Raiders 2012 Draft Review

3rd round, 95th pick overall: Tony Bergstrom, OG/T, Utah

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New GM Reggie McKenzie’s first pick is a brute. Tony Bergstrom is a 6’6”, 315 lbs. three-year starter at right tackle for the Utes. A First-team all-Pac-12 selection, Bergstrom is already well-versed in the zone blocking system. He’s a tough, lengthy player who could start effectively in a year or two.  He’ll likely push Cooper Carlisle for the left guard spot this year, but is probably best served as a depth option for the 2012-13 season. As a Ute, Bergstrom completed his blocks at an 85% success rate, which was the highest on the team.

4th round, 129th pick overall: Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State

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Burris is a lengthy, versatile linebacker coming out of the Mountain West Conference. He’s good-sized (6’2”, 246 lbs.), athletic (4.67 40-time), and strong (31 bench press reps). He’s a back-to-back first-team all-MWC selection (fellow Aztec alum Kirk Morrison was the last SDSU linebacker to do this) who’s described as being relentless and always around the ball. He played outside linebacker in the Aztec’s unique 3-3-5, but was moved around the field. I expect him to push Philip Wheeler at the SAM while providing vital depth both outside and inside.

5th round, 158th pick overall: Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State

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At 6’5”, 273 lbs. Jack Crawford looks the part of an NFL defensive end. He is, however, a raw prospect at this point – he’s only been playing football for just over five years but did start for Penn State the last three. Crawford gives the Raiders a much-needed pass rusher. He’s athletic and big, and has the frame to add bulk. Crawford is another project pick who probably won’t contribute for a year or two, but for now, he gives Oakland some much needed depth on the defensive front.

5th round, 168th pick overall: Juron Criner, WR, Arizona

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Juron Criner was a luxury pick. What’s more, he is a true sign of the changing of the guard occurring in Oakland. With a 4.68 40-yard time, Al Davis never would’ve drafted Juron Criner. Reggie McKenzie, however, did not let combine numbers alone dictate his evaluation of at least this prospect. Criner is the big receiver (6’2”, 224 lbs.) the Raiders need. He’s got soft hands and is a big red-zone target (22 TDs in the last two years). The other receivers on the roster can stretch the field; Criner gives Carson Palmer a receiver who can go up and fight for jump balls. He was a bargain, too, as most draft sites had him going in the second or third round.

6th round, 189th pick overall: Christo Bilukidi, DT, Georgia State

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Bilukidi is another intriguing yet raw prospect. He’s big (6’4”, 311 lbs.) and fast (5.05 40-yard dash time). Bilukidi started 10 of 11 games for the new-to-Division I Panthers, where he had 38 tackles, 9 for a loss, and 5 sacks.

7th round, 230th pick overall: Nate Stupar, OLB, Penn State

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Nate Stupar was going to be high on teams’ undrafted free agents lists, so the Raiders made a good move snagging him in the last round. Stupar is an instinctive, intense backer with limited top-end speed. He will be a special teams contributor and offers more depth at linebacker.

Raiders Get in the Draft Mix, Take OT/G Bergstrom

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After almost three rounds of waiting, the Reggie McKenzie era has kicked off. The Raiders selected OT/G Tony Bergstrom from Utah with the 95th overall pick (Compensatory, 3rd round). Bergstrom is a tough, versatile player who has shown good strength and mobility. This 2011 All-Pac-12 Conference First Team selection played OT in college but will likely push Cooper Carlisle for the starting left guard spot. This fits a need and is about the range Bergstrom was expected to go, so I like the pick.

GM Reggie McKenzie had this to say [of Bergstrom] “There’s no way you can know who you’re going to take at No. 95 until you see names come off the board. He was still there and was the one we liked.”

The main reason Bergstrom fell to Oakland is that he will turn 26 years old this year because of a LDS mission trip before college. The Raiders have made their first pick, and it looks to be a good one.

Compensatory Picks & Pre-Draft Visitor

The NFL revealed on Monday which teams would receive compensatory picks in the upcoming April draft, and the Raiders won big. Because they lost the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery & Thomas Howard to free agency last season, they are now owners of compensatory 3rd, 4th, and 5th round picks. This injects hope into an previously barren draft; Oakland had only two picks (5th & 6th rounders) going into Monday, so this news gives new GM Reggie McKenzie a punchers chance of finding quality, NFL starting talent at multiple positions.

Such talent might include Alabama nose tackle Josh Chapman. The Raiders have reportedly scheduled a pre-draft workout with the stout defender. Chapman comes from a great defense, and was a key cog for the national title-winning Tide. He would offer Oakland a true nose tackle, a position currently lacking on the roster. This would allow new head coach Dennis Allen to implement his desired multiple-look defense. Look for the team to bring in more potential defensive starters for workouts.

NFL Draft: Players to Watch at the Combine

After various trades for quarterbacks, picks, and Aaron Curry, the Raiders currently have only two picks to work with, a fifth and a sixth rounder. Fortunately, the NFL has yet to give out compensatory picks for free agency losses. While the system is complicated, the Raiders expect to get around 3 more mid-round picks for the losses of Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, and Thomas Howard (99 tackles with the Bengals this past year). Signing Kevin Boss will most likely cost us one of the late compensatory picks. I’ve seen various projections, both optimistic and otherwise, but I will use a projection somewhere in the middle (in bold is the projected compensatory pick, followed by the player we lost to earn it). Here are some prospects to keep an eye on entering the NFL Combine.

3rd round, 96th overall (Nnamdi Asomugha)

Alameda Ta’amu, NT Washington, 6’2″, 341 lbs

This pick would make all too much sense should the Raiders move to at least a varied 3-4 defense. With no true nose tackles on the roster, Oakland will look for a run stuffer early. Ta’amu is a guy who was once projected as a first round talent, but inconsistency down the stretch really hurt his stock. Let’s make no mistake; he won’t get too many sacks. He is, however, a forceful run defender who can consistently eat up two blocks, something vital to a successful 3-4 defense.

Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt, 5’11”, 185 lbs

A fast, physical, instinctive corner, Hayward faced some of the most explosive receivers in the country during his time the SEC. The Raiders have more questions than answers at corner as of now, and a play maker like Hayward would at least add to the talent pool. He projects well to Dennis Allen’s likely zone-oriented scheme, as he has long arms and makes plays on the ball.

4th round, 130th overall (Zach Miller) & 5th round, 140th overall (Raiders original pick)

Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma, 6’1″, 233 lbs

While slightly undersized for the NFL level, Lewis was a tackling machine at Oklahoma in a true 3-4 system. Such experience would allow for him to be plugged in across from Wimbley almost immediately if need be. He has great burst and quickness, and diagnoses plays well. Linebacker will be addressed early and often this off-season, with questions looming (of current Raiders LBs) both in regards to system fit  and coverage/play diagnosis abilities.

Joe Looney, OG, Wake Forest, 6’3″, 309 lbs

With potentially two new starters at guard (one if Wisniewski does not move to center) and a shift to a zone blocking system, the Raiders will need to add multiple interior offensive linemen this off-season. Looney is a technically sound, strong, athletic guard who excels at getting to the next level in run blocking.  He is a high floor, average ceiling type guy who could start right away.

Brandon Washington, OG/RT, Miami, 6’3″, 320 lbs

Washington is an intriguing prospect. Though a true guard, Washington was asked to play LT for Miami much of last year due to injury. Though he struggle at times in pass protection, such an experience no doubt improved his ability and hand placement in pass protection. What I like most about him is his combination of size and athleticism, coupled with a knowledge of the zone blocking system. He could push the current young guys (Campbell, Barksdale) on the roster at either RG or RT.

5th round, 170th overall (Robert Gallery) & 6th round, 178th overall (Raiders original pick)

David Molk, C, Michigan, 6’1″, 298 lbs

Molk is a hard-nosed, agile center who started four years for the Wolverines and was awarded the 2011 Rimington Award Trophy (best collegiate center). While slightly undersized, Molk is strong and athletic enough to project well into a zone blocking system.

Audie Cole, ILB, NC State, 6’4″, 243 lbs

Cole was a tackling force at NC State. I emphasis force. He uses brute strength to make up for limited speed, but man-oh-man does he hit the offensive line hard. While most of his tackles will come from plays right at him, it’d be nice to have a linebacker who consistently makes such tackles.

Johnny Thomas, FS, Okalhoma St., 5’11”, 202 lbs

Thomas would have been a mid to high pick had he not sat out all of last season due to disciplinary issues. A true zone cover safety, Thomas uses excellent athletic ability with good field awareness to make plays. He would be well worth a late round flier in the event Michael Huff is cut or moved to corner. Matt Giordano cannot be relied upon in coverage, despite his interception numbers.

There you have it. A list of guys that could help the Raiders in key areas of need. Keep a look out for these names over the weekend to see how they perform at the combine. GM Reggie McKenzie may even look to trade for more picks, so these are by no means the only selections we may be making.