According to the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, there is a “lot of buzz” surrounding the Oakland Raiders and one of the top left tackles available in the draft. That short list would presumably include players like Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, Eric Fisher from Central Michigan, and Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma.
Of all the glaring needs the Raiders have, left tackle doesn’t initially strike as one. However, selecting a left tackle does make sense.
Though current left tackle, Jared Veldheer, was rated highly by ProFootball Focus, he was far from elite. The third-year tackle, gave up 33 total pressures while committing six penalties. But these struggles were minor compared to the right side of the line.
The combination of Khalif Barnes, Willie Smith, and Tony Bergstrom combined for 62 total pressures and ten sacks. Carson Palmer, obviously, paid the price for the revolving door at right tackle, but he didn’t pay it alone. When running off the right end, Darren McFadden averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. And perhaps even more indicative of their struggles, the right side was not able to propel a single running back into the endzone.
Obvious deficiencies aside, the Raiders need to sure up the offensive line has never been more acute. Greg Knapp was let go in part because he was never able to get the run game moving consistently. It was a distraction in the locker room and an albatross around the coaches necks. If just one year of line ineptitude cost an offensive coordinator his job, what will a second year bring?
What’s more, Reggie McKenzie sacrificed quite a bit for a quarterback who has started just two games over his five-year career. Yes, the Raiders paid a modest price for Flynn, and yes, the trade allowed them to get out from under Palmer’s contract. But in trading draft picks, McKenzie he not only traded away the Raiders scarcest resource — something McKenzie had said he didn’t even like to consider prior to the 2012 NFL Draft — but he also mortgaged his reputation.
“I do not want to trade future picks,” McKenzie said. “Usually, you consider that if it’s a future seventh if you need a guy going into the season, something happens. But, I don’t like to even consider trading future picks, especially high ones.”
Perhaps, I’m being hyperbolic here, but Raiders’ fans above all should know what kind of bounty a fifth round selection can bring (See: Hayes, Lester). Because of this and because McKenzie eschewed a known quantity in Palmer for the unknown, it behooves him to give Flynn every opportunity to succeed. But that opportunity is challenged by the current state of the Raiders’ line.
Then again, this “buzz” could be all smoke and mirrors. After all, Peter King did report that “Reggie McKenzie wants out of this pick. He really wants to recoup the second that was blown in the Carson Palmer trade.”
King also noted he “can’t see it happening.” So perhaps this is all just the Raiders attempt to drum up interest in the third overall pick.