The Raiders finally addressed the lack of depth at middle linebacker with the addition of Cory James in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. How does the staff at S&BP view the pick and what grades do they give the selection?
Malcom Smith showed the ability to be the Raiders starting middle linebacker last season while rookies Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball added to the depth at the position. But the Silver and Black could still use some depth at the position and they add that with the addition of Corey James. He has the experience and versatility to play both inside and outside linebacker and he can even rush the quarterback as his 24 career sacks show. He also had the sixth-best tackling efficiency of the linebacker class according to Pro Football Focus.
After switching from edge rusher to middle linebacker last season, James had double-digit tackles for loss (10), 65 tackles, and two sacks. His versatility and production make this a solid pick at a position of need for the Raiders.
Don't know much about Cory James, but I do know he's a linebacker! And the Raiders need linebackers! Yay linebackers!
Marcus Allen Krause
Cory James is a guy who only just switched to playing middle linebacker for Colorado State in his last season with the team, he was an edge rusher before that. In fact, edge rusher is where NFL.com's Steve Zeurline thought he was most likely to play in the NFL. With Cory James going to the Raiders however, that may have just changed.
This is a very raw prospect who still has a lot to learn if he is going to be playing inside linebacker for the Raiders. He definitely has the ability to rush the passer from the edge but it is yet to be seen if he will transfer those skills to the middle. Then again, maybe the Raiders do just plan on him being more depth at OLB and on special teams.
He has a decent 40 time at 4.59, but his bench press was a paltry 16. I can't claim to be very excited about this pick, but it is a 6th round pick which are always more miss than hit anyway. It will be interesting to see what the Raiders plan to do with him, but they needed help at inside linebacker and this is the closest they came to trying to fill that need.
I can't say that I've ever seen Cory James play, but he checks all the boxes for what Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. want from a linebacker: runs sub-4.6, can play inside and out, can rush the passer, athletic, can tackle. This is just the sort of guy they can take in the late rounds and coach him into something special. He's a consistent tackler and a playmaker, the heart and soul of the CSU defense and in time he may grow to be a big part of what the Raiders do as well. In the sixth round you take the guy your position coaches want, and they haven't been wrong yet.
I haven't seen Cory James play, so I can't comment on that. But looking at his career, he falls right into what Reggie McKenzie likes in a linebacker. Even though he played rush outside linebacker his first three seasons at Colorado State, he played inside linebacker as a senior and I believe that's where he's headed. McKenzie likes his inside linebackers to be able to play outside.
James has very good pressure numbers, with 22.0 sacks in his first three seasons from the outside and 45 career tackles for loss. He's a bit on the small side at 6-1, 229 and ran a respectable 4.60 40. He projects as a late round pick as well. The final two rounds are also where you find special teams players and he is destined for a role there.