Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wed. Practice: Draft Insider

Draft Insider breaks down Day 3 as well as the Monday and Tuesday workouts...prospect by prospect.

More Senior Bowl Notes

Have a look at the writings over at Optimum Scouting.  Great Stuff!

Raiders Drop Anchor in Mobile, AL

With Senior Bowl week kicking off, along with its non-stop evaluation process during practice, the Raiders have been spotted talking to just about everybody they can sit down.

A lot has been made of Tajh Boyd's comments that the "Raiders have shown the most interest in me...", but it seems more like due diligence to the QB situation.  Oakland will likely be interested in all quarterbacks slated to be Top 15 at the position in this class as they'll be looking for the best QB at the best value this draft season.

ORDW will cover the prospects in their entirety, but in series.  Today, we'll cover the Offensive Line.

Offensive Line
The standout thus far has been Notre Dame OT/OG Zack Martin.  Possessing ideal size and adequate power and feet, Martin has shown the technical ability to stymie a variety of defenders so far this week in practice.  Martin played Left Tackle for the Irish in his senior season, but he could just as easily fit in as a LG or RT in the NFL...however, like one scout put it, "Let him play Left Tackle until he proves he should move elsewhere..."  Regardless, Martin is solidifying his status as a Top 50 Offensive Lineman who should fit in and contribute immediately to any team needing to plug gaps up front.

Tennessee OT Ju'Wuan James (Reggie McKenzie's Alma Mater) had a decent camp going until he got injured on Tuesday and will now not be playing in the game.  He still remains an early Day 3 pick, possibly a late Day 2 pick with a RT needy team.

A big story from Mobile has been North Dakota State OT Billy Turner.  Possessing natural maul ability, the coaching staff, and the defensive linemen he has been facing, have pushed Turner to expose his weaknesses.  While having natural power, Turner lacks some of the polish that his FBS counterparts already possess.  The OL coaching staff has been pushing Turner hard as they see the talent there.  Today (Wednesday) will be a big day for Turner, as he'll have an opportunity to showcase what he has learned the past two days.  Being coachable and making adjustments on Day 3 of Senior Bowl week is a huge step in the evaluation process down in Mobile.

Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson (4 year starter at LG) is a likely Oakland target, and hopeful in Rounds 3-4.  While being extremely seasoned for a graduating player he also possesses tremendous size and power in man run blocking.  His lateral quicks and shiftiness continue to get exposed and tested however.  Again, Day 3 will say a lot about Jackson.

Mammoth Miami OT Seantrel Henderson is a physical presence to say the least.  What he has been lacking in technique he barely makes up for in size.  Henderson has huge upside and potential but he has to take to coaching and improve his feet and technique if he is to last in the NFL.  Very long arms and a natural athlete, Henderson has the ability to dominate as a Left Tackle in the League but will likely get his first start as a RT.  A tendency to lunge and over-extend, if Henderson can work out the kinks in his footwork he could be a Day 3 steal...but with his physical gifts, he could go as high as a Round 3 project for some of the better offensive line coaches in the League.  I imagine Tony Sparano could work wonders with Henderson...would be a nice 6th Round pick if Henderson could fall that far.

A disappointing story in Mobile has been Baylor OG Cyril Richardson.  His stock is definitely dropping as his lateral agility is consistently getting exposed rep after rep against the quicker pass-rush DTs.  Aaron Donald has abused Richardson repeatedly in pass pro drills.  One-on-one in the run game against power tackles, however, Richardson has the size and power to dominate.

Some names that have been solid but not overwhelming include C Tyler Larsen from Utah State, C Weston Richburg out of Colorado State, Razorback C Travis Swanson, Nole C Brian Stork and OG Brandon Lindler from Miami.  Larsen scrapes and claws and shows tremendous effort on all snaps, he is a man who gets blocks by any means.  Much the same for Richburg, who has displayed some of the better technique at the C position.  Lindler, a man with a ton of experience for The U...has had his "ups and downs".  One rep he looks solid, the next rep he'll get punished.  Swanson is the most physically gifted of the bunch, possessing enough size and punch to perhaps play OG in the NFL.  Stork proved "consistent"...and like most centers, takes to coaching almost instantly.

Another small school story is Tennessee State OL Kadeem Edwards.  He has great measurables and is taking to coaching quickly.  While he struggled a bit on Day 1 with the speed and size of the players he was facing, he fought back on Day 2 and didn't get discouraged, improving throughout the practice.  He'll be an interesting prospect to watch going forward.

Former Buckeye LT Jack Mewhort has had a pretty solid week thus far.  He has logged plenty of wins in one-on-one drills and has also been beat a few times in disappointing fashion.

Clemson's Brandon Thomas has improved his draft stock in Mobile.  He isn't the longest OL by any means, but he has very long arms and packs a wicked punch for his size.  "Patented" is his ability to roll leverage across a defenders' shoulders and essentially wrestle him to the ground...displaying sumo-style technique and good power in his hands.  He can play some OT and some OG, which will prove valuable in the NFL.

Michigan's Michael Schofield has struggled in one-on-one drills more than most...but looks good in team drills, not missing any assignments.

Vandy OT Wesley Johnson has shown some of the best pass blocking prowess of the group.  He isn't gifted with great size but he does have tremendous feet.  He squares his shoulders nicely and maintains a great base and can reset quickly.  During team drills he maintained that standard on Tuesday, perhaps the best pass blocker of the day.

Florida OG Jon Halapio has been praised for his strong, strong punch.  Dominates in head to head matchups and has the agility to capture his reach blocks consistently.  In team drills, he solidified just about every playside block he was assigned.

UVA's Morgan Moses is a long offensive lineman who "looks stiff and too upright" on tape, but shows a prowess in person to get blocks accomplished.  Instinctual at the point of attack...anticipating moves and countermoves consistently.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tony Dye: Future Reserve

S Tony Dye, formerly with the Bengals via UCLA has signed a Future Reserve contract with the Oakland Raiders.

Also, a little late, but QB Trent Edwards signed a FR contract a couple of weeks ago.  He most recently spent time on the Bears roster.


Jason Tarver will return as the Defensive Coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Three Reserve-Future Contracts

LB Frank Beltre (Chargers)
OG Jarrod Shaw (Browns)
DB Neiko Thorpe (Chiefs)

All three have been signed to Reserve-Future Contracts with the Oakland Raiders.

The Big Two: Assistant Coaches

It appears with Tony Sparano signing his way back to coach the Oakland O Line for two more years, Bobby April might soon follow suit.  

A source claims that his return to the Silver & Black sidelines is a "Done Deal".  Very good news, Year 3 with some solid continuity coming into a huge season for the franchise.  Official: April is TOTALLY back.

The List can be found here (1/17/14): Asst. Coaches Retained for 2014-2015

P.S. - Mike Silver can eat s***.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rookie Best Value Pick: Sio Moore

Tony Pauline, one of the better known legit scouts with a blog, has named Raiders LB Sio Moore onto his draft pick value list:

Sio Moore (LB-Oak, Round 3, Pick 66)

After taking over a starting role in Week 2, Moore had a very solid rookie season and showed his skills against the run and as a pass rusher.  While his 50 tackles (38 solo) may be underwhelming, Moore played well on the strong side of Oakland's 4-3 defense, a position that doesn't get as many tackle opportunities as the other linebacker spots. His 4.5 sacks ranked third on the team and Moore was every bit the speedy, instinctual player scouts saw at Connecticut, which helped him show well in coverage as well.  The Raiders might have a lot of turnover on both sides of the ball in 2014, but Moore should stick.

To read the rest of the list: 2013 Rookie Wrap Up: Best Value Picks

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Offseason Moves

The bad news: same outcome for the Raiders in GM Reggie McKenzie's 2nd year as GM finishing at 4-12.  The good news: Reggie was true to the plan and has washed most (if not all) of the bad contracts that has plagued this team for over a decade.  That means the Raiders can now go out and really lay down the foundation of this team from the bottom on up.  This is why Reggie was brought in and this is where he's going to be ultimately judged as a talent evaluator and team builder.

The Raiders will have the most cap space of any team this offseason with an estimated $60M plus.  Reggie's philosophy mirrors that of his former employers and like the Packers the Raiders probably will refrain from the big money contracts offered to FAs at the onset of the free agency period unless there is a player the team covets.

 I don't think that there is any one big name free agent out there that can turn around Oakland's fortunes.  There are a lot of big names out there this offseason such as Jared Allen, Hakeem Nicks, Jimmy Graham, etc.  Of the bunch, Graham is the only true gamechanger worthy of a big payday.  Reggie's pedigree with Green Bay says that he'll most likely look to sign guys who have plenty left in the tank but are up in age, or buy low candidates who have talent.

So its time to put the Reggie McKenzie hat on and give 5 offseason moves in free agency:

1. Take Care of Your Own: Jared Veldheer has already gone on record to say he wants to be a Raider for life.  Pay the man.  He's the closest thing to an All-Pro on the roster and is a top 10 player at the key left tackle position.  Aside from this season with the torn triceps, Veldheer has been a model of consistency producing on the field.  Lamarr Houston has said the opposite, thinking the team will probably look elsewhere so he's probably on the outs.  It was disappointing to hear that, but Houston is a bigger risk for the type of money he's expecting.  He's not a big sack numbers guy, but he does get plenty of pressures and plays the run pretty well.  But he's the ideal candidate for a team to offer big money for a guy who's in his prime.  It could come back to bite the Raiders in the butt, but giving Houston top 10 DE money doesn't sit well with my gut.  Aside from Veldheer, there are some other pieces on the team that need to be re-signed to reasonable contracts and if the aforementioned players on the defensive side of the ball want to return to Oakland, bring 'em back.

2. Sign DE Brandon Graham (Eagles): Almost 10 years ago, the Raiders signed a promising FA who couldn't catch a break with the Eagles.  That man was Derrick Burgess.  Due to injuries, Burgess flashed promise but couldn't stay healthy enough for the Eagles to hand him a new contract.  Brandon Graham is facing a similar situation.  Chip Kelly's conversion to the 3-4 base left Graham as the odd man out playing out of position at OLB. Graham plays best with his hand in the ground and last season he had 5.5 sacks as a rotational end in the wide 9 scheme in Andy Reid's last year.  Graham has a $3M cap number that the Eagles will most likely look to dump.  So why Graham?  It has more to do with fit than talent when it comes to Graham.  He is a very explosive DE similar in size and skill to Burgess (Graham 6'2" 265lbs vs. Burgess 6'2" 260lbs).  He uses his leverage very well and combined with great leg drive, Graham can be very disruptive rushing the passer.  He's still young (25) and would be a low risk signing with plenty of upside.  All he needs is a chance and a team like the Raiders would be a perfect fit.  Graham is the type of signing that would be low risk- high reward who isn't in his current team's future plans due to fit.

3. Sign RB Maurice Jones Drew (Jaguars): The RB position has been devalued in today's pass happy NFL.  Rashad Jennings played admirably well when his number was called, but it remains to be seen if he'll re-sign with Oakland or price himself out of town.  DMac's litany of injuries have sapped what was once a promising career.  Maurice Jones-Drew may not be the same MJD he was before his injury, but typically it takes a full calendar year to really shake off any lower extremity injury.  There is a likely scenario MJD doesn't sign at the onset of FA.  Much of that will be due to teams' reluctance to pay any RB a sizable amount of guaranteed money and MJD's injuries.   MJD is still very effective in the passing game and in pass protection.  If Oakland signed him, he'd be playing for his hometown.  He's a higher risk signing due to his age, but with another year separated from his injury, he's a prime buy low free agent who could pay big dividends.

4. Sign OG Richie Incognito (Miami): This offseason, there will be a good amount of offensive linemen with talent.  The obvious guys like Alex Mack, Brandon Albert and Eugene Monroe will get new contracts from someone.  Enter Richie Incognito.  Now before anyone tells me I'm crazy or dumb...separate the business of football versus personal beliefs.  Incognito is rough around the edges and may be a bit of a neanderthal, but he's the kind of player every fan would love if he were on the team.  He was arguably the best lineman on the Dolphins before everything went south.  IMO Jonathan Martin is the first of how many of his former teammates to come out and put out to the public what is mostly things that go on behind closed doors all the time in any team locker room.  Incognito needs a team to give him a chance and if the Raiders do, I'd expect it to pay off big on the field.  The Raiders need a guy or two that's an enforcer.  Incognito is still only 30 and has a lot of good football left in him.  Again, this would be a case of a very good football player who needs to rehab his image and stock in the league.

5. Sign Josh Freeman (Vikings): Going back to the "another man's trash" idea, 6 months ago, Josh Freeman was the undisputed leader of the Bucs.  Some of it was recently ousted HC Greg Schiano's doing, and equal blame can be laid on Freeman's shoulders.  Once he got to Minnesota, there were rumors of him being late to meetings, not knowing the playbook, etc.  Truth is that it was a wasted opportunity for Freeman.  But let's look at the facts.  Josh Freeman played his best football in his pro career under current OC Greg Olson.  He completed over 60% of his passes while Olson called the plays.  As bad as Freeman has been this last year, he is clearly a superior passer to any of the QBs currently on the roster.  Freeman's familiarity with Olson's offense would make his transition seamless.  Don't offer him any guarantees, just the opportunity to compete.

The approach here is obvious.  Play it smart.  No more bad big money contracts.  The plan isn't perfect but its a decent blueprint that if combined with key draft picks like a stud WR or defensive freak like Anthony Barr or Jadaveon Clowney, could turn the fortunes around for this team rather quickly.  The goal is to rebuild this team via the draft and bring in veteran FAs who are still productive yet may have a few question marks.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Declared Underclassmen: 2014

Optimum Scouting has a solid list of declared underclassmen going into the 2014 NFL Draft.

FYI, UCF QB Blake Bortles is expected to officially announce his declaration on Monday.

OPTIMUM SCOUTING 2014 NFL Draft -- Underclassmen Declaration Tracker

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Senior Bowl Accepted Invitees

**Updated 01.02.14**

The Senior Bowl roster has a lot of talent this year as well as some potential early round picks in the bunch.  

» Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin 
» Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky 
» Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech 
» Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada 
» Rob Blanchflower, TE, Massachusetts 
» Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin 
» Chris Boswell, K, Rice 
» Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson 
» Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State 
» Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State 
» Mike Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest 
» Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State 
» Deandre Coleman, DT, California 
» Kain Colter, WR, Northwestern 
» Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma 
» Chris Davis, CB, Auburn 
» Mike Davis, WR, Texas 
» Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State 
» Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor 
» Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh 
» Joe Don Duncan, TE, Dixie State 
» Kadeem Edwards, G, Tennessee State 
» Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA 
» David Fales, QB, San Jose State 
» CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa 
» Dee Ford, DE, Auburn 
» Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech 
» James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech 
» Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane 
» Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State 
» Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota 
» Jon Halapio, G, Florida 
» Taylor Hart, DT, Oregon 
» Marcus Heit, LS, Kansas State 
» Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami 
» Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming 
» Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford 
» Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU 
» Josh Huff, WR, Oregon 
» Marqueston Huff, DB, Wyoming 
» Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State 
» Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee 
» Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State 
» Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska 
» Dontae Johnson, S, North Carolina State 
» Christian Jones, LB, Florida State 
» DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State 
» Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa 
» Brandon Linder, G, Miami (Fla.) 
» Craig Loston, S, LSU 
» Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia 
» Cody Mandell, P, Alabama 
» Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina 
» Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame 
» Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt 
» Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee 
» Keith McGill, CB, Utah 
» Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern 
» Jack Mewhort, G, Ohio State 
» Stephen Morris, QB, Miami 
» Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia 
» C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama 
» Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford 
» Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia 
» Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama 
» Cody Parkey, PK, Auburn 
» Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn 
» Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor 
» Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton 
» Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor 
» Weston Richburg, G, Colorado State 
» Michael Sam, LB, Missouri 
» Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma 
» Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia 
» Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford 
» Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas 
» Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville 
» Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State 
» Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut 
» Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State 
» Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas 
» Brandon Thomas, OT, Clemson 
» Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech 
» Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana 
» Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State 
» Brent Urban, DT, Virginia 
» Kirby Van Der Kamp, P, Iowa State 
» Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU 
» Jason Verrett, CB, TCU 
» Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois 
» Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida 
» Chris Watt, G, Notre Dame 
» Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern 
» Andre Williams, RB, Boston College