Oakland Raiders offensive guard Tony Bergstrom (photo by Levi Damien)
Let me preface this by saying I think post-draft grades are generally ridiculous. Usually they are based on one analysts' idea of where he thought a player should be drafted and if a team conformed to his projections. If the team doesn't do as that prognosticator says they should, they get a bad grade.
If everyone could just look to one person or a handful of experts whose ideas were without reproach, that would be one thing. But we all know the draft is far from an exact science. The lists of "can't miss picks" who missed and "reaches" who defied the scouting reports is a long one.
To accurately give a grade to a draft this early on, can't revolve around whether a team took players when I or anyone else said they should take them. The way I see it, the draft is a game of chess. It is how well you play that game that decides what grade the team receives.
From the looks of it, Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders took what little pieces they had to move and played the game pretty well.
McKenzie had said coming into the draft that the Raiders were not focusing on team needs so much as taking the best player available. Most teams will say this because if they didn't, they would give away to other teams the position on which they would be focusing. But it was clear, the truth lied somewhere inbetween.
The Raiders' first pick of the draft was the long-awaited, third round compensatory pick at 95. The team took offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom out of Utah. By most projections, Bergstrom would not be available that late in the draft. He was widely considered the best zone blocking offensive lineman in the draft. So the fact that he was still on the board made him a prime candidate for "best player available"
The Raiders are in much need of depth and future starters along the offensive line. In my one and only mock draft, I had the Raiders taking a guard with this pick. Although, like most people, I had Bergstrom going to another team before the Raiders picked. And when you can fill an obvious need with a player who could easily have gone much earlier, you make that move.
The Raiders' next pick would come a round later with their fourth round compensatory pick. They used the pick on San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris. There is no doubt in my mind Burris was a guy who Reggie McKenzie had targeted in this draft. He was among my Raider draft radar linebackers because he embodies all the characteristics McKenzie values.
I saw a lot of Clay Matthews in Burris. Then in his conference call immediately following his selection, he said himself that Matthews is the player he has emulated. Matthews was one of the Packers' best draft picks during McKenzie's 18 years in Green Bay. It remains to be seen whether Burris can live up to that comparison. But before he has even set foot on a practice field, it doesn't matter. What matters is McKenzie got his guy. And he did it while having the patience and savvy to wait until the team's second selection.
With the fifth round came the Raiders first original draft pick and therefore the first pick they could trade-so they did. They made a trade with the Lions to move down ten spots from 148 to 158 and in exchange the team picked up another round seven pick. Having an extra pick is great, however with every trade down a team makes, they run the risk of a player they have targeted being taken before they select.
With the 158th pick, they got defensive end Jack Crawford out of Penn State. This pick was a surprise because McKenzie had said prior to the draft they the team was looking for starters at every spot and Crawford is a developmental prospect. He didn't begin playing football until his junior year in high school. Then again, it could be that he thinks Crawford has yet to play his best football and will therefore eventually be a starter.
Defensive end is not a position that is very deep but there were greater needs that could have been addressed here.
Next up was the Raiders' final compensatory pick at the tail end of the fifth round. With that pick they chose Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner. At one time, Criner was considered among the best receivers in this draft. Then he ran a 4.68 40-yard dash and his stock tumbled.
Criner's production is hard to deny, though. He was a very good receiver for the Wildcats and that has to count for something. Not only that but he is just the type of receiver the Raiders need. He is a big bodied, jump ball specialist. The type of player the team thought they had in Chaz Schilens but could ever get him on the field as he was injured so often.
Chaz was much faster than Criner, however, and if Criner's 40 time is any indication of his football speed, he will have a lot of trouble separating at the NFL level which would eliminate him as a deep threat.
With their next pick, in the sixth round, the Raiders made another surprise pick. They grabbed Georgia State defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi. He becomes the first player ever drafted out of the newly formed Georgia State football team. Like Crawford, Bilukidi is a raw, developmental prospect. He didn't start playing football until his senior year in high school. He played defensive end at Georgia State but the Raiders will be moving him inside to defensive tackle.
For now, Bilukidi is a candidate to fill the hole left by the departure of John Henderson. The Raiders may have been able to wait until round seven to get Bilukidi or perhaps try and sign him as an undrafted free agent. But word is that his phone began buzzing and interest in Bilukidi late in the draft was heating up. The Raiders liked him enough they didn't want to risk his not being there in with their last pick so they grabbed him.
With their sixth and final pick in the 2012 draft, the Raiders selected Penn State linebacker Nathan Stupar. He was among those considered to be draftable players although he wasn't one of those midround projected players who surprised anyone by still being on the board.
Stupar played outside linebacker at "linebacker U" but the Raiders are moving him inside. This is what the Raiders had done with Travis Goethel a couple years ago. The move was a successful one for Goethel, although his inability to stay healthy has not been. Stupar would be a candidate to replace Goethel if he can't stay healthy as well as add depth in any 3-4 allignments.
The team had a need at every linebacker spot. They got their outside linebacker in Burris so they grabbed an inside linebacker here.
It is unfortunate the team was unable to address the cornerback position in this draft but they signed several in the offseason which will hold them over for at least one season. They also grabbed two cornerbacks and a safety as undrafted free agents-a couple of which could easily have been drafted and no one would have thought twice about it.
Overall, Reggie did a fine job of parlaying the Raiders few selections into some solid picks who fit the team's scheme and philosophy. Whether they are future Pro Bowlers remains to be seen. But it appears, for the most part, he got the guys he had targeted. And he even swung a a trade to pick up an additional pick. Not too shabby.
Overall Grade: B