NFL Draft results will alter the opponents on the Raiders' Schedule. In case you missed the exciting results from part one—you can catch up right here. If there is a trend to be had so far in the Raiders non AFC West opponents it is they are beefing up their front-seven. So it is a good thing the Raiders spent two of their first three picks on offensive linemen. I will also feel a little better if they dip into the free agent pool for some additional assistance. But we can discuss that later. For now, let's focus on the opponents....
Week 5: @ Houston Texans
Key Rooks: DE, J.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Brooks Reed, DB, Brandon Harris, DB, Rashad Carmichael
Summary: The Texans pass defense was non-existent in 2010. So they brought in Wade Phillips to run the defense, and then spent their first five picks on defense. And they did so while getting some outstanding value. Their first three selections were all spotted in the first-round of some mocks.
The Texans are likely shifting to a base 3-4 defense, and they are going to have some interesting pieces in their front-seven. They will not be hurting for flexibility.
J.J. Watt was exactly what teams were looking for in a 3-4 end, and he will be able to slide to DT when they use four men fronts. Brooks Reed is likely going to be asked to make the shift to a 3-4 linebacker, but he'll be able to line up as a DE in pass rush situations.
Brandon Harris may win one of the starting spots, and either way he is likely to be a quality nickel corner from Week One. Carmichael may get some run in dime sets. The Texans defense just got a lot better. And the most interesting thing to watch is how they use Mario Williams. It sounds like he is going to start off as the OLB in their base defense.
Overall, the Texans have yet to do much to help their secondary. Except they may not have to as teams are going to be rushing to get rid of the ball.
Week 6: Cleveland Browns
Key Rooks: DT, Phil Taylor, DE, Jaabal Sheard, WR, Greg Little, TE, Jordan Cameron, DB Buster Skrine
Summary: The Browns defensive line was fairly void of talent, and they are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. So, they spent their first two picks to fill those holes. Both guys will likely be starting from Week One. Taylor was the highest rated nose tackle in the draft, and he is going to make a serious impact. Sheard is more a pass rushing defensive end, and at the very least will get some run on passing downs.
Greg Little has the physical tools to be a great receiver, but he didn't play in 2010 due to the North Carolina fiasco, and you have to expect his transition to the NFL will take some time. Cameron is a bit of a project pick, and I wouldn't expect him to make much of an impact as a rookie. And then there is our boy Buster Skrine. I would not be surprised at all to see Skrine win the nickel spot for the Browns.
The Browns defensive line should see immediate results from this draft. And Taylor alone will make it difficult for teams to run up the middle on them.
Week 11: @ Minnesota Viking
Key Rooks: QB, Christian Ponder, TE, Kyle Rudolph, DE, Christian Ballard
Summary: I feel bad for Adrian Peterson. He is going to face a lot of stacked boxes in 2011, and they did nothing beef up the O-line in the draft. What they did do was take a rookie QB that they want to start sooner rather than later.
If the lockouts cuts into too much camp the Vikings will almost be forced to sign a QB with starting experience (Gradkowski?) but I'd expect to see Ponder in this game. They did give him a solid TE target in Rudolph that should be able to start right away. Christian Ballard has the tools to be a solid pass rushing DE in his rookie season.
If it wasn't clear before the draft it is clear now: the Vikings are a work in progress, and if you stop Adrian Peterson you are going to stop the Vikings.