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Raiders Earn an ‘B’ for Their Draft According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The draft grades from ‘Draft Guru’ Mel Kiper Jr. are out, and one team that got a very good grade is that of the Raiders, who according to Kiper got an ‘B’ for their collection of players over the two days.

Here’s what he had to say:

Two things are pretty clear to me in looking at this Raiders draft: they know that if they don’t protect Derek Carr they’re in trouble, and they’re willing to bet that new coach Jon Gruden and his staff can develop some high-ceiling talent that also comes with risk. The Raiders moved down in Round 1 and landed Kolton Miller (pick 15), who reminds me of former Patriot and newly-minted Giants left tackle Nate Solder. This is a great athlete with a huge frame who projects as a good NFL left tackle if you maximize the talent. There’s no guarantee. Third-round pick Brandon Parker (65) is the same in that he’s got the frame, but new O-line coach Tom Cable has his work cut out for him. Protect Carr and you’re competitive, and with Donald Penn now 35, it’s clear that’s the objective.

Arden Key (87) has legit top-10 talent but off-field concerns that had him available late in Round 3. If Gruden and staff can keep Key focused, this could be a home-run pick … but the risk is clear. Maurice Hurst (140) was off the boards of some teams because of a medical condition that arose at the combine. Again, this is a first-round talent at defensive tackle. I like the Raiders’ willingness to place some bets. But I also just listed four players that all come with varying degrees of risk.

Elsewhere, Nick Nelson (110) has a shot to help a secondary that needs bodies, and Johnny Townsend (173), my top-ranked punter, should fill in capably for the departed Marquette King. At the end of the day, this draft might be defined by what Cable is able to do. And if Key is solid off the field, watch out. High risk, high reward.

Round/Pick Name Pos College
1/15 Kolton Miller OT UCLA
2/57 P.J. Hall DT SAM HOUSTON STATE
3/65 Brandon Parker OT NORTH CAROLINA A&T
3/87 Arden Key DE LSU
4/110 Nick Nelson CB WISCONSIN
5/140 Maurice Hurst DT MICHIGAN
5/173 Johnny Townsend P FLORIDA
6/216 Azeem Victor ILB WASHINGTON
7/228 Marcell Ateman WR OKLAHOMA STATE

Raiders Grab UCLA OL Kolton Miller in Round One of Draft; Deal for Steelers WR Martavis Bryant

Jon Gruden’s first draft back for the Raiders was a very eventful one, as Thursday night the team drafted UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller, and also made a deal for Steelers playmaking wide out Martavis Bryant.

In return for Bryant, the Raiders gave the Steelers their third round pick (75th pick overall).

Here’s a take on the pick of Miller:

“I’m proud and excited,” Miller told The Bee’s Joe Davidson earlier this month. “I’ve worked hard. Work is something my dad instilled into me, and I’m competitive already. I want to be the best, and I push myself. I want to get at least 1 percent better every day.”

Miller is Roseville’s highest NFL draft pick since 1996, when the New England Patriots selected linebacker Tedy Bruschi out of Arizona in the third round.

He’ll join a familiar face in Oakland: The Raiders drafted defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, Miller’s UCLA teammate and an Auburn native, in the third round last year.

Miller – considered by several publications to be the second-best offensive tackle prospect behind Mike McGlinchey, who went to the 49ers with the ninth pick – allowed only two sacks and 16 quarterback pressures in 579 pass blocking snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

“When you’re talking about pass protection and staying in front of your guy, that’s what he does,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “He’s got the length, he’s got the great feet. You talk about getting to the second level and pulling. This guy has a lot of talent. We think in our scheme and coach (Tom Cable) working with him, he’ll flourish.”

As for Bryant, he wanted out of Pittsburgh last season after he fell behind rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster in the lineup.

A frustrated Bryant requested a trade last October after falling behind JuJu Smith-Schuster in the wide-receiver rotation. The former Clemson star fell down the depth chart due to a drug-related suspension that wiped out his entire 2016 season.

At 6-foot-4 with the speed and playmaking ability to take the lid off a defense, Bryant is a throwback to former owner Al Davis’ infamous fetish for dangerous deep threats. Derek Carr will be throwing to an overhauled receiving corps this season, with Bryant and former Packers Pro Bowler Jordy Nelson joining top target Amari Cooper and tight end Jared Cook.

Bryant’s unique combination of size, speed and freakish athleticism once prompted Ben Roethlisberger to suggest it was time for the enigmatic wideout to “become the best in the world.” Prior to the suspension, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth anointed Bryant “as talented as anybody playing in football right now.”

Raiders LB Khalil Mack Fails to Report for Opening of Teams’ Offseason Training Program

Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack did not report for the opening day of the team’s offseason program according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

This may not be significant but it should be noted that Mack is entering into the final year of his rookie deal and wants to get paid long-term. The two sides have reportedly engaged in extension talks, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken reports they were not close in early discussions.

Mack is currently scheduled to earn $13.846 million in 2018-a pittance for one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Originally the 5th-overall selection in the 2014 draft out of tiny Buffalo, the 27-year-old Mack has started all 64 regular season games in his four-year career and has been named to two first-team All-Pro squads. Like Aaron Donald in Los Angeles, Mack is set to become a very wealthy man by next offseason.

Raiders Add Free Agents CB Senquez Golson and DE Armonty Bryant

The Raiders added a pair of free agent defenders Friday in cornerback Senquez Golson and defensive end Armonty Bryant, Jerry McDonald of Bayareanewsgroup reports.

Golson, 24, is a former second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2015 NFL draft. He spent his first two years on the injured reserve list with shoulder and foot injuries, never playing a game for the team that drafted him. Last season Golson spent time on the practice squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bryant (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) did not play last season and last played for the Detroit Lions in 2016 with three sacks and one forced fumble in five games. In 36 career games with four starts, Bryant, 27, showed flashes of being a good pass rusher with 11.5 sacks.

Originally a seventh-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns out of East Central University, Bryant had a school record 27.5 sacks.

New Raiders Coach Gruden Compares WR Amari Cooper to a Young Tim Brown

Jon Gruden has high hopes for Amari Cooper. The new Raiders head coach previously lavished praise on the young receiver, saying he’ll be the central offensive skill player in a new passing attack, Scott Bair of NBC Bayarea reports.

Gruden’s kind words continued Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings, when he compared Cooper to a Hall-of-Fame receiver Raiders fans know well.

“I said it when he came out of Alabama, that he reminded me of a young Tim Brown,” Gruden said. “He has that type of game speed. He’s elusive, and has a wide range of routes he can run. He’s flexible. It’ll benefit him to stay healthy and stay in the same system for a few years. If he does that, great things are ahead.”

Cooper’s stats took a downturn in 2017, following 1,000-plus yards in his first two NFL seasons. He had just 48 catches for 680 yards while dealing with injuries down the stretch. That has been a common theme during Coopers three years in the league, something he hopes to reverse in 2018.

“He has to get healthy and stay healthy,” Gruden said. “We need him to be the player he was the first two years. I’ve said it earlier. We’re going to make him the main vein of our passing offense and move him around a lot.

“…We are really excited about him. I think he’s entering the prime of his career.”

Raiders Release P Marquette King and Waive TE Clive Walford

The Raiders have released P Marquette King and waived TE Clive Walford, the club announced Friday.

King, originally signed by the club as an undrafted free agent in 2012, has spent his first six years with the Raiders. Over his six-year career, he has played in 80 games, recorded 426 punts for 19,941 yards (46.8 avg.) and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 156 times with 33 touchbacks.

Walford, originally drafted by the club in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, totaled 44 games played with 10 starts as a Raider. Over his three-year career with the team, Walford made 70 receptions for 768 yards (11.0 avg.) and added six touchdowns.

Raiders Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: USC QB Sam Darnold

The hype for USC quarterback Sam Darnold has b3en growing by leaps and bounds the last few weeks, to the point where many feel he’s going to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft in April.

At 6-4, 220 pounds, he’s got the look of a player who with some time learning could be a very good to excellent quarterback in the NFL, but time will tell when he might get that chance.

In his final season at USC, Darnold threw for 4143 yards, with 26 touchdowns to go along with 13 picks. This after throwing 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions the season before.

Here’s a look at Darnold and what various places are saying about him in our latest scouting report.

Walter Football

Strengths:
Naturally accurate passer
Fits passes into tight windows
Excellnt ball placement
Throws a catchable ball
Pocket presence
Has poise
Advanced anticipation; instinctive thrower
Throws with good timing
Can accelerate his throwing motion
Quality arm strength
Pushed team to wins
Good internal clock
Mobility
Throws very well on the run
Throws accurately off platform
Displays some feel in the pocket
Not easy to sack
Can hurt defenses on the ground
Can make all the throws required
Can pick up yards on the ground
Threads passes into tight windows

Weaknesses:
Ball security
Too many interceptions
Too many fumbles
Had some confidence issues in 2017
Doesn’t secure the ball well when getting sacked
Good enough not doesn’t have elite arm strength
Throwing mechanics are a bit unorthodox
Needs to start games faster

Summary: Darnold took college football by storm during the 2016 season, and even though he wasn’t eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, the redshirt freshman had scouts buzzing about his pro potential. After a 1-2 start to the 2016 season for USC, Darnold was made the starting quarterback. For his debut season, he was an extremely efficient passer who led the Trojans to a 10-3 record. Darnold lost his first-ever start against a good Utah team, but after that he led his team to ripping off a nine-game win streak to close out the year, including impressive wins over Colorado, Washington, and a comeback Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The 2017 season was more of a mixed bag for Darnold. The redshirt sophomore completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had an up-and-down season with too many turnovers – fumbles were a particular issue beyond the interceptions. Darnold also made some beautiful anticipatory throws with excellent accuracy in just about every game.

There is a lot to like about Darnold as a future starter in the NFL. First and foremost, he is an accurate pocket passer who throws with good ball placement and is very precise in the short to intermediate part of the field. Darnold has excellent anticipation to know when and where receivers are going open. With his feel and timing, Darnold hits receivers on the run, leading them to picking up yards after the catch. He also regularly will throw receivers open and help them to find space to beat tight coverage. Darnold is a natural rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He is a smooth precision passer who can be deadly when he gets into a good groove.

Darnold is comfortable in the pocket, but also has the ability to move around to buy time. While he is not a running quarterback, he is functional to avoid sacks and will move around to help his offensive line and receivers. Darnold made a number of really nice plays during the past two years when things went off script as he got creative to move the ball for his offense. Routinely, Darnold would buy time with his feet and then make an accurate throw downfield with the rush closing in on him.

The Drafster

In my eyes, Sam Darnold is a very odd prospect. Talked about as a number 1 overall draft pick. Talked about as the best Quarterback coming out of college this year. However, I am not seeing any of this. When I watch Darnold, I see one of the most streaky Quarterback play I think I have seen in awhile. At time looks very hesitant to throw, missing an opportunity. Other times he looks too eager and makes a bad decision. He has his good moments, but then a play later he will have a combination of bad plays. Moving in the pocket too early and too often, inconsistent accuracy, and staring down a play for too long are major turn offs to me.

The first thing I notice about Darnold when watching him is that he seems to ignore his dump off routes. He seems so locked in on making a big play, he forgets about the guys that are 5 yards away from him. I can respect wanting to make a big play for the team, but after staring downfield for eternity it’s time to hit your shallow routes. At least LOOK at them to see if they are open. There is no shame in taking an easy three to five yards. Not every throw has to get the crowd on their feet.

The second thing I notice is how much he likes to move around in the pocket. And that is just not his style. I get running to avoid a sack, but too many times I saw him run with a clean pocket. Multiple times he would take off to the outskirts of the pocket, making it easier for defenders to get off their block. He seems to just panic unless he has the cleanest pocket one could possibly have. If he would stand tall in the pocket and deliver, his accuracy issues would go down as well. His deep balls are inconsistent, and the times he does go to dump it off, those are not always pretty either. His best throws come from his 10-15 yarders. Which always happen to be when he stands his ground.

I will say though, 4th quarter Sam Darnold seems to be a better player than in other quarters. He reads the field better, has better ball placement, and doesn’t try to run around as much. It just seems something clicks a bit better for him during the 4th. Like he has calmed down. He just needs to be able to play similar to that all game if he is gonna be the number 1 overall pick this upcoming draft.

I think Darnold has a lot to work on. Personally there are 4 other Quarterbacks I would take before drafting him. He does good things, unfortunately, his good things just are not consistent enough and are overshadowed by his flaws. I believe if he can work on sitting in the pocket longer instead of trying to escape right away (while not holding the ball for too long), a lot of his issues will start fading. I think Darnold will have a real rough start to his career, but if keeps his confidence and keeps fixing his game, it will work out for him in the long run.

Cover 1 Scouting Report

Strengths:

Darnold’s entire game is predicated upon his ability to create. Darnold is an athletic player; he is able to pull the ball down and gain chunks of yardage with his legs. His agility and change of direction catch many defenders off guard.

That is why offensive coordinator Tee Martin built an offense that maximized his legs. USC ran a heavy dose of run pass options (RPOs), a concept that gave Darnold many options pre- and post-snap, and he absolutely flourished. On a majority of their plays, Darnold had the ability to give the ball to star running back Ronald Jones, keep it as a runner, or throw it to one of his many weapons outside. This multi-dimensional structure of a play was obviously super productive. His decision making was very good all season, especially on these RPOs. He can process the coverage, find the conflict defender, and distribute the ball quickly.

But what is often overlooked is the accuracy and velocity needed on these kinds of concepts. At times, after the mesh with the running back or play fake, the passing lane is cluttered with defenders coming downhill to defend what they perceive to be a run. Once they realize that it is a pass, they immediately try to get their hands up in the passing lanes. Darnold makes these throws look easy. Standing at 6’4? and 220 pounds, he is able to place the ball in optimal locations, allowing his weapons to make plays.

At the next level, Darnold is going to make his money in the short area. While his elongated release and sloppy footwork will cause issues at times, something I will cover later, it isn’t an issue from 0-9 yards. That bodes well for Sam, because that is where football is won and lost on Sundays. His mechanics aren’t an issue because he is throwing in rhythm and not having to worry about mechanics.

According to SportsInfo Solutions (SIS), Darnold’s short game is phenomenal. From 0-9 yards, he had the highest completion percentage (75.4%), the 4th-most passing yards (1,534), 12th-most touchdowns (10), the 3rd-highest yards per attempt (7.6), and the 5th-highest rating (107.2).

Weaknesses:

As productive as Darnold was over his 27 games at USC, he has some serious flaws that need to be addressed, the first of which is turnovers. Darnold threw 22 interceptions over two years and added another 20 fumbles. This lack of ball security will get you benched quickly.

While the offense surrendered an average of 2.14 sacks a game and a grand total of 30 sacks in 2017, he admitted that he was pushing it too much.

Many of his turnovers are linked to his mechanics. Darnold has some of the worst mechanics I have ever seen from a quarterback. Let’s start with his delivery. Typically, a quarterback with an elongated delivery like Darnold’s will struggle at the next level. From the time he begins his delivery to the time of release is often the difference between a tight window completion and an interception. Defensive backs are just too good on Sundays. If he is slightly late anticipating a throw and needs to drive a pass, the split second longer that it takes to release the ball due to his delivery could lead to an interception, much like it did versus Washington State. The safety bails post-snap, baiting Darnold to throw the speed out as he gets the 1-on-1 coverage. The defensive back reads the route, breaks, and picks him off.

What Matt Miller says about Darnold – Ranking him as the #1 QB on the board

1. Sam Darnold, USC

A two-year starter at USC, Sam Darnold is widely praised for his toughness, football IQ and leadership. A coach with the Trojans told me Darnold only cares about football and not the benefits of being a star quarterback. He did turn the ball over 22 times in 2017, which should at a minimum send scouts back to the tape to find the context of each turnover. But Darnold’s tangible and intangible traits are tops in the class.

Scout’s Quote: “Crystal clean off the field. Smart, poised, tough, accurate. He might be the only one that could work in Cleveland because he won’t let the pressure go to his head.”

Coach’s Quote: “The release and turnovers bother me, but he has the makeup to be good. He’s better than [Mitch] Trubisky was last year but he’s not on the level of [Carson] Wentz or Jared [Goff].”

Scout’s Comparison: Tony Romo, retired

Darnold impressed at his Pro Day, throwing in the rain back on March 21st

Raiders Agree to Terms with Veteran OL Breno Giacomini

Veteran tackle Breno Giacomini was added to the mix of Raiders’ offensive lineman, signing a contract Thursday of which terms were not disclosed, Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group reports.

The move will shore up the Raiders offensive line as they get ready for the 2018 season, and don’t forget to get the latest odds on next year’s showcase to see how the move will help the Raiders.

The 32-year-old is a 10-year veteran who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Houston Texans last season and figures to challenge for the spot vacated on the right side with the release of Marshall Newhouse, who was let go from the team last week.

Giacomini was a fifth-round choice by the Green Bay Packers in 2008 when general manager Reggie McKenzie was a personnel executive there, and the linemen played for the Packers through 2009 before joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, the New York Jets in 2014 and finally the Houston Texans last season.

The line coach for Giacomini from 2011 through 2013 in Seattle was Tom Cable, hired to coach the Raiders line this season.

At 6-foot-7, 320 pounds, Giacomini has played in 94 games with 86 starts, 53 of those coming in the last four seasons. It should be interesting to see how he performs with the Raiders this coming season.