Al Davis

Raiders draft for need, not speed

It’s hard not to look at all of the off-season developments through the lens of “What if Al Davis Were Still Alive?”

The 2012 NFL Draft probably would’ve bored him to tears, except for the Jaguars taking Cal punter Bryan Anger in the third round. He would’ve LOVED that. I’m feeling a little sentimental, so say it with me in your best Al Davis-voice, “The kid … Anguh … from Cali-foah-nyuh … he ruhminds me of the great Rayduh Ray Guy … one of the greatest Rayduhs evah…”

But keep in mind that Al being bored by the Raiders’ draft is a great thing.

Reggie McKenzie’s reign is still too fresh to give him a nickname like Uncle Reg-Reg, Big Red Reg (B.R.R.), The Great Rebuilder, or the Freckled Miracle Worker.

Mr. McKenzie performed a miracle in Raiders terms, by drafting to needs and making sure we have players to fill all 11 positions on both sides of the ball.

Taking Tim Bergstrom out of Utah with the last pick of the third round was a good one because he has experience in a zone blocking scheme. He’s also going to put pressure on Cooper Carlisle, whom I’m not crazy about … but I would’ve rather seen a pick that would put pressure on Khalif Barnes because he’s terrible. Again, based on what I’ve read, zone schemes demand more from guards than tackles, so this is a smart pick.

San Diego State LB Miles Burris went in the fourth round, and I like this pick because linebacker play was terrible last season. If I had a dollar for every time Rolando McClain tripped over his own feet, looked confused, or was badly out of position in a zone defense, I’d have enough money to buy a throwback Mitchell and Ness Kenny Stabler jersey. Same could be said for Aaron Curry. With Kamerion Wimbley now playing for the Tennessee Titans, we need the depth at linebacker. Plus, Burris is known as a demon on special teams, which the Raiders could use with the loss of Rock Cartwright.

Penn State DE Jack Crawford went in the fifth round. He’s a physical monster at 6-5, 274, but he didn’t start playing football until he was a junior in high school … as an exchange student from jolly ol’ England. That’s right, he’s a British subject. But for now, football is going to be his only subject. Raiders games are televised in the U.K., and according to Crawford, they are the most popular American football team in England. Raiders are pirates, and weren’t pirates from England back in the day? This is a project pick with big upside. Last year’s fifth round pick was Denarius Moore.

Arizona WR Juron Criner was the second fifth round pick for the Raiders. Criner is 6-4, 215, and as a former basketball player, he has tremendous leaping ability — he can propel himself 39 inches into the air. As NFLDraftScout wrote, “which in basketball terms means his elbows are above the rim.” Yeah. That’s hops. But the downside is he ran a 4.68 40-yard dash. However, we have plenty of speedsters. It’d be nice to have a guy who isn’t afraid of contact downfield. Some scouts say he likes to block, so he could end up being a bigger, classier version Hines Ward: a guy who’ll blast DBs downfield to spring Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones for big gains.

Christo Bilukidi is another project pick, but he was a history-making pick for Georgia State University. He was the first guy they’ve ever had drafted into the NFL. Congrats, Georgia State University. Now what does this mean to the Raiders? Well, Maybe Mr. McKenzie sees him being mentored by Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour. Otherwise, this one’s the first head-scratcher for me.

LB Nate Stupar is the second Penn State defender to get drafted by the Raiders. More importantly? A little research gives us some insight into the kind of guys Mr. McKenzie is drafting. Stupar is family guy in the making. This story about how he led his now-fiance on a scavenger hunt (escorted by his brother, OF COURSE!) to find him at Beaver Stadium waiting with an engagement ring. Wow. That’s effort. And that’s not your typical college football “star.” I put star in quotations because he didn’t start for Penn State until his senior year.

This draft was great considering how hamstrung the Raiders front office was by past trades, and I cannot wait to see what Mr. McKenzie does with a full slate of picks next year. I also believe that even if the Raiders finish 8-8 this season, they’ll be a far smarter and better team.

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