I think I am more excited for the 2011 NFL Draft than I've been for any other draft, which is a little odd considering the Raiders are coming off a depressingly long string of top-ten selections, and they don't even have a first-round selection. Still, my excitement starts tonight, and tonight there is only one round. But that is because there are plenty of things to keep me interested as a Raider fan.
I am going to watching closely for three things: Jimmy Smith falling, which and how many QBs go, and the selection of offensive linemen. Jump over for my reasoning and let me know what you'll be looking out for.There are plenty of rumors linking the Raiders to Jimmy Smith. He is a Raider style corner and the Raiders visited with him prior to the draft. If they were going to trade up in the first-round it would likely be for him or Colin Kaepernick (more on him in a minute).
The most likely destinations for Smith seem to be the Eagles at No. 23 or the Baltimore Ravens at No. 26. If he slides past the Ravens that is when I really start paying attention for a Raiders trade.
I think that it is unlikely he would slide past the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 31, and picks 27-30 are in the range that the Raiders should be able to get a team to make a move for their second and third in this draft or possibly their second in this year's and next.
I would not be in favor of this move, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Raiders made it.
Next up are the QBs. Who knows what is going to happen with the QBs? There are so many scenarios, rumors and trade possibilities it is pointless to try and some them up. What I do know is that the Raiders will have a better chance of landing Kaepernick the more teams wait to draft a QB. The biggest consesus seems to be that four or five QBs will go in the first-round. Kaepernick isn't typically one of those QBs.
What I am going to watch for is if more than two QBs are gone by pick 15. I say 15, because the Titans (8), Redskins (10), Vikings (12) and Dolphins (15) have been rumored to be contemplating taking QBs in the first, but would likely have to reach a bit to take one.
So, say Jake Locker or Andy Dalton goes by pick 15, teams that are eying QBs in the second-round will begin to panic and start trying to trade up, and likely price the Raiders out of Kaepernick, or at least price it to a place we would all cringe that Al Davis paid.
And finally the thing I am going to be watching the most is the selection of offensive linemen. There are six that are almost certain locks for the first-round: Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder, Derek Sherrod and Mike Pouncey. Hopefully these are the only six to go in the first.
The crazy thing about this is that if they go early it may be the best thing to happen to the Raiders. Check out my logic:
To try and make some easy sense of this let's the six first-round locks are gone by the time the Bears select at 29. It will then be key to watch what the Bears, Steelers (31) and Packers (32) do. If they all pass on linemen, or select only say Danny Watkins, the Raiders will be in excellent shape to get their guy.
The teams that need a linemen and are drafting in front of the Raiders in the second will have largely taken their guy in the first.
That would mean the majority of the group of second-tier group that included Danny Watkins, Ben Ijalana, Will Rackley, James Carpenter and Stefen Wisniewski would be available. The Raiders could then take one, or comfortably trade down and know there would be another available a little later in the second.