With Free agency well under way, lets have a look at who is a Raider, who we need, and what to do in the upcoming draft….
With the Raiders being very quiet in the free agency market, the players that we select in the 2009 draft will be of vital importance, but before we get into that, lets take a look at who we have, and what we need. This blog will focus on the offense. Next up, we will take a look at the defense. After that I will post my “DRAFT” blog of who the Raiders should take, and who they will take.
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo.
Lets face it, JaMarcus Russell will need to be the star of this team, if we are to elevate our status to a Superbowl contender. In order for him to get to that status, he will need all of the pieces around him. That will include a solid offensive line, a great running game and some quality receivers. We have the running backs, and some of the receiving talent, but the offensive line will need some work. If Russell can have the time to throw the ball, and the receivers to catch it, we can be in for some very good years to come. Russell does have some health concerns, which is why Gradkowski was brought aboard.
Bruce Gradkowski is a solid backup and he should fit in nicely. He has some starting experience, and he showed flashes of being a good starter, which may become vital, if Russell goes down.
Andrew Walter may become one of those quarterbacks that blossoms late in his career, but don't expect it to happen in Oakland. He will be the third QB, and possibly not even that, as the Raiders have had talks with other QBs such as Kyle Boller and Charlie Frye.
Marques Tuiasosopo is a free agent and he will not be resigned. Personally I like this, because I hate spelling his name which adds to the fact that he is not a very good QB.
Overall we have a pretty solid quarterback crew. This of course, rests on the developement of JaMarcus Russell.
Draft need? There will be no need for the Raiders to get a QB in the draft, and don't expect us to do so.
Runningback Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Michael Bush, Louis Rankin.
You will not find another group of runningbacks that can top this group. Darren McFadden is going to have a breakout year, as his injury woes should be put behind him, along with his rookie jitters. He was running on two turf toe injuries last season and he still managed 4.4 yards per carry. He was touted to be a surefire star, and you would be wise to believe the hype.
Justin Fargas is the prototypical classic runner. He is a power guy, who will hit the line as hard as he can, then keep on churning. Added to that, he is one of those heart players that you love to have as a teammate. His downfall is that he is not an every down back, and he has a history of injuries. What makes that tolerable is that we do not need him to be the go to guy, and putting him in the “change of pace” mode, should bid well.
Michael Bush was given his first bit of real NFL experience last season, after sitting out his first year recovering from a horrific knee injury. The nice thing is that it looks as though the injury healed well, and he may still live up to his pre injury hype. He played in a limited role last year, but in his final game, he gained over 170 yards in the ground, he tied McFadden with a 4.4 yards per carry average, and he put some serious stock behind his name. He may become some good trade bait if McFadden lives up to his name, but he could also become the face of the franchise. Only time will tell.
Louis Rankin was very limited last year, as he sat behind McFadden, Fargas and Bush as the fourth back. However he did get some action, and in the game against Kansas City in KC, he put on a steller performance. His rookie season will go down as a success, but his future with the Raiders will be in question, as he still sits behind some quality guys.
Overall we have a very solid running core, and I hope to see some sort of a three back system worked out. What an amazing amount of confusion we can bring, switching between McFadden, Bush and Fargas.
Draft need? Absolutely none!
Fullback Oren O'Neal, Luke Lawton, Marcel Reece
Oren O'Neal has shown flashes of greatness, but he ended his season early last year, and with a very bad injury. If he can come back from that injury, he could be a great fullback, but only time will tell.
Luke Lawton helped close out the 2008 season, and he did a fine job. He is not an elite back, but he does fill a role.
Marcel Reese is much the same as Lawton, he will not be a go to guy, but he may very well get the job done.
Overall this is a position of concern. It is not a big concern, but it will be one that could use an addition. I would not try to dip into the free agency market, unless we can resign Justin Griffith for a discounted rate. My mindset would put another fullback in the fold via late round draft, or try and fine an undrafted gem after the draft.
Draft need? Yes. BUT only in the 6th or 7th round, and only for a top guy like Tony Flammetta, Quinn Johnson or Brannan Southerland. If not, get an undrafted guy.
Wide Receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, Javon Walker, Arman Shields, Jonathan Holland, Todd Watkins, Drew Carter, Ashley Lelie
A nice chemestry started late in the season last year with Russell and his top two receivers. Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens showed that they belone at this level, and they can prove to be the solid receiving threat that this team really needs.
Javon Walker is a two time probowl player, and that should not be taken lightly. He had a disasterous first year in Oakland, but with a restructured contract, and what should be an improved QB, Walker could still be the number one guy that we need. His health is always a concern, but his talent is undenyable.
Todd Watkins looked great in the preseason, but when it came down to the big show, he didn't get much of a look. I really like the guy, and I believe that if he is given a chance, he could become a great player.
Arman Shields & Jonathan Holland. Shields was injured for his rookie year, and Holland has been injured since his rookie year a couple years ago. Shields is the better prospect of the two, and he was drafted well before Shilens was last year, so you know the Raiders were high on him. If both players can stay healthy, we will have a better chance at guaging thier worth.
Drew Carter & Ashley Lelie are both free agents and the Raiders will most likely pass on both. Lelie has been spiratically good at times, but not worth the fuss, and Carter can't stay healthy, so he is not worth bringing back.
Overall I would have to say that I like our receiving core. Many would disagree with me, but I do not beleive Al Davis or Tom Cable would be one of them. We have some great talent, and some solid prospects, so it will be nice to give them their shot. The only receiver that I would add would be a surefire number 1 guy. There is noone in the free agency market that I would take.
Draft Need? Two words….Michael Crabtree. If Crabtree falls to #7 in the draft, I would snatch him up like a lime after a shot of tequila. Although the Raiders may go with Jeremy Maclin in the draft, the only guy that I would touch would be Crabtree. I like our receivers, and anyone else that we can draft would simply be placed among them.
Tightend Zach Miller, Tony Stewart, Darrell Strong
Zach Miller is a great tightend, and he is only going to get better. He will be one of the best in the league as time goes, and he solidifies the position very well.
Tony Stewart is a good second tightend. He gets the job done, and he fills a role.
Darrell Strong has a cool name. Aside from saying that, I haven't much
else to say. He hasn't been used, and his value is unclear.
Overall with Miller as the main guy, we will be set at TE for years to come.
Draft need? None.
Center John Wade, Chris Morris, Jon Condo
In my humble opinion, the center position is our biggest area of need on the offensive side of the ball. John Wade is a good center, but he is 34 years old and his best years are behind him.
Chris Morris came in to some games last year and played some decent ball. He doesn't look to have that star talent, so his role will be as the backup.
Jon Condo is our long snapper, and that is simply all we need him for.
Overall we may be able to makeshift a full season out of what we have, but the issue will need to be addressed soon. Taking in another veteran guy could solve the issue for now, but our future at center will rest in the draft.
Draft need? Absolutely! We need to draft a center, and we need to do it in the top three rounds. I would love to have a guy like Max Unger, Alex Mack or Eric Wood picked up in the second round, but if we need to address a different issue in the second, A.Q. Shipley or Antoine Caldwell might work out well in the third. When we take a center is unclear, but as we sit right now, there is no doubt that we will take one in the draft. The only question is, when and who.
Guard Robert Gallery, Coopler Carlisle, Paul McQuistan
Robery Gallery has found his home at the left guard position, and he plays it very well. He has done a great job in the past two years, and the title of “Draft Bust” should be well behind him. He has become worth that #2 overall spot, in my mind, and I don't care who agrees.
Cooper Carlisle is a decent guard, and he fills a role for now. He will need to be replaced in due time, but with him resigned, it gives us at least one more year before we need to worry about it.
Paul McQuistan was one of those guys that I always thought could become great. He was one of the guys that I really liked, and Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the guys that I didn't like. That just goes to show you what I know, because I would trade Asomugha for the world, and McQuistan isn't worth much more then a foam hand and a chilli dog. Hopefully he can prove me wrong in time, but don't look for the Raiders to give him the chance.
Overall we have one half of the guard position set, and the other is good enough for now. It will need a solid right guard in time, but as I said, we can wait on that.
Draft need? Not very high. If we can catch a diamond in the rough, or if one of the top guys is to fall to a 4th round or further, we will most likely not be taking a guard. Undrafted guards sometimes turn out to be good options, so with Cable as our coach, maybe he can find one of them.
Tackle Khalif Barnes, Mario Henderson, Erik Pears, Cornell Green, James Marten, Mark Wilson
How many of you still think that the Raiders should take a tackle in the first round of the draft? Because if you do, give your head a shake! Khalif Barnes is a solid left tackle, who can play on the right side, and Mario Henderson has just as much potential as anyone in the draft. His nock before his draft year was that he was raw and needed some time to develope. Well, he got that time, and he has developed very well. When he took over the left tackle spot last year, the passing game really opened up. He may still be a year away, which would be why Barnes got a one year contract, but make no mistake about it, Mario Henderson is for real.
Erik Pears played for the Broncos for the past three years and he wwas very good in his first two. He spent the entire 2008 season on IR, so his health status is a concern, but he can be a very good right tackle.
Cornell Green was the starting right tackle last season, and he was the worst player on the line. If the Raiders can dump him, don't be suprised if they do.
Mark Wilson & James Marten saw some time last year, but they are simply backup players.
Overall I really like our top three options. If we can get Barnes to play on the right side, or Henderson for that matter, we will have two solid tackles. Then if all works out well, Barnes can be resigned in the 2010 offseason, and we will be good to go for years to come. Don't count Pears out of the loop also, because he has a lot of potential, and he is a proven starter in this league.
Draft need? Very little. In fact, it is rumored that the Raiders promised not to take a tackle in the draft, in order to sign Khalif Barnes. Even if that is not true, I don't believe that we will take one, or even should take one, even though the top five tackles in the draft have very high praise.
Punter Shane Lechler, Ricky Schmitt
Shane Lechler is the best punter in the league, and he just signed on for another three years.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski
Janikowski has one of the strongest legs that the NFL has ever seen, and he has been a fairly accurate kicker. He has his ups and downs, but when the team is playing well, he generally plays well.
Overall I really like Janikowski, and he doesn't need to be replaced.
Draft need? None.
Overview Our offense is actually very well set, and the positions of need are generally quite small. We are without a doubt relying on some key guys, in key positions to step up, and earn their stripes, but their prospects are still very high.
We need to focus on the center position above all, with that true bonified number 1 receiving treat right behind him. Then we can focus on a fullback, and a guard.
I would not put much stock in the free agency market for any of our needs, aside from perhaps a fullback, or a player that will sign for much less his value.
Next up, we will take a look at the defensive side of the ball, and after that, my Draft preview.
About the Author
Written by Lee Tremblay