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Raiders follow NFL trend, bulk up

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Thearon W. Henderson

In 1970, Gene Ferguson of the San Diego Chargers was the only player in the NFL that weighed over 300 pounds. By 2009, the number of players north of 300 pounds had skyrocked to 394 according to Eddie Pells. Now more than ever, teams are looking for large players.

One example of this is the Seattle Seahawks. General Manager John Schneider realized a huge disadvantage that cornerbacks face. The average NFL cornerback size is 5'11", 193 lbs while the average NFL wide receiver is 6'1". That immediately gives the offense a tremendous advantage. So, what is the answer to this problem? Draft bigger defensive backs. The Seahawks would go on to win Super Bowl XLVII because of the legion of boom (Seattle Seahawks secondary) and giants like Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell.

But the advantage of great size is not limited to a single position. Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson and A.J. Green all have one thing in common; each one of them is 6'4" or taller. Size gives a player an advantage before the game even begins. And most importantly, it cannot be taught. It has to be bought.

Reggie McKenzie decided to buy into the theory of size and drafted exceptionally big throughout the 2014 NFL Draft. To comprehend how many massive players McKenzie selected, here are some interesting facts.

  • Seventh round cornerback T.J. Carrie at 6'0" would have been the second tallest defensive back on the Raiders roster in 2013. But after one draft, he is now the fourth tallest.
  • There were four defensive backs in the 2014 NFL Draft listed at 6'3" or higher; the Raiders drafted two of them (Keith McGill and Jonathan Dowling)
  • Mississippi State offensive guard Gabe Jackson and Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Justin Ellis add 670 lbs to the Raiders line.
  • In 2013, the Raiders defensive backs were an average height of 5'11". The average height of Keith McGill (6'3"), Travis Carrie (6'0") and Jonathan Dowling 6'3") combined is 6'2".
  • The average defensive tackle weighing in at the NFL Combine over the last five years is 304 lbs. At one point in 2013, Justin Ellis weighed close to 400 lbs and now weighs 334 lbs. Ellis was the largest defensive tackle in the entire draft.
  • Weighing in at 336 lbs, Gabe Jackson was the biggest offensive guard in the 2014 NFL Draft. The next two closest players (Cyril Richardson and Jon Halapio) weighed 329 and 323 lbs.
  • At 6'6" and 346 lbs, undrafted offensive tackle Erle Ladson was by far the heaviest offensive tackle taken in both the draft and free agency. The next closest offensive tackle in weight was Greg Robinson at a "meager" 332 lbs.
With the 25th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers selected Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. While he's polished in every aspect of the game, he lacks size. Picturing the 5'9" Verrett covering the 6'5" Calvin Johnson is a laughable proposition. But stick the 6'3" Keith McGill on Megatron and physically, the match-up is much closer.

To prove that size matters in the trenches, here is the mass of the best offensive and defensive lineman in the NFL:

Joe Thomas (OT, Browns): 6'6", 312 lbs

Jake Long (OT, Rams), 6'7", 322 lbs

Louis Vasquez (OG, Broncos): 6'5", 335 lbs

Haloti Ngata (DT, Ravens): 6'4", 340 lbs

Dontari Poe (DT, Chiefs): 6'3", 346 lbs

The Raiders went into the 2014 NFL Draft wanting to get bigger, and they achieved their goal.

"From top to bottom, we felt like we got true Raiders. Guys who love football, guys who really want to be physical," said Reggie McKenzie in his draft wrap-up press conference. "We feel like we got some great size, guys who can play with power, and we got some guys that can run. We got a big corner, big offensive linemen, big D-linemen. We wanted to get bigger. We wanted to be more physical, because we feel that's the Raider Way, and feel that we did that this weekend."

The NFL has become a game of go big or go home, and the Raiders are going big.