The Oakland Raiders’ NFL Draft experience in 2013 will be slightly more enjoyable than the year before—as will its mock counterpart.
Oakland was bereft of a first and second-round selection in 2012. It had only itself to blame for having to wait until pick No. 95 overall. Yet, questionable trades from seasons’ past aside, one can only commiserate with a team that didn’t begin its selection process until the third round.
That’s what makes this latest draft installment all the more sweeter: The Raiders own the No. 3 overall pick, and they have needs across the board. So, regardless if personnel evaluators take a top defensive prospect or package the pick for numerous later-round selections, it’s a win-win situation.
Yes, the 2013 class isn’t nearly as star-studded as last year’s, particularly at quarterback. But game-changers do exist on the defensive front and secondary, places where Oakland is seriously deficient.
The Raiders currently have picks in the first, third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. Acquiring Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals and Aaron Curry from the Seattle Seahawks came at the cost of their second and fifth-round picks, respectively.
Compensatory picks will come later and trades are always in play. As such, let’s create a 2013 mock draft based on selections that the Raiders own at present.
First Round: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Aside from quarterback, what’s the most important position in today’s pass-crazy NFL?
Any athlete that can get to said quarterback, take him off his spot and prevent him from his pass-crazy tendencies.
Moore is a versatile defender that can effectively rush the QB from a number of different areas on the field. He operated out of the “joker” position from 2010-2011 as a pass-rush, backfield specialist. He collected 14 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, three pass breakups and seven forced fumbles.
Then, after moving toward a more traditional defensive end position in a 4-3 scheme in 2012, Moore went berserk with 85 tackles, 21 for loss, 12.5 sacks, two pass breakups, two blocked kicks and one forced fumble. He earned first-team All-SEC and second-team AP All-American honors.
The Raiders desperately need a dynamic edge rusher. They amassed the second-lowest sack total in 2012, with their 25 just barely eclipsing the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars’ number for the year. That inability created game-breaking opportunities in which opposing quarterbacks enjoyed free reign and burned the secondary for the third-most pass plays of 40-plus yards (12).
Moore is just the man to prevent those scenarios from happening in the first place..
While not being a perfectly well-rounded product in terms of his run-defense and consistency, he’ll satisfy Oakland’s greatest need. That is, if it chooses to retain its first-round pick.
Third Round: Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
Before the Mountain West boo-birds come out to play, let’s take a look at McFadden’s accomplishments.
For the past three seasons, McFadden has maintained consistent proficiency from the cornerback position. He’s averaged 54 tackles, 12 for loss, two-plus interceptions and 15 pass breakups.
In 2012, he honored his three-time all-conference resume with two interceptions returned for touchdowns. It was the type of ball-hawking showcase that can translate in the NFL.
McFadden’s overall skill set, though, is what will make him a great fit in Oakland. He shuts down would-be vertical completions deep downfield with his speed, fluidity and instinctual awareness to where the ball is in the air.
More so, it’s his professional mentality and commendable work ethic that will prove positively influential on the Silver and Black. He’ll bolster a wholly lackluster cornerback grouping, while helping keep the proverbial clubhouse in check.
The former Aztec’s 5’10’’ stature may create problems at the next level with big-bodied receivers. That said, McFadden is the type of player that will learn how to adapt to his opponent and gain the upper hand.
Look for him to validate this third-round status if it comes to pass in April.
Fourth Round: Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State
A man from “Linebacker U” will prove quite the addition to the NFL’s version of “Linebacker Siberia.”
All due respect intended, Hodges will upgrade a Raiders’ contingent that had its fair share of problems this past season. Middle linebacker was a revolving door and run-stopping issue with Rolando McClain’s suspension and Omar Gaither as a temporary stopgap. Philip Wheeler was a liability in coverage, and rookie Miles Burris, aside from commendable effort, has a long way to go.
Hodges, for his part, was an absolute tackling machine at Penn State. He racked up 215 tackles and 18.5 for loss the past two seasons.
In pass defense, Hodges totaled 5.5 sacks, three interceptions and 14 pass breakups from 2011-2012. He further showed his knack for the ball with three forced fumbles.
Overall, Hodges possesses sideline-to-sideline ability against the run, with underrated proficiency as a coverage backer. He’ll find a niche in Oakland if given the chance.
Sixth Round: Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
Knowing how NFL teams evaluate the running back position as a short-lived product, Graham would be a fine steal in the sixth round.
The 5’9’’, 192-pounder possesses great speed and agility. His big-play capabilities trump his lack of size or purported inability to handle the load as an every-down back. He also has the vision in tight spaces that’s needed at the position.
Statistically speaking, Graham is a fairly complete back. His 28 rushing touchdowns, 5.0-plus-yard average, 753 yards receiving and four TD catches over the past three seasons would lend itself to that assessment.
The Raiders will still bank on Darren McFadden as the featured back. He’s too dynamic a player not to have that role—at least until injuries finally derail his career.
Graham would serve as an electric, complementary backup with underrated No. 1 ability. Plus, he’d also provide another wrinkle in the return game that proved completely effective for the Silver and Black in 2012.
Seventh Round: Cooper Taylor, SS, Richmond
At this point in the draft, gambles are worthwhile moves at most positions. With Taylor, however, high-reward productivity would supersede any high-risk potential.
The 6’4’’, 229-pound, 4.57-running transfer from Georgia Tech has late-round steal written all over him. A rare heart condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome effectively forced his transfer to Richmond, despite his having an awesome skill set.
Cooper is a thoroughly physical, yet disciplined athlete that excels against the run and pass. He has a complementary high football IQ that makes him a coach’s dream in how he absorbs instructions and transforms it into gridiron production.
The problematic medical history (which has since been cleared) will keep him down in the later rounds of the draft. The Raiders, with their propensity for being burned over top in the pass and run game, would love to have him roaming the gridiron on the back end of their defense.
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