Grading the Oakland Raiders 2014 Draft
The Grading System.
Most draft "report cards" grade the player.
You'll see mostly A's and B's in the first round, and as the draft goes on, you'll see the grades lower and lower until you're lucky to get a C mark for a player.
I think that's foolish.
So instead, I'm choosing to draft the player by his merit and what pick he was taken.
I hated Blake Bortles coming into the draft.
True, he's a big guy, has a good football IQ, pretty girlfriend, decent zip on his passes, but he's got a noodle for an arm. Now it's true, you don't need a cannon to be successful quarterback in the NFL, I mean, look at Drew Brees, but you absolutely have to be able to make all the throws, and I'd compare his arm strength to Peyton Manning's... right now. So, take away Manning's football genius and accuracy... and you've got Blake Bortles.
So, if I was grading the Jaguars draft? That's an optimistic D from me at number three overall. Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack are both game-changers and they're still available, why waste a pick on a guy who can't carry your franchise?
However... If the Jags picked him in the fifth round? That's an easy A.
A guy who has potential, but needs to bulk up a bit? Someone who could probably start somewhere during in a couple of years? In the fifth round?! That's amazing!
I won't lie.
At first... I was not thrilled about this pick.
But let me explain.
That had very little to do with Mr. Mack.
I jumped on the Sammy Watkins bandwagon the minute it left the station. The Raiders have needed a true number one receiver for so long... I fell in love with the idea of Sammy in Silver and Black.
But Sammy didn't make it to number five overall, the Buffalo Bills traded an arm and a leg to acquire the speedy wide receiver, and the best defensive player in the draft fell right into Reggie McKenzie's lap.
After I cooled down, I went back to my pre-draft analysis of Mack, and here's what I found.
Great size and speed, good burst to the ball, good enough in coverage, and a ferocious hitter. And by ferocious, I mean, he broke the NCAA record for forced fumbles in a career and tied the record for tackles for a loss.
My list of dislikes was a little smaller, but initially scared me off.
It's not that he played in a smaller conference, because lets be honest, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison, Jason Babin, Larry English, Greg Jennings, and Joe Staley didn't exactly play in the SEC, and they've adapted to the NFL much better than say... Jamarcus Russell or Rolando McClain. His tape versus Ohio State completely eliminates the validity of that argument anyway. (Seriously. Youtube it or something, he'll be the guy from Buffalo outrunning Braxton Miller).
What bothered me about Khalil Mack is that he seemed too good to be true.
And I can't help but remember...
Isn't that what they said about Rolando McClain?
Isn't that what they said about Aaron Curry?
Isn't that what they said about Vernon Gholston?
The NFL hype machine is a dangerous one. Once it gets going, it can make or break you.
Anybody who follows draft experts heard the name "Tom Savage" a few thousand times leading up to the draft as somebody who could sneak into the first round. He didn't get picked until the fourth.
Not to mention, my gut tells me that whenever something seems too good to be true... He'll probably lead the league in rushing for 6 games and then be hampered by turf toe while Carson Palmer destroys your season.
So. I guess, my only problem with Khalil Mack... Is that he seems too good to be true.
Here's hoping he isn't the Darren McFadden of pass-rushers.
Allow me to quote my initial reaction to hearing that the Raiders drafted Derek Carr...
"Carr? CARR?! VROOM VROOM?!"
Yes, I know... I know... The consummate professional.
But I've gotta tell you, I was really excited about this pick.
I've been bashing this QB class for months, but I've consistently said "If I had to pick a quarterback from this class... It would have to be Derek Carr".
I knew from the beginning that while he's full of potential and has a very high ceiling, he played in a spread offense in college and wouldn't be ready to start under center immediately. I just assumed Minnesota, Houston, or Cleveland would pick him up first, and honestly, I was worried that the Raiders would reach for him in the first round.
But sometimes, crazy things happen.
Cleveland took the hollywood route and grabbed the celebrity, Johnny Football, Minnesota took advantage of Teddy Bridgewater's dramatic slide down draft boards, and Houston was too afraid to invest their franchise in a Carr again, and when the Raiders picked again in the second round, he was available.
Love this kid.
He's got an incredible arm, was raised in an NFL family, has a great football IQ, can put the ball right where you want it, and is an amazing interview.
I can't tell if he just knows how to play the media or if he grew up a Raiders fan, but Derek Carr seems genuinely thrilled to wear Silver and Black.
He's not perfect. He did struggle under pressure, he forced some passes, and again, he's not used to lining up directly under center.
But fortunately, the Raiders have Matt Schaub to carry the team for a year or two until Carr has been coached up and is ready to take the reins.
If you're a Raiders fan, you've gotta love this pick. He seems like he really wants to win, and hey, if he can't, he won't cost you sixty-one million like the last QB they drafted early.
The Raiders were a mess last year when it came to the offensive line.
They couldn't run the ball consistently or protect any of their quarterbacks.
Kevin Boothe (guard), Austin Howard (tackle/guard), and Donald Penn (tackle) were all added during free agency to help center, Stefan Wisniewski, as well as giving Raiders security while last year's second round pick, Menelik Watson progressed.
Gabe Jackson is big and strong.
A reaaaaal mauler. I like this kid. If the Raiders had managed to keep Veldheer, they could have a scary offensive line.
However, like most players drafted in the third round or later, he's here for a reason.
There are holes in his game. He's not the quickest guy, doesn't have the best football IQ, and struggles in pass protection.
I'm not sure if he can come in and start right away, but it wouldn't surprise me if he saw serious time before the season was over.
Raiders fans, you could be looking at an offensive line that looks like.
Austin Howard, Kevin Boothe, Stefan Wisniewski, Gabe Jackson, Menelik Watson.
Beats the hell out of Veldheer, Nix, Wisniewski, Brisiel, and Barnes...
I wasn't thrilled about this pick.
I get it, he's in there to plug the line, not to get after the passer, and that's fine. Lamarr Houston played a similar role for the Raiders over the last few years.
That's actually the problem...
It didn't work.
And Houston was a much better athlete than Ellis is.
Look, it is fourth round talent, and a lot of scouts are high on this guy, so maybe I'm missing something.
But if I'm trying to clog up a defensive line, I want Haloti Ngata. I want Dontari Poe. I want Vince Wilfork...
I'm just not sure that Ellis fits that profile.
This might end up being my favorite pick from this draft.
I know, that's crazy considering how I fangirled over Derek Carr, but when I look at this kid, I can't help it...
I see Richard Sherman.
They're the same size... Actually, McGill is a bit stronger. He's got long arms, is an incredible athlete, and was taken in the fourth round.
If you just analyze his ability on the football field, he's outstanding. Needs to be coached up a little bit, but all the "experts" gave him a second round grade.
So why the fourth round pick?
Well... He's got some off the field and injury issues. He missed a year with a shoulder injury, and has a DUI arrest on his record.
However, he says he's been clean for two years, and is just ready to work. And on this Raiders secondary, he'll have a pretty good chance. Former-niners Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rogers aren't here to stay, and D.J. Hayden needs to prove he can stay healthy. If McGill can take the frustration of being a fourth round pick and turn that into motivation?
Well... That old shoulder-chip certainly helped Richard Sherman.
What a name...
That's a mouthful.
However. I like him.
He's a massive guy, around 6'7, 330 pounds, but surprisingly quick. He had ran a 5 flat 40 yard dash.
This is the kind of guy that Al Davis would've grabbed in the second round.
Just a freak physically.
Not the most polished lineman, and he has serious off the field issues.
I mean, not Johnny Manziel issues, more like Ricky Williams, Brandon Browner off the field issues.
You might be able to get away with partying hard at Miami, but as Josh Gordon now knows, the NFL has zero tolerance.
I would really like to see this kid develop.
Last year, only 30 percent of seventh round picks made the final roster, and if you have off the field issues? Kiss your NFL career goodbye.
However, with a little coaching, this kid could be one of the biggest steals of this draft.
When I think Jonathan Dowling... I think of a more athletic Bernard Pollard.
He's one hell of a playmaker.
Flies around the field and delivers nasty hits.
In the last two years of his collegiate career, he had 9 interceptions and forced 8 fumbles.
He's definitely a cocky son of a bitch, which I think Dennis Allen will hate and Jason Tarver will love. If you watch his film, he carries himself with a ton of swagger.
He has an advantage because he has experience playing special teams, and if you ask Terrell Davis, all it takes is one big hit to get noticed.
I do think that he, like McGill and Henderson, has some character issues and will need to grow up a little bit, but with Charles Woodson on his way out and Tyvon Branch struggling with injury, there is a bright future for him if he can straighten out.
Ya know... All of this draft stuff is stupid speculation. That's all it is.
I can sit here and rave and ramble about a guy who will never play an NFL game.
I can sit here and trash talk Blake Bortles and he could be the next big thing.
It's all speculation.
But from what I can gather, from all my years of watching football and being disappointed by drafts... I really like this one.
In this draft, the Raiders have gotten their own Von Miller, 2/5ths of an offensive line, their own Richard Sherman, their quarterback of the future, and some great developmental pieces.
In the past, I always felt like the media was hard on the Raiders because there was some ageless bias from the days when Al Davis was the rebellious maverick who did things his way... But maybe... just maybe... They were just bad drafts.
With so much talent coming into Oakland... Something has to change. Somebody has to stick.
I'm going to optimistically give this draft a solid A....
Look, I'm a fan, so I want this team to do well.
Just like I'm sure fans of other teams might hate this draft because they want the Raiders to continue to be the laughing stock of the NFL.
But I have high hopes for this draft class, and the future of the Silver and Black.