Development can take place over the course of the grind that is the 2012 season. Early in the season, anyone familiar with football could have said that our secondary was in dire need, and Dee Millner could have almost been penciled in as the Raiders' first rounder. But, as Oakland's pick has been projected higher and players have developed, Millner no longer makes as nuch sense for Oakland in Round 1.
Early in the season, the obvious needs were corner, safety, and a right tackle (remember Willie Smith against Von Miller? *shutter*). But since then, a lot has changed, most notably outside of the secondary. Since the insertion of Omar Gaither to replace Rolando McClain, the defense has only given up 15.8 PPG against offenses like Denver and Carolina. Gaither is by no means the solution, but it's an effect familiar in Oakland. McClain was such a cancer, similar to that of JaMarcus Russell, inserting any other player in his place, even one without much talent (Gaither, Bruce Gradkowski) helps the team immensely. The Raiders went from the cellar to a respectable team under Gradkowski, and they have been much more competitive since McClain was dropped.
But on offense, the Raiders are now 8 quarters without a touchdown and have scored a measily 12.8 PPG in that same span since McClain was replaced. So the question we have to ask ourselves: does the focus now shift on getting playmakers around Carson Palmer and Brandon Myers on offense?
I think it does. Oakland still needs a bit of secondary help and a middle linebacker, but both of those can be addressed in free agency. A rookie may not be the best help there, either. Detroit's Chris Houston and former Raider LB Thomas Howard are both good fits in free agency (Philip Wheeler would move inside, with Howard taking his place). The Raider defense has more pieces than originally thought. Lamarr Houston, Desmond Bryant, Andre Carter, Miles Burris, and Mike Mitchell have all stepped up post-McClain era and should all be starters, in my opinion, to begin 2013. A secondary of Huff, Houston, Branch, and Mitchell sounds patched up, with Joselio Hanson and surprise Brandian Ross as depth.
This draft also has plenty more weapons than good, solid starters on defense than in years past. Oakland's focus, in order, now becomes this for draft day:
1) Start anew with the pass catchers. DHB's drops and Moore's inconsistency is enough.Both have high enough stocks to get Top 100 picks. Use Rod Streater more, and allow Jacoby Ford to return in the slot. Draft one receiver, sign another veteran (Devery Henderson?)
3) Get a right tackle to protect Palmer. Sunday's loss vs. Carolina shows what Palmer means to the team.
4) Draft a replacement to Palmer. The QBs are all projects this year, and there is no high end talent. A fourth round QB groomed behind Palmer could be Oakland's answer.
With that in place, I'd draft like this (Trade with Miami send Oakland's 1 & WR D. Moore to Miami for Miami's 1,2, another 2, and a 3):
Round 1, Pick 15: Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
OK, OK, OK. This contradicts everything I've written so far. But this is the one area free agency won't solve--a young pass rusher. Andre Carter is playing great, but he's 37. Mingo was a Top 5 preseason pick, and slipped with the whole LSU ship, despite having a pretty good year. I promise, from here on out, offense. But this will be a great value pick.
Round 2, Pick 45: Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Well, then. I said "pass catchers", not receivers, for a reason. New England, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, and other prove the NFL is moving toward 2 Tight End systems. Ertz is the best weapon on the board at this point, and I'd much rather have him on the field to catch than any receiver right here. Will help Palmer moving forward, and will make Myers that much better.
Round 2, Pick 54: Kyle Long (OT, Oregon)
Here's a big need. I've seen Long mocked to Oakland at our 3rd rounder right now, but he's such a good value, I don't mind slotting him here, especially after taking Ertz over DJ Fluker at 45. Long is big, physical, and has Raider ties. If Knapp is sent packing, he's a guard in a PBS. He still starts day one at either. Love this kid, love this pick.
Round 3, Pick 66: Tyler Bray (QB, Tennessee)
Boy, did I get slack here for saying this was my plan as Pryor sat Sunday, somehow STILL not knowing the playbook 20+ weeks into this system, but I digress. I like this kid. He's shown me moments, in a Tennessee offense with few playmakers against tough defense, enough to develop him behind Palmer. It also gives the team a solid backup, which the Carolina game showed is a desperate need. I think this is necessary in a QB driven lead, where teams picking Top 10 like Indianapolis, Washington, and Seattle pick QBs and end up in the playoffs. Bray could start in 2014.
Round 3, Pick 78: Ryan Swope (WR, Texas A&M)
Sure hands. That's the thing I love about Swope. He was a solid target for Tannehill in 2011, and Manziel in 2012. He could be the slot, with Ford getting action on the outside, or he could play outside if he shows some quickness at the pro level. I just see Welker all over this guy. I don't think Manziel wins the Heisman without him.
Round 4-Montee Ball (RB, Wisconsin)
Michael Bush-like steal for Raiders? Immediate #2 behind Goodson. Has BC vision that McFadden has seemed to have masked outside of ZBS. Speed is question mark, but on offense with Ford, Goodson, others, it can be compensated for.
Rounds 5,6, and 7 should be BPA, of course. I have no clue who could drop, but I wouldn't mind seeing another interior lineman and a linebacker.
So, there it is, Raider Nation. A completely different look at the draft than anywhere else on the web for the Raiders. Are we a better team? Of course. The team put together on paper here is great, and has pretty decent depth. But will all the free agents fall this way? No. Will McKenzie and Allen (defensive minded guys) take this much offense? Unlikely. But this is certainly a way to reconstruct the talent ridden silver and black.