Oakland Raiders Draft Pick DeMarcus Van Dyke Goes Under the Spotlight

My confidence for the Oakland Raiders making the right selection in the 2011 NFL Draft was at an all-time high after the selection of Stefen Wisniewski with No. 48. That confidence came crashing down when I heard DeMarcus Van Dyke was their next selection. I didn't know a lot about Van Dyke, and that was because the little I knew led me to saying, "Oh my Al. I hope they do not take this guy."

All I had seen leading up to the draft was he was a back-up at Miami, he had the fastest 40 at the Combine, and he was projected as a late round pick. The more I learned about Van Dyke the more I understood the pick, and the round in which they picked him. Jump over for more on the now Pirate DVD....

 

Van Dyke entered Miami as a highly recruited player. Here is Scout.com's take on DVD coming out of high school:

One of the top cornerbacks in all of South Florida as a junior in 2005, Van Dyke will be tough to throw on as a senior. He finished the 05 season with 30 tackles and three picks. He'll be one of the fastest players in this year's class.

His expectations at Miami were apparent right away as he started eight games as a freshman. To look at his college resume after that is to look at giant red flags waving. Van Dyke only started two games as a sophomore, eight as a junior and just three as a senior. 

The fact that the Raiders just drafted a college backup with their third-round pick was one of the first things the media asked Hue Jackson after Day Two of the draft concluded. Action Jackson:

He also was a starter and played some tremendous football. Sometimes things happen for different reasons. We found those reasons out, so we’re very, very comfortable about what happened there at the University of Miami . And we feel very fortunate that this young man is on our football team.

So what did happen there at Miami? Well, the obvious answer is an easy one. The Miami coaching staff failed. I don't think I'll be quoting this next gentleman often, but he makes sense and is not taking giant leaps in this dot connecting

Drew Rosenhaus, DVD's agent, as quoted on the SunSentinel.com:

His good friend, Sam Shields, also has indirectly helped. Sam, he didn't play a whole lot, either, and he came into the NFL and played at a very, very high level. Shields was undrafted out of Miami and then played in 18 games for the Packers as third cornerback and won a Super Bowl ring.

I think it's probably one of the reasons that they have made an adjustment with the coaching staff. I guess they felt that, you know, the talent didn't translate with respect to the wins and losses.

The comparison to Shields makes me giddy, and it is certainly not without merit. What a waste of college talent Shields was. It also goes along with universal complaints of now former Miami coach Randy Shannon. He did not develop or use the immense talent on his roster. Only two schools, North Carolina and USC had more players go in the 2011 Draft than Miami (eight players) and the Hurricanes had a dismal 7-6 record to show for it.

DVD began to showcase his skills after he left the talent drain that was Miami. He used a solid showing at the East-West Shrine Game that included two tackles and on fumble recovery to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl.

Although, he didn't sell everyone during his practices for the Shrine Game. Wes Bunting of the National Football Post:

While taking a look at the defensive backs this afternoon it was hard at times to watch Miami corner DeMarcus Van Dyke try to hold up in man coverage. He’s a tall, lean kid who isn’t real flexible when asked to get into his drop. He quickly allows his pad level to rise, causing him to get leggy when asked to change directions and transition down the field and is slow to get back up to speed quickly out of his breaks. Balance is key for any defensive back and it’s one of the main reasons why I think Van Dyke will have a tough time sticking in the league.

Don't worry Raiders fans—it gets better.

Troy Pauline of SI.com

"He did practice well at the Shrine Game and had a good Senior Bowl. Definitely third round, maybe second- round area for a team that takes a liking to him. The problem with Van Dyke is the fact he’s pencil thin. I mean, He’s built like a flamingo."

There you have it. The first sentiment that the Raiders did not reach at all. The biggest knock on him from here is his size, and comments like the flamingo one are frequent. I read in one spot where reporters had a joke at the Senior Bowl that Miami had suspended their food program.

Onto reports of his week at the Senior Bowl.

Monday Practice Notes: The strongest performance from a defensive back from the South was contributed by Van Dyke. He was better than expected as he stuck to his receivers, particularly on deep routes.

Tuesday Practice Notes: Fundamentally Van Dyke is terrific as he offers good fundamentals and quickness.  Some feel he gets a little high in his pedal.  Problem his he’s very slow to react and really shows no instincts

Wednesday Practice Notes: It was a matter of inches and Van Dyke fell short.  Again, technically he’s very good and displays the ability to stay on the receivers hip out of breaks but he’s always literally a quarter step away from making the play.

Analysis: Van Dyke showed enough to get consideration in the middle rounds, maybe even the late part of the third frame.  Has skills but just needs to put it all together.
See? These reports are getting better. The questions of his ball skills do come up again though.

Van Dyke needs to improve his ball skills in order to help himself this week. He was in position plenty but didn’t make good plays on the ball.
While he likely does need to work on those ball skills. It is also not a skill he is totally lacking. And the below statement stands as proof from a game against NFL level players.
I mentioned DeMarcus Van Dyke earlier in the week, so I was pleased to see that he had a great game. Van Dyke drew an offensive pass interference flag on Titus Young in the third quarter of the Senior Bowl. Later, Van Dyke ran the opposing receiver's route and nearly intercepted Jake Locker in the end zone.

This is another Raiders selection, like Joe Barksdale, that I feel better about every day. Given the concern over having a player needing to bulk up or slim down I will take the up every time. And for his part, DVD seems like the kind of player that will put in the work to make it in the league.

Here is DVD as quoted by Michael Lombardo on Scout.com:

I can do anything they want me to do. I'll play special teams, clean lockers, do whatever it takes to be on the team.
While I'm not sure he has the skills and experience to come in and clean lockers he will does on special teams.

At Miami I played special teams all four years. On the punt team I was the gunner. On the punt return team I was the guy who challenged the receiver. And on kickoff I was the safety valve. I want to try returning punts, too.
Despite this the Raiders did not draft him to clean lockers or play special teams. They brought him in to play man-to-man corner. And he has some experience with that. DVD:

I feel like I'm more comfortable playing off [coverage] now, because at Miami we played a bunch of press. I wasn't really comfortable playing off, but now I have some repetitions playing off—I'm getting some coaching from NFL guys who know how to play off -- so I'm getting more comfortable and getting better each day.
So, like I said, I feel a lot better about this pick. These highlights don't hurt either. I especially love the instincts and tenacity on the quick swing passes.


 

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