Bill Williamson of ESPN has been ranking each position in the AFC West. The Raiders dominated the defensive line rankings and were dominated in the linebacker ratings. And I couldn't argue with either ranking. Well now Williamson is back with the defensive backs.
The Raiders are looking pretty good in these ranking, but that could quickly change once free agency gets started. Here are the Raiders on the list:
1. Nnamdi Asomugha: This may change. Many league observers expect Asomugha to leave the Raiders when free agency starts. That would be a major hit to this list.
7. Stanford Routt: This is a big year for Routt, who just signed a big contract with the Raiders. He’ll be challenged if Asomugha leaves.
11. Tyvon Branch: Branch is a good, strong player, but he still has to improve.
12. Michael Huff: Huff is decent, not great. He could leave in free agency.
17. Chris Johnson: He could start if Asomugha leaves and the youngsters aren’t ready.
19. Mike Mitchell: It’s time for this 2009 second-round pick to make a move.
No shock that Asomugha is No. 1. That gave the Raiders highest rated No. 1 corner and the highest rated No. 2 corner. Take Nnamdi away from the Raiders and you have easily the worst ranked secondary in the AFC West.
For the most part, I agree with the rankings. I think Chris Johnson is better than the 17th best secondary player in the division, but he had a rough 2010 as he struggled with injuries. Brandon Flowers and Quentin Jammer are both ahead of Routt. I think most people would agree with that, but i am not sure I'd swap either for Routt.
I am not as sold on Flowers as most around the league seem to be, but that is largely because Jacoby Ford dominated him last year. Jump over for more....
I think at 12 Huff may still be a bit overrated—although that seems to be lower than most consider Huff after his 2010 season. Eric Weddle is six spots ahead of Huff and both are free agents. It will be interesting to see if there contracts reflect this, or if Huff's stats get him a bigger deal than he deserves.
As I pointed out, if Nnamdi leaves and you look at these rankings, it appears the Raiders are in deep trouble. Throw in the fact that Huff is likely gone, and the Raiders don't have another FS on the list, and it could spell doom.
I think the success of the secondary in 2011 is all on the young guys. CJ staying healthy, and having a solid season will be huge, but other than that the young guys need to prove they are ready to play—at least one of them.
The nickel corner spends a lot of time on the field in today's NFL. Either DVD, Chekwa, McFadden or Ware has to prove they are ready to handle the duties. I think it is safe to assume that one of them will.
Also, unless the Raiders sign a free agent, it will help if one of the youngsters can handle the FS position.
Eugene is a low level FS starter. He is not going to help this secondary do anything but be below average. But maybe Stevie Brown can make the job his. My dark horse for the FS job is Jeremy Ware.
Ware looked okay at corner in 2010. He had some bad moments like the Steelers game. I think he may be better suited for FS. He has good size and quickness for the position, and he is a solid tackler. If he has decent instincts and read and react skills he could be a fine starting FS.