RAIDER ROOKIE MINICAMP:The Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp wrapped up this weekend.Players arrived on Thursday for the three-day camp that started on Friday and was limited to the 2017 draftees, UDFA, try out players, and a handful of players who did not register a full year of service in 2016.More than anything, rookie minicamps are a chance for players to familiarize themselves with the coaching staff, their system, and the team facilities.It’s also an opportunity to show their skills and athleticism in basic alignments and game simulations.What it has never been is a predictor of NFL success.
RAIDER ROOKIE MINICAMP – 6 OBSERVATIONS
1.All bodies in attendance on day one left healthy on day three.
2.Collectively, the Raiders nine draftees are good, young men.They are definitely modest, humble, and willing to work.There’s no flashy or wild characters in the group (for good or bad) but that might change as they get more comfortable with their surroundings and the tremendous opportunity they’ve earned.
3.Contrary to criticism from some NFL analysts, DT Eddie Vanderdoes came to camp in shape.
4.Safety Obi Melinonwu is gifted physically but he knows he has a lot to learn in terms of scheme and technique.He has a great coach in Rod Woodson.
5.Raider first round CB Gareon Conley said football takes his mind off the rape allegations that are still being investigated.There’s nothing he can do but wait for the investigation to wrap up.He’s really just a quiet kid and you can’t help hoping everything works out.Glad to have him as an Oakland Raider.
6.It’s only Raider Rookie Minicamp, but MLB Marquel Lee was vocal on the field, trying to demonstrate he can be a defensive leader.He knows the MLB is sometimes asked to be the QB of the defense.
RAIDERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS – This year’s crop of Raider draftees is best described as low Floor – High Ceiling. Even more so than last year, the Oakland Raiders focused on potential and upside in the 2017 NFL draft. This should be an exciting group to watch in training camp as we get to know them and track their performance.
Going into the draft, the Raiders needed to find a pass rushing DT, a bonafide MLB, and upgrade the CB position. On offense, the team’s primary concern was long term solutions at Right and Left Tackle. Of the nine players selected, only CB Gareon Conely can be considered an instant upgrade at any of these positions. For the others, we’ll have to wait and see but the group certainly has high potential. Incidently, Oakland traded their 6th round pick to Arizona in exchange for two seventh round picks.
RAIDERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS
ROUND 1: GAREON CONLEY CB Ohio State
6-0 195 lbs. Ran a 4.44 at the combine. Good size and length. Can play both zone and man coverage at a high level. Talented CB who will compete for a starting role on Day 1. In 2016, depending on the source, opposing quarterbacks had a QBR of anywhere between 13.6 and 46.9 when targeting his wide receivers. Have to see what happens with the rape charges but GM Reggie says they fully vetted he situation and believe it will blow over. The Raiders might have been able to take Conley in Round 2 but hindsight is 20-20.
ROUND 2: OBI MELINFONWU S UConn
6-4 220 lbs. High character and great physical specimen. Ran a 4.40 and has a 44 inch vertical jump. Very strong against the run but needs to be coached up in the passing game. As with many of Oakland’s picks this year and last, a little raw but tremendous upside. If his reactiveness can become more instinctive the Raiders will have a dominating presence in the defensive backfield.
ROUND 3: EDDIE VANDERDOES DT UCLA
6-3 305 lbs. His collegiate career started off strong but he suffered a torn ACL in 2015. He came back in 2016 but underperformed against expectations. Except for an outstanding showing at the Senior Bowl he would potentially would have been a late round draft pick. Powerful at the point of the attack, Vanderdoes can handle and fend off double teams. He’s definitely a run stopper but posted only two sacks in three years at UCLA. Physical, gritty player and perhaps that’s what the Oakland Raiders were looking to add. Again, more upside than face value.
ROUND 4: DAVID SHARPE OT Florida
6-6 343 lbs. Started 26 out of 27 games at LT over the past two years. Uses his balance, quickness, and long arms to keep defenders away from his QB. GM Reggie McKenzie said Sharpe has to work on certain aspects but has high potential. He’ll have a chance to understudy behind current starting LT Donald Penn. If that doesn’t work out he’ll be moved to the inside or RT.
ROUND 5: MARQUEL LEE LB Wake Forest
6-3 240 lbs. Two season with 100+ tackles at Wake Forest. In 2016, Lee recorded 7.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss. Lacks the speed to play outside so will compete for the starting spot at MLB. Marquel is more of an athletic, finesse Linebacker than the Neanderthal in your face type. And that’s where the big question comes into play. Can his frame hold up to the constant pounding of an NFL ILB?
ROUND 7: SHALOM LUANI S Washington State
5-11 202 lbs. A hard hitting Safety at Washington State with eight interceptions over two years. Predicted by some to be an UDFA as production was credited more to athleticism than football prowess. A lot of naysayers out there with this pick (7th round too high?) but we think the kid will turn some heads. He’ll make the roster on Special Teams and we’ll see where else he can contribute after a few years of coaching.
ROUND 7: JYLAN WARE OT Alabama State
6-8 300 lbs. Small school Tackle that needs to improve his technique and add mass to his frame. That said, he’s athletic and agile for a player his size and reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds. Solid developmental pick for the Oakland Raiders.
ROUND 7: ELIJAH HOOD RB North Carolina
6-0 232 lbs. Tough, take it to you, always falling forward RB. Lacks desired speed (4.57) and vision but is a decent receiver and can pick up the blitz. Interesting pick given the group of RBs currently on the Raider roster. But again…low floor, high ceiling.
ROUND 7: TREYVON HESTER DT Toledo
6-2 300 lbs. Good size and quickness but needs to improve balance and pad level. Hester is an intense, high effort player well worth a 7th round pick by the Oakland Raiders. Will be fun to see him in camp.
RAIDERS – CB GAREON CONLEY – With the 24th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Ohio State CB Gareon Conley (6’0 195).
GAREON CONLEY CB Ohio State
Conley is fast, running a low 4.40, and has good size and length. Depending on the source, quarterbacks targeting his WRs have a QBR of anywhere between 13.6 and 46.9. The most common phrase used to describe Conley is “ball hawk”.
That aside, the overriding issue at this point is the rape allegations from early April. The Raiders obviously did their due diligence and came to the conclusion that no charges would be filed and the whole affair will blow over or they wouldn’t have taken the young DB. The question that arises is did the Oakland Raiders need to take Conley in the first round when many were predicting him to fall as low as the third round?
Well, for those who thought GM Reggie McKenzie was a different sort of nut than the legendary Al Davis, this is further proof that McKenzie is much like Davis when it comes to draft picks. If Al was targeting a top impact player he took him right away rather than gambling the player would be available with a later pick. There’s no better evidence of that than HOF Punter Ray Guy going in the first round. Reggie McKenzie no doubt could have traded further back into the late first round and still have a shot at CB DJ Hayden in the 2013 draft. But he wanted Hayden and he traded back two spots and took him with the 12th pick. And there was probably a good chance he could get Gareon Conley in the second round but he had a top impact player on his board and took him rather than gamble that he could grab him later on. When all is said and done, if the whole thing does blow over, the Raiders come away with a pretty good pick.
Raiders Top Offseason Requirements – The Oakland Raiders biggest offseason needs on Defense and Offense are Interior Pass Rusher and Offensive Tackle. We’ll take a quick look at each position as we gear up for free agency and the draft.
On a separate note, the top vote getter for 2016 Raider Rookie of the Year poll was RB Jalen Richard with 44% of the Vote. SS Karl Joseph was second with 34%.
RAIDERS TOP OFFSEASON REQUIREMENTS
Interior Pass Rusher
This was a high priority going into 2016 and is probably now the top priority for 2017. Free Agent DT Stacy McGee showed promise early in the 2016 season as a run stopper and pass rusher but groin and ankle injuries put him on the sideline for 7 games. He’ll garner attention from other teams due to last year’s fast start but is largely viewed as a player with potential who has not yet proven himself. Therefore McGee will double his $675k salary but a large payout is unlikely. And most likely he stays with the Raiders. Regardless, Oakland needs to look at a Free Agent pickup or use their first pick in the draft if the right DT is available. They absolutely must get better at rushing the passer.
DT Darius Latham had a pretty good season for an undrafted rookie but at this point is best suited as a rotational player. Justin Ellis is a decent backup entering the final year of his rookie contract. Veteran Dan Williams underperformed in 2016 after having a pretty good year in 2015. Of the three, Williams was the only to record a sack in 2016…actually 1/2 a sack.
LT Donald Penn is entering his 12th season and will be 34 years old in April. The Raiders need to groom a replacement on the expectation Penn can give them at most two more years of high level play. This can be done via the draft or acquiring a young player via FA or a trade. If Penn can’t make it two years and the heir apparent is not ready, Oakland would have to sign a top Free Agent. Worst case scenario for Oakland is Penn goes down midseason.
RT must be addressed and that includes resigning Free Agent Menelik Watson. Injuries to both Watson and Austin Howard devastated the position last year but bringing in a FA does not appear to be a viable option in 2017. The talent gap between Watson and Howard and the current crop of Free Agent RTs just isn’t big enough for the Oakland Raiders to make a change. Better to resign Menelik, who’ll come fairly cheap, and draft some insurance in the middle rounds.
Here are the Oakland Raider 2017 Free Agents. All are UFA.
LATAVIUS MURRAY – RB
There’s lots of speculation Murray will be allowed to sign elsewhere without much of a fight. We say not so fast. The wage scale for RBs is ever shrinking and there are ways for Reggie McKenzie to be creative. Rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington had solid seasons but Murray added a physicality to the running game the smaller backs couldn’t. In 2016, Murray showed significant improvement in the receiving game and picking up the blitz. We’d like to see him stay in Oakland but know dollars might prevent that.
STACY MCGEE — DT
Stacy missed 7 games last year due to injury and 12 over the past 3 years. That will make some but not all teams shy away from him in free agency. We actually expect the resigning of McGee to heat up if the Raiders don’t make an early offer. When healthy last year he was Oakland’s best interior pass rusher. They still need a lot of interior help beyond McGee but losing him would only compound the problem.
MALCOM SMITH – LB
Signed in 2015, Smith has been a strong teammate and Oakland’s leading tackler the past two seasons. What he’s failed to do is elevate the players around him and defend the pass at a consistently high level. That has folks predicting a free agent departure. But if you let Malcom walk, who do the Raiders replace him with…a top tier free agent? We think the Raiders would be better suited spending that money on a DT that can generate a pass rush and the defensive backfield.
NATE ALLEN – S
Nate’s experience and leadership are countered against his knees and age. Doubtful another team picks him up at his 2016 $3M salary. Therefore the Oakland Raiders could and should resign him at a lower salary.
DJ HAYDEN – CB
DJ Hayden was an on the field liability his first three years but his performance improved in 2016, playing primarily in the slot. Even then he was average at best. The talent may not be there but the kid gives his all. Depending on what the Raiders do in free agency and the draft, it may be worthwhile to give Hayden another shot at a salary substantially lower than the $2.6M he earned in 2016.
MATT MCGLON – QB
The Silver and Black sign him to compete in training camp. If they keep only two QBs, his tenure with the Raiders is over.
ANDRE HOLMES – WR
The Raiders need to resign Andre Holmes but chances are he leaves for a team that will utilize him as a third or even a second WR. Holmes had 14 receptions in 2016 as a backup WR.
MENELIK WATSON – RT
A fan favorite, Watson’s injuries have hurt his free agent prospects. He was salaried at $1.2M in 2016 and will probably get a small bump due to potential. The Raiders resign him as a reliable backup while looking for an overall upgrade in the draft or FA. 8th year RT Austin Howard is still under contract.
JON CONDO – LS
Entering his 11th year, hard to see Condo leaving on his own.
BRYNDEN TRAWICK – S
True worth is special teams and needs to be resigned. Made $800k in 2016.
PERRY RILEY – LB
Signed last year after the season started, Riley had a decent year for the Oakland Raiders. He played for only $800k last year and will get paid more in free agency due to his 2016 performance. At a minimum he would provide Oakland with depth at the LB spot.
DAREN BATES – LB
Special Teams player worth resigning. Was paid $700k in 2016.
MYCHAL RIVERA – TE
Mychal has showed flashes at times but never materialized into a receiving threat. The Raider have platooned the TE positon the last few years and regardless of salary, Rivera may search out a change of scenery to get more playing time and kick start his career.
RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS: The Oakland Raiders shed several demons by posting a winning record and making the playoffs. As good as it was, we’ll all look back at 2016 knowing it could have been much more had Derek Carr stayed healthy. And now expectations are high for the 2017 campaign. Before we get there, however, we’re pausing to hand out Team Awards.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS
At one point, we, like so many others were looking at Jack Del Rio as the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year. Then came the loss of Derek Carr. It wasn’t that Oakland lost the season finale to Denver and thus the AFC West. Nor was it the loss to Houston in the Wildcard. Losing a potential MVP QB is difficult and the shoulder injury to Matt McGloin only confounded the problem. It was rather, that the Raiders were vastly outplayed in those final two games. It was Del Rio’s job to get his players to rise up and “embrace the suck”. Forget NFL Coach of the Year, he’s not even our Raider Coach of the Year.
That award goes to Offensive Line Coach, Mike Tice. The Raiders offensive line was arguably one of the NFL’s best despite injuries ravaging the Tackle position. Throughout the year five different players manned the Right Tackle spot and Tice did a masterful job preparing his men across the entire line. Losing Donald Penn showed an utter lack of depth at a key position but we put that more on GM Reggie McKenzie and to a certain extent Jack Del Rio.
There’s no debate, it’s Derek Carr. He ended the year with 26 TDs, only 6 picks, and a QBR of 96.7. In reality, in today’s NFL, those stats are very good but not exceptional. What made Carr special was his 7 4th quarter comebacks and a 4th quarter QBR of 110.1. The number of comebacks were second only to Matthew Stafford and the rating second only to Tom Brady. Carr’s prowess energized the Raiders with confidence and propelled them to the playoffs.
Looking for a runner up? Our 2015 offensive MVP, WR Michael Crabtree, led the team with 89 receptions and 8 receiving TDs. He also led the NFL with 9 drops. WR Amari Cooper led the team with 1,153 yards but often disappeared in the second half. RB Latavius Murray racked up 788 rushing yards and 12 TDs (5th in NFL). He was also tied for 4th with 33 receptions. Murray struggled with pass protection early in his career but turned things around in 2016. His running brought physicality and attitude to the Raider running game. And thus Latavius Murray is our runner up, albeit it’s wide chasm between #1 and #2.
Once again, there’s no debate. Khalil Mack accounted for 44% of the Raiders sacks (11 of 25). He was the Raiders second leading tackler and was second in the NFL with 5 forced fumbles. His 25 QB Hurries were nearly double the nearest Raider (Irvin with 14). He also led the team in Stuffs and Tackles for Loss. The defensive players continuously looked to Mack for leadership and game breaking plays.
Although the secondary was much aligned, our runner up is FS Reggie Nelson. Nelson led the team with 5 interceptions and was second on the team with 12 Passes Defensed. His 12 PDs ranked second among NFL Safeties. He also played every defensive snap for the Oakland Raiders, which is quite a statement. Bruce Irvin didn’t have the year many hoped for but was forceful at times. He recorded 7 sacks and led the NFL with 6 forced fumbles.
Lacking an elite returner, this award usually goes to the Kicker or Punter. Yet Janikowksi was only 3 of 8 from 50+ whereas King was golden for most of the season but began to wane in the final weeks. We debated this pick to the very end as some felt Marquette King should be the MVP but others were bothered by his performance in the final weeks and the killer punt return for a TD versus Denver. In the end, we’re giving our Special Teams MVP Award to Specialist Brynden Trawick who recorded 15 ST tackles, 4th best in the NFL.