With the Raiders 2014 season in the books, it is officially draft season.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select...
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Measurables: 6'1", 210 lbs
The Raiders need to get Derek Carr some weapons if they want him to develop into a franchise quarterback. With James Jones (number two-three receiver on most teams) as the Silver and Black's best receiver, it is crucial they upgrade this off-season. Even if the Raiders draft Cooper, they should still look to sign one or two more in free agency.
Not only does Cooper fill a massive need, but he is also one of the most talented players in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Heisman finalist finished the regular season with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards (13.9 avg.) and 16 touchdowns. Even more impressive is he put up those numbers in the highly competitive SEC.
Cooper does not have the explosiveness of Sammy Watkins or the size of Mike Evans, but he does all the little things. He runs very polished routes, has sticky hands, catches the ball at its highest point, and has sneaky speed allowing him to be a playmaker. What impresses me most about Cooper is his versatility. In his first two seasons at Alabama, Cooper had success in a pro style system. But this last year, the system changed completely when Lane Kiffin was hired as Offensive Coordinator. Kiffin focused on isolating Cooper and getting the ball to him quickly and in space, and Cooper proved he could thrive in the new system too. The only receiver I would have drafted over Cooper last year was Sammy Watkins.
Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Measurables: 6'1", 230 lbs
Nick Roach may never be able to play again because of the concussion he suffered week three of the preseason. If that is the case, the Raiders have a huge hole to fill at inside linebacker. Kendricks is one of my favorite players in the 2015 NFL Draft because he plays hard and is a ball hawk. His instinctiveness but undersized frame remind me of 49ers middle linebacker Chris Borland. Borland fell because of his size, but played so well the second half of the season that his name was discussed as a possible Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Kendricks on the other hand capped off a great senior season in which he totaled 96 tackles and 3 interceptions by winning the Butkus award which is awarded to the college football's best linebacker. While he is undersized and at times can struggle to shed blocks, Kendricks has great reactions and a nose for the ball. He also moves well laterally in coverage and is a leader on the field.
While the addition of a pass rusher would help the defensive line, the Raiders can find help in a strong free agent class. With their second round pick, they need to address middle linebacker, especially because it will be hard to find one in free agency. Kendricks is a very instinctive player that can start from day one and give the Raiders one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL.
Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
Measurables: 6'3", 297 lbs
While I don't have any inside information, it seems that Reggie McKenzie is going to let starting center Stefen Wisniewski test his worth in free agency. While I disagree with the decision and think Wisniewski is a must resign like Jared Veldheer was last year, by the looks of things Wiz won't be returning in 2015. The problem with letting him go is it creates another need to fill. When you have as many needs as the Raiders, the last thing you can afford to do is create more.
One option is signing Chiefs center Rodney Hudson who is coming off a strong season, but the Raiders will likely have to overpay to land his talents. And with so many other top free agents, especially at wide receiver and pass rusher, they would be better off drafting Grasu and saving money that can be used to upgrade the defensive line and wide receivers.
Grasu is a four year starter in the Ducks star offense. He has good size but also impressive athleticism that has allowed him to keep up with Oregon's fast tempo. Against Florida State in the Rose Bowl, he and the Oregon offensive line made Florida State's touted defensive line look overmatched.
David Cobb, RB, Minnesota
Measurables: 5'11", 229 lbs
In 2014, the Raiders averaged 77 rushing yards a game which was ranked last in the NFL. Darren McFadden averaged 3.4 yards a carry and Maurice Jones-Drew averaged 2.2 yards per carry. The lone bright spot came from Latavius Murray who averaged 5.2 yards per rush and scored the same amount of rushing touchdowns as McFadden (2) but in half the carries.
This past season, Cobb carried the ball 314 times for 1,626 yards (5.2 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. His junior year, he ran for 1,202 yards (5.1 avg.) and 7 touchdowns on only 237 carries. Against Ohio State and their star-studded defensive line, Cobb ran for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the film below against a Michigan defense that was the 15th best in the nation against the run giving up only 117 yards per game and 3.2 yards per rush, Cobb ran for 183 yards averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Even more impressive about these stats is Cobb achieved them behind a mediocre offensive line.
Cobb reminds me of Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. Both have great size and similar styles of running. Bell doesn't have elite speed (4.6 40-yard dash) but is still an elite running back because he can pound out five yards a carry. Like Bell, David Cobb has soft hands and is a threat out of the backfield as he combined for 336 receiving yards in the past two seasons. So while David Cobb is not dynamic, he is efficient and that is what makes him the perfect complement to Latavius Murray. Murray is an explosive player that is a threat to score on any given play. But when you need five yards, you can give the ball to Cobb and trust he is going to get them for you.