Oakland Raiders 2017 Draft Profile

The Game Haus is back with another edition of Draftmas. This is the 22nd edition of Draftmas and it focuses on the Oakland Raiders.

SUMMARY

Courtesy of USATSI

The Oakland Raiders had one of their best seasons since 2002. The 2017 Raiders went 12-4 but their postseason seemed to end for them before they even started. When Derek Carr went down in Week 16, Raider Nation and probably even the players and coaches knew their was no way to go far in the postseason. With Connor Cook behind center, the Raiders lost their first playoff game since 2002. The 2018 Raiders do have a lot of great pieces coming back to the team. Seven Raiders went to the Pro Bowl, a franchise-high since 1991, and the most players for any team in 2017.

PICKS AND NEEDS

The Raiders have eight picks in this draft, with one in each of the first six rounds and in the seventh round they have two picks.

First Round: (1) No. 24

Second Round: (1) No. 56

Third Round: (1) No. 88

Fourth Round: (1) No. 129

Fifth Round: (1) No. 168

Sixth Round: (1) No. 208

Seventh Round: (2) No. 242 and No. 244

Offense:

Running Back: Yes, the Raiders do likely have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield now, but that still doesn’t fill the void in the at the running back position. I could see the Raiders finding a back later in the draft, most likely late Day 2.

Defense:

Middle Linebacker: The Raiders need a rugged and power middle linebacker in that 3-4 scheme. They have Pro Bowler Khalil Mack on the outside, but they need a force up the middle as well.

Conrnerback: In this league, you can never have too many good corners. Oakland could definitely use another good corner to play with Sean Smith and complete their secondary.

Defensive Tackle:  The defensive tackles on this roster are awful, but they could get whole lot better. Defensive tackle is not a major concern, but the Raiders could get some value from this deep pool of defensive tackles in the draft.

TARGETS AND THOUGHTS

These predictions are without trades.

First Round, Pick 24: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida

If Jarrad Davis didn’t have some durability issues he could be a Top 15 pick, but most likely he could slip into the late first round to the Oakland Raiders. He shows tremendous Football IQ as he breaks down plays and then attacks. He is very good against the run and his acceleration and closing speed makes him a very good blitzing inside linebacker. Davis also has some pretty fluid hips and can stick with most tight ends and some slot receivers. When you think of middle linebacker dawning the black and sliver, you think of an intimating presence. Davis has that. He wore a neck roll and didn’t wear gloves. That is the pure definition of a nasty Oakland Raider 3-4 inside linebacker.

Second Round, Pick 55: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Two Florida Gators back to back. Teez Tabor another one of the great cornerbacks Will Muschamp played in The Swamp before his departure. Tabor teases the quarterback into making bad plays and he makes them pay for it. And when you turn on the tape, you see that. He plays with the supreme confidence that every great NFL corner has. He has very good ball skills and will come back down with the ball in his hands more times than the offensive player.

Tabor has the size to play the game and his style of play matches up very well with how the Raiders want to us their corners. He can definitely cover the third of the field and shut down most opposing number one and number two receivers right now in the league. And to be a Raider, you have to have some baggage. It’s how Al Davis would have liked it.

Third Round, Pick 88: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

If you need a defensive lineman, one of your first stops is definitely Clemson, S.C. Clemson has produced nine Top 100 defensive linemen since 2007. Last year Watkins led the National Champion Clemson Tigers in sacks from the interior. He is also sneaky athletic and in the 3-4 disguise can help the defense and help Khalil Mack get more chances to get one-on-one matchups.

CONCLUSION

The Raiders were one injury from a very interesting playoff push. If Derek Carr can come back healthy and if they follow this draft profile, they should have a season that could contend with the 2017 season.

You can read all previous Draftmas profiles here.

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Branden Jackson’s Winding Journey to the NFL

Branden Jackson may be a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders now, but only because he wanted a free car in high school.

Well, maybe the free car his mom promised him is only part of why he’s now earning a living playing professional football, but it’s funny how things work sometimes.

It’s safe to say teenage Branden Jackson didn’t see himself being an NFL player down the road.

“In high school, it never crossed my mind,” Jackson said in an interview with The Game Haus. “I just wanted to get a free car.”

Jackson was promised a free car if he made it to college and got a free ride while doing it. That was the conception of Jackson’s motivation to being a football player.

In his family, football wasn’t the token sport. His family was known for being more successful on the basketball front.

College Teams Come Calling

When college programs began showing more interest in Jackson for his decorated young football career than his basketball talents, he figured it might be time to shift his time from the hardwood to the gridiron.

When offers from Texas Tech, Michigan State and 14 other Division I offers came in, Jackson knew playing big time college football was within his reach. However, an NFL career didn’t cross the four-star recruit’s mind.

Branden Jackson NFL

Branden Jackson was a standout for Texas Tech. (Photo: Mark Rogers/AJ Media)

Jackson committed to Texas Tech as a defensive hybrid with experience on the defensive line and at linebacker. Jackson also saw time at tight end in high school.

In Jackson’s redshirt-sophomore season, he had a breakout game on one of his biggest stages. Jackson said the game, the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State, was a springboard for the rest of his career.

“I had a good season and it was probably like my breakout game” Jackson said. “It was kinda what turned heads and jumpstarted the rest of my career.”

Jackson didn’t just put his name on the map for NFL scouts in the game. He also made his case to turn into the team’s best deep-threat.

Arizona State called a read option, and the exchange was fumbled. After making an attempt for the ball and missing, Jackson found himself way behind.

“I retrace and end up catching him about 20 or 30 yards down the field,” Jackson said. “I had ran past our starting safety and our starting corner. I tackled him and it kinda just showed how fast I am.”

Jackson didn’t let his impressive acceleration go unnoticed. The defensive hybrid pleaded with his coaches to give him some time on offense after the game.

“I kept telling my coach red zone is my game,” Jackson said. “I did it in high school. Put me in at tight end or receiver and in the red zone I guarantee a jump ball. You can throw it underhand if you want to, and I’ll go get it.”

That game caused Jackson to fall in love with the sport. He said that was when his visions of playing at the highest level first came.

Branden Jackson’s Draft Experience

Jackson’s dreams had to be put on hold after he was left untouched in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jackson was expecting to be taken around the sixth round.

Branden Jackson NFL

Branden Jackson was promoted to the active roster late in the season.(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

“When it didn’t come, I thought everyone doesn’t get drafted, that’s not my goal,” Jackson said. “I thought I would get a guaranteed priority free agent deal.”

Jackson received calls from multiple teams asking him to try out. He turned down five or six teams before reluctantly accepting gigs from Seattle and Oakland.

Although he was cut from the active roster during the preseason, Oakland struck a deal with the former Red Raider to join the practice squad.

Jackson remained on the practice squad for most of the season. Being on the opposite side of the country from his mother became emotionally taxing. The practice squad player continued to plug away with the Raiders and decided to fly his mother out to Oakland late in the year.

During that same week, Jackson got promoted to the 53-man active roster.

Branden Jackson on the Raiders’ Season

Oakland took the NFL by storm last season. A perennially underwhelming franchise since 2002, the Raiders found the NFL Playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.

The team had an elite quarterback, suitable offensive weapons, a good line and a solid defense across the board. Oakland finished 12-4, but lost Derek Carr for the rest of the season due to a broken leg in week 16.

Carr had dislocated his thumb earlier in the year, giving all of Raider Nation a scare. Carr sprinted into the locker room, got his thumb back to “normal” and entered the game quickly. Jackson and his teammates expected Carr’s leg injury to be small like that.

Jackson said he expected an inspiring speech in the locker room after the game from Carr. Instead, the team learned Carr’s fate.

Oakland entered the playoffs with a backup quarterback who was far from Carr’s caliber.

The Raiders lost an underwhelming game to the Houston Texans, a team that was known by many as the worst team in the playoffs.

Even so, Jackson considered the season to be a success, saying they won more games than most teams in the NFL.

The Move to Las Vegas

Branden Jackson

The Raiders’ proposed new stadium should bring many faces to Vegas.(Photo: Manica Architecture)

The Oakland Raiders franchise announced it would move to Las Vegas on March 27. Although Raiders fans in and around Oakland were baffled and enraged, Jackson doesn’t think the move is a big deal.

“I really didn’t put too much thought into it because Raider Nation is Raider Nation,” Jackson said. “When we go to Vegas, the fans will still be crazy.”

Jackson pointed to the true loyalty of Raider fans multiple times during the interview. Even though he’s been with the club for one year, he’s already felt the love Raider Nation has for its people. That said, he expects fans to continue to be tenacious with their support.

“It would be un-Raider like for our fans to not be the way they’ve always been,” Jackson said.

So, what’s with jackson’s car situation?

Because Jackson earned a free ride to Texas Tech, his mother followed through on her promise. Jackson received a Caprice Classic for about $1,500. He loved the car until death did them part.

“I drove it literally until it blew up,” Jackson said.

When Jackson became a starter at Texas Tech, his father gifted him a 1972 Lincoln Continental. Jackson continues to drive that car to this day.

Of course, Jackson’s love for the game has replaced his desire for material gifts to continue playing football. However, The Game Haus will keep you updated on any changes with his car driving status.

Oh, and we’ll update you on his football playing days as well.

Branden Jackson Scouting Report

Branden Jackson has good size at 6-foot-4, 268 pounds. He played as a 3-4 defensive end at Texas Tech, but now plays as a 4-3 defensive end for the Oakland Raiders. His versatility is a major asset.

He has good strength that he uses to shed blockers and get to ball carriers. For a defensive end, which is a position mostly reserved for good pass rushers, he is good against the run. His good gap discipline helps him be effective against the run and he can even take on double teams from opposing blockers.

His strength is his main asset when rushing the passer too, as he fends off blockers. Against scrambling quarterbacks, he is good at containing them in the pocket.

 

Tim Miller contributed the story portion of this article. Joe DiTullio provided the scouting report. 

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Marshawn Lynch is Going Home

Marshawn Lynch is going home to play for the Oakland Raiders. According to Michael Silver, the source who broke the news, Lynch and the Raiders have agreed to terms on a deal for the 30-year-old running back. Lynch is a native of Oakland, California.

Silver said the Seahawks were shocked and unaware the two parties were in agreement. The Raiders now must put together a trade with the Seahawks to officially finish the deal.

Trading for a 30-year-old running back should be relatively easily. The trade will likely come in the form of conditional draft picks, meaning the pick they get depends on how Lynch performs. The picks will likely come from either the third or fourth round with the possibility of being an earlier round if Lynch has a certain amount of carries.

 

Raiders Favorites?

What does this mean for the Raiders, The AFC, and the rest of the NFL? The Raiders aren’t going to be the favorites in the AFC by solely acquiring Marshawn Lynch. New England is still the favorite but the gap has closed significantly.

Lynch’s last full season as a full-time starter came in 2014 in which he had 280 carries for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. Lynch played in 2015 but only appeared in seven games due to injuries. He has spent the last season retired from the game, meaning he has fresh legs.

Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders

(Photo Credit: https://www.fanragsports.com)

This gives the Raiders an offense with no weaknesses at all. Derek Carr is entering the top five of quarterbacks in the NFL. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders line as fourth best in the NFL. All that was missing was a workhorse running back.

Because their offense will be so potent, they will be able to score with any offense in the league, including New England’s. Not to mention they traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks as well.

This move allows the Raiders to focus completely on their defense in the draft to try and close the gap even more. If the Raiders can make moves to build the depth of their defense, they will have just as much as a shot at winning the AFC as the Patriots.

Buckle up Oakland, the last few years in the city may lead to parades.

 

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Houston Texans

How The Houston Texans Can Win The Super Bowl

The AFC South has been one of the worst divisions in football for two years now. The Houston Texans have won the AFC South both seasons with back-to-back 9-7 records.

The biggest problem for the Texans is the lack of consistent quarterback play. The Texans started four different quarterbacks in 2015: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. They started two more quarterbacks last season: Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.

Starting six quarterbacks in two years is not the formula to winning the Super Bowl, but they are really close.

Super Bowl Defense

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. The Seahawks’ defense was so dominant four years ago that it led them to a 43-8 Super Bowl victory. The Patriots came up with a goal-line interception three years ago to the win the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos had one of the best defenses in the NFL two seasons ago and shut down the top scoring offense to beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. The Patriots came back down from 28-3 this past February to win the Super Bowl. That could not have happened if their defense didn’t shut down the high-flying Falcons offense.

The Texans have a defense capable of playing to the level of all these other defenses. Houston allowed the fewest yards in the NFL last season at 301 per game. They also allowed the second-fewest passing yards.

Houston also has the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. He only played in three games last season, which makes what Houston’s defense did more impressive.

Watt is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which is tied for most all-time with Lawerence Taylor. Adding him back to the mix makes them an elite defense.

The Texans also finally saw the emergence of former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had six sacks last season. Clowney’s amazing play doesn’t show up in the stats. He constantly received double teams without Watt in the lineup, but still made plays. In the Wild Card game against the Raiders, he made an incredible interception that took over the game.

These two great defenders will make one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. The Texans also have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, headlined by Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus. If the secondary can make up for the loss of A.J. Bouye, they could contend for the best defense in the NFL.

What Is Missing?

It is no secret that the Texans need to improve offensively. Houston’s offensive line ranked 18th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. They must improve both guard positions if they want to improve the overall line play.

Running back is not an issue of concern. Lamar Miller finished 10th in the NFL with 1,073 yards in just 14 games. Alfred Blue is also a solid backup to Miller.

The receiving corp is solid with Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller, but headlined by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 189 receptions, 2,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Those stats are impressive with six different quarterbacks over two years.

It all comes back to quarterback play. The Texans are a quarterback away from being the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. There is one quarterback perfect for the Texans that they need to get.

The Missing Piece

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: http://boltbeat.com)

Houston threw millions at an unproven Brock Osweiler and it failed miserably. Osweiler has since been traded to the Browns and the only quarterbacks on the Texans’ roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. These quarterbacks won’t even win the division, let alone a Super Bowl. So what should the Texans do?

The Texans could find a quarterback in the draft, but most analysts feel there are no NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft. Free agency is always an option and Houston was hoping to get Tony Romo, but he retired. Jay Cutler is available, but that option could be just as bad or worse than what they already have.

That leaves only one option, a trade. The Houston Texans should go all in for a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers for Philip Rivers. The Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a championship and Rivers is 35 years old.

Rivers has accomplished a lot in his time in the NFL. His career record is 97-79. Rivers has 314 touchdowns, 156 interceptions and 45,833 yards.

By most comparisons, he is the AFC’s Tony Romo. Everything he has done of significance has come in the regular season. His playoff record is 4-5 and couldn’t get to the Super Bowl with Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates.

This narrative could change with a trade to Houston. His career would be revitalized and he would have a three to four years to win the Super Bowl. He would have the necessary weapons to succeed; such as a running game and a top 10 receiver in the NFL. The Texans would have a top five defense and an offense capable of keeping pace on the scoreboard with any team in the NFL.

Houston, if you want to win the Lombardi Trophy, trade for Phillip Rivers.

 

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Marshawn Lynch Return? Intriguing, but not Impactful

The Raiders on field product is in position to be a force for several years to come despite growing turmoil off the field. Oakland may have been the stiffest obstacle between the Patriots and another Super Bowl if MVP candidate Derek Carr didn’t get injured late in the regular season.

Derek Carr

Photo: heavy.com

However, there is one offseason rumor surrounding the Raiders that will not seem to go away: The possible return of retired running back Marshawn Lynch to join his hometown team in Oakland. Lynch reportedly visited team headquarters on Wednesday.

The Raiders have operated unconventionally throughout their history with mixed results.  This particular out-of-the-box move is a bad idea. Here is why.

Oakland Has Bigger Needs Elsewhere

Oakland’s defensive unit ranked outside the top 20 against both the pass and run last year. Their total defense ranking followed suit. The Raiders were quite fortunate that Carr and the offense were so good last year.

The offense will be very good as long as Carr is healthy. Last year’s starting running back Latavius Murray is now with the Vikings, but the Raiders still have two talented young running backs on the roster.

With an above-average offensive line, bringing in another running back should be way down on the Raider’s list of priorities. It is somewhat surprising that linebacker Jelani Jenkins is Oakland’s only defensive free agent signing to this point with their defensive rankings. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that all of their football related resources need to be dedicated towards building the defense in the draft. Any time spent on Lynch is a waste.

Spell Out the Specifics, It Makes No Sense

The Raiders suddenly find themselves trying to make the jump from good to great after over a decade of futility. This is the toughest jump to make in the NFL. Lynch’s power running style and outlandish personality made him one of the best and most memorable running backs of his era.

Beast Mode run

Photo: sportsworkout.com

In nine seasons, Lynch averaged over a thousand yards per season. A return would be interesting to see, but he will turn 31 later this month.

Ask yourself the following question: When was the last time an NFL team went from good to great by acquiring a 31-year-old running back who has not played in two years? One of Oakland’s decision makers needs to ponder this question before this flirtation goes any further.

 


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Franchise Relocation

Franchise Relocation Roulette

The NFL has seen three franchises relocate in the past year. The St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers both moved to Los Angeles. Two days ago, the NFL owners voted 31-1 in favor of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas.

One of the main reasons teams end up relocating is stadium troubles. The Raiders could not work out a solution with the city of Oakland which led to them looking for greener pastures. Sports is still a business and owners will do whatever is necessary to keep their business successful.

Another reason a team might locate is attendance. Owners are willing to move if they believe there is more money to be made elsewhere.

There are other franchises who may be looking to relocate their team across all major sports and this article will take a look at which franchises may be relocating sooner rather than later.

NHL

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have been rumored to be relocating a few times. Before Las Vegas was awarded an expansion team the Coyotes were considering moving to Vegas. Arizona has the second worst attendance average in the NHL with 13,020 fans per game.

The Gila River Arena in which they play in was built in 2003. 2003 wasn’t that long ago but with the attendance issue, the Coyotes could find more success in other another city.

The Coyotes have had little success on the ice as well, finishing ninth or worse in the Western Conference going on five straight years. The Coyotes could use a fresh start.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are in the same boat as the Coyotes. They rank last in the NHL in attendance with an average of 11,778 fans per home game. Their arena was built in 1999 and they definitely need a new one. The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs for eight straight seasons and only once in the last 11 seasons. A change of scenery is something the Hurricanes franchise needs.

Both the Hurricanes and Coyotes could be open to moving to the following cities: Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Hamilton and Indianapolis. If the NHL decides to relocate these are the two most likely franchises to move.

MLB

Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay is a city where a lot of people move to retire. The Rays attendance is the worst in the majors, based on average, with just 15,878 fans per game. The franchise has had the worst attendance in the majors since 2012 and the attendance has dropped significantly every year.

Tropicana Field is also almost 30 years old as it was built in 1990. Fans are not going to watch the Rays and their field is getting old.

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu AP)

Oakland: The Athletics play on the same field as the Raiders. Golden State couldn’t get a stadium built in Oakland so they got one built in San Fransisco. The Athletics are now in the same boat. Oakland Coliseum opened in 1966 and players have mentioned water leaks in the locker rooms when it rains. It is clear this stadium is one of the worst in the country.

The Athletics have also had some of the worst attendance numbers in the past decade similar to the Rays. Due to the stadium issues in Oakland and the lack of attendance, the A’s may be on the move soon.

Possible relocation cities could include Las Vegas, Mexico City, Montreal, or Vancouver.

NFL

Buffalo Bills: There has been so much relocation as of late in the NFL it is hard to imagine anybody else moving cities. Buffalo is one franchise with a slim chance to relocate. Ralph Wilson Stadium was built in 1973 making it out of date. The city of Buffalo needs to handle this situation with the Bills better than Oakland did with the Raiders or the beloved Bills will find the best option for the franchise.

Possible relocation cities include Portland, St. Louis, Toronto, or Mexico City.

NBA

Milwaukee: The Bucks are usually in the bottom of the NBA when it comes to attendance. They have averaged 14,839 fans per game over the last five years. Their attendance has steadily improved as the team has improved but there is a chance owners think they do better elsewhere.

BMO Harris Bradley Center is 29 years old and needs to be upgraded for modern times. If another city gives the Bucks an offer they can’t refuse they will relocate.

With all that said the fans in the Milwaukee area are extremely passionate and it is hard to imagine them actually moving cities.

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Adrian Peterson Free Agency

Adrian Peterson Free Agency: Where Will he Sign?

The clock will soon be ticking now that Adrian Peterson is entering free agency. Adrian “All Day” Peterson could retire today and be an NFL Hall of Famer. Peterson holds the record for most rushing yards in a game, as he ran for 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007.

Peterson also had an MVP season in a passing era when he ran for the second-most yards in a single season back in 2012. He ran for 2,097 yards coming off a gruesome knee injury in which he tore his ACL and his MCL along with straining his LCL.

Peterson has run for a total 11,747 yards in his career in just 123 games. He has a career average of 4.9 yards per carry and 95.5 yards per game which ranks third all-time behind Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. Peterson is going to generate a lot of interest in free agency even though he turns 32 on March 21.

Not many running backs produce after the age of 30 but Adrian Peterson could be the exception. His work ethic is legendary and he will be a valuable asset to any team in contention. Here are a few teams who will be in the running for Peterson and make sense for both parties.

Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Peterson released this statement to ESPN after hearing his option would not be picked up, and said there’s still a chance he lands with the Vikings.

“It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings,” Peterson said. “They know what I bring to the organization as a player, with my work ethic and dedication. The door is still open to find some common ground.”

Peterson went on to say he will look at other opportunities, and that his primary focus is winning a Super Bowl.

He says the door is still open and that the main goal is to win a championship in which he believes the Vikings are capable. The Vikings need Adrian Peterson at the running back position. Matt Asiata is also a free agent and that means the Vikings current running backs are Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham and Bishop Sankey. McKinnonn has shown promise but isn’t going to be a feature back for a contending team.

The Vikings went from about 22 million in cap room to approximately 38 million in cap space by declining Peterson’s option. Peterson knows the Vikings will be working hard to bolster the offensive line. If he is willing to see that taking somewhere between eight to 10 million will allow him to finish his career in Minnesota with a top five defense to carry the team.

Oakland Raiders

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

If Derek Carr didn’t go down with a broken leg, the postseason may have played out differently. The Raiders are going to be contenders and they have a great offense. The Raiders have let go of Latavius Murray and are in need of a running back. Peterson would be a great fit in the Black Hole.

The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in all of football as Pro Football Focus ranked them the fourth-best offensive line. Joining the Raiders would give Peterson a great offensive line and a great young quarterback that defenses have to respect. This would open up the running game for Peterson.

The Raiders will have 48 million in cap space allowing for tons of flexibility. They could throw more money at Adrian Peterson then most teams if they believe he is the piece that takes them from contender to champion.

The Raiders also have a young defense that continues to get better. A young strong defense and a solid offensive line with playmakers all over the offense is what makes the Raiders such an attractive option for Adrian Peterson.

New York Giants

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: Twitter)

Adrian Peterson’s tweets are a good indication of just how interested he is in the Giants. He likes the moves they are making. They have also proven that they can win a Super Bowl as their quarterback has won two. The Giants also let go of starting running back Rashad Jennings leaving the door open for a guy like Peterson to fill that void.

New York fills the contender criteria Peterson is looking for and lack the depth at the running back position. They also have 14 million in cap space available to bring him in. New York has a young defense that is continuing to get better. There is a common theme with the teams that would be a good fit for A.P.

A good defense that can help a team win a Super Bowl and an offense that is capable of playing well around Peterson. The one thing that might hurt the Giants is their offensive line which was ranked 20th by Pro Football Focus. Why leave Minnesota with a suspect offensive line to go to another contender with the same problem? The difference is the Vikings have the cap room to improve the line while the Giants are more limited.

Adrian is tweeting about the Giants which means he is interested. It will take a lot for the Giants to get A.P. but they are one of the teams with a legitimate shot at doing so.

Dallas Cowboys

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: http://www.bloggingtheboys.com)

The hometown team is always in play. It does not matter that they have Ezekiel Elliot. Jerry Jones has made bold moves in the past and this surely would be a bold move. Could you imagine a one-two punch of Elliot and Peterson? Jerry Jones can, which is why the Cowboys are one of the favorites.

They are attractive to Peterson for three reasons. First, as mentioned already, they are his hometown team and he grew up a Cowboys fan. He has been on record in the past saying he would love to play in Texas if he ever had to leave Minnesota. Second, they have a great offensive line ranked second by Pro Football Focus. Lastly, they are a contender. They made the playoffs last season and have a good, young quarterback.

It makes sense for the Cowboys because spelling Ezekiel Elliot with Adrian Peterson would be legendary. Both backs could potentially have a 1,000-yard season. Elliot had numerous runs in which he would go untouched for 10 or more yards and if Peterson got into that open field he could bust a lot of long runs into touchdowns.

The Cowboys cap space is where the issue may lie. They only have $4.3 million in available. Dallas has an opportunity to free up cap space by releasing Tony Romo. Releasing Romo would make eight million in cap space available. If that is enough to sign Peterson, Jerry Jones will give it some thought.

Prediction

It is hard to imagine the Vikings not finding a way to get a new deal done. Peterson will test the market but once he realizes his value is much lower than he’d like he is going to look at the Vikings and see three things. First, he is familiar with the organization and can remain comfortable without relocating. Second, he himself sees the Vikings as a contender which is what he wants most and the Vikings defense can help him win a Super Bowl. Lastly, he will most likely get the most money from the Vikings because they know him and will value loyalty.

In the end, Peterson is a Viking and will alway be a Viking even if he decides to start a new chapter.

 

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John Lynch

Lynch Trying not to Join Infamous List of NFL Head Scratchers

The San Francisco 49ers raised more than a few eyebrows at the end of last month when they hired John Lynch as their new general manager. Despite a borderline Hall of Fame playing career, Lynch has no relevant front office experience to speak of. In fact, he is coming straight out of the television broadcast booth.

While it is much too early to pass judgment on Lynch’s hiring, there have been a few other peculiar NFL coaching and front office hires in recent years. For the most part, they have not worked out.

Art Shell: Raiders head coach (2006)

Art Shell

Photo courtesy of USA today

Raiders fans will not enjoy the first part of this article. Up until very recently, Oakland spent almost a decade as the NFL’s top dumpster fire. For some reason, late owner Al Davis thought it would be a good idea to bring Art Shell back as head coach after a 13-year hiatus.

The game changes in 13 years and it left Shell behind. Shell was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Raiders, but his second tenure as head coach is best left forgotten.

His first big hire to his staff was offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. Walsh had been out of football for six years and was running a bed and breakfast.

Walsh is also infamous for saying that the skills of wide receiver Randy Moss were “diminishing.” After being traded to the Patriots, Moss had a record-breaking season in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Shell’s Raiders stumbled to a 2-14 finish and he was let go after a single season. Somehow, Oakland’s next head coaching hire was even worse.

Lane Kiffin: Raiders head coach (2007-2008)

Lane Kiffin

Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

Lane Kiffin is well known to football fans now. When Davis first hired him to resurrect the Raiders in 2007, Kiffin was a 31-year-old who had never been a head coach at any level of football.

The friction between Davis and Kiffin was almost immediate. The Raiders still had virtually no talent on the roster. To make matters worse, they drafted quarterback JaMarcus Russell who went down as one of the most spectacular draft flops in NFL history.

Davis fired Kiffin during the 2008 season in an epic press conference that resulted in Kiffin taking legal action against the Raiders. He posted a record of just 5-15 and has since bounced around the college ranks.

Matt Millen: Lions President and General Manager (2001-2008)

Matt Millen

Photo Courtesy of Seattle Times

This is the story that makes 49er fans most nervous. Much like Lynch, Millen was hired straight from broadcasting after a really good playing career in 2001. The result was disastrous. Under Millen’s direction, the Lions best single season record was 6-10.

While no one in the NFL fails all on their own, Millen’s biggest gaffe was using a first-round pick on a wide receiver three straight years. Moreover, the Lions passed on guys like DeMarcus Ware to draft Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers.

After years of losing and fan protests, Millen was put out of his misery in September 2008. The Lions had just begun what would become the only 0-16 season in NFL history. Millen has since returned to broadcasting.

Paul DePodesta: Browns Chief Strategy Officer (2016-present)

Admittedly, the jury is still out on this one. However, that does not make hiring a former MLB analytics guru for a major executive role in the NFL any less odd. The Browns have been a laughing stock since returning to the league in 1999. Maybe they know something the rest of the world does not, but I doubt it.

A 1-15 debut was not encouraging for DePodesta and the rest of the Browns revamped front office, but next year will tell the tale. The Browns have five of the first 65 picks in the 2017 NFL draft and are among the league leaders in salary cap space. That should mean a significant improvement. If not, it may well be back to the drawing board yet again in Cleveland.

What you do not see in this article is as important as what you do see. Generally, the teams who make these type of moves are bad for a decade or longer. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Broncos do not go outside the box very often. Those are the teams in contention year in and year out.

Given the current state of the 49ers, Lynch will be fighting the odds not to join the likes of Millen, DePodesta, Kiffin and Shell.

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Franchise Analysis – Oakland Raiders

Depending on the media outlets you follow, the Oakland Raiders’ success in 2016 may or may not have surprised you. Every year, a few teams are able to take the next step and get into the postseason. Today, let’s look into one team who was able to push into the playoffs in 2016, with some Oakland Raiders analysis.

But why was 2016 the year for the Raiders? Well, it was the accumulation of prudent free agent signings, smart and fortuitous drafting and patience. So, what do the Raiders need to do in 2017 to catapult themselves to the top of the AFC West?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Oakland Raiders quickly burst onto the scene as one of the most exciting NFL offenses. Led by Derek Carr, they finished as the seventh-ranked offense in terms of points and sixth in terms of yards. Other than improved play by Carr, what other factors allowed this offense to blossom in 2016?

A common theme in most of my analysis is the focus on every team’s offensive line. This was the second-most impacted factor in this season’s offensive success. They were one of the best line units in all of football.

Oakland Raiders analysis

Derek Carr had a breakout year in 2016 by entering the NFL MVP conversation and will look to improve on his success in 2017 (Courtesy of; sportsnaut.com).

Why? Because this franchise spends the second most cap space on their offensive line in the NFL. This unit accounts for over 23% of their cap space at $37.5 million. Acquiring Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson in free agency and drafting Gabe Jackson were critical to this team’s breakout performance in 2016.

For some perspective, this unit allowed the least amount of sacks in the NFL with 18. That is absolutely incredible. Some defensive players will amass more sacks by themselves than the Raiders allowed as a unit. So, if the offensive line doesn’t need improvement, what does Oakland need to do to take the next step in 2017?

While this offense was entertaining to watch and scored a lot of points, they didn’t do it by attacking down the field. Carr often targeted Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree with short and intermediate throws of 15-25 yards.

For example, Carr completed 50 passes of 20 yards or more in 2016, but only eight passes of 40 or more yards, according to NFL.com. Surprisingly, Carr had a lower yards per attempt mark than Alex Smith and Andy Dalton with just 7.03. While they had great offensive success, the Raiders offense can ascend to another level in 2017.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

It was evident to even the most fair weather of Raiders’ fans, if those even exist, that this defense struggled to play consistently at an just an average level. As a whole, this defense finished 20th in points and 26th in yards. Based on this team’s personality, it will be hard for this defense to ascend into the top-10 category.

Because their offense can score so effectively, they will have to get better against teams in “comeback mode”. Meaning, by mid-third quarter, the opposition will have to throw their way back into the game.

Oakland Raiders analysis

Ever since the Raiders drafted Khalil Mack with the number two overall pick, he’s proved his worth, but he can’t play all 11 defensive positions (Courtesy of; Endzonescore.com).

Given this situation, the Raiders can better in of two ways. They can pair Khalil Mack with another pass rusher to pressure the quarterback. Or, they could invest in their secondary, giving the players they already have more time to accumulate sacks.

The Raiders would be best served to target defensive linemen, given that they finished dead last in the NFL with only 25 sacks.

Ideally, they should look to upgrade Denico Autry for their base defense. Autry wasn’t able to excel in stopping the run or applying pressure.

It was unfortunate what happened to Mario Edwards Jr. and how he was unable to build upon the productivity of his rookie season. If he returns healthy, maybe Edwards Jr. could a suitable replacement for Autry.

If you disagree and think the Raiders should look to strengthen their secondary, I have no issue with that either.

They could look to upgrade D.J. Hayden as the slot corner. Hayden’s injury history and inability to improve over his first four seasons needs to be addressed.

With all the talent at corner in free agency and the draft, the Oakland Raiders have plenty of options available to them.

Divisional Analysis

The Oakland Raiders were in control of this division for the majority of 2016. Barring an injury to their best player, I believe they would have won the AFC West. The Raiders need to add players this offseason that will help them challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC West supremacy.

I think we can sum up where the Raiders need to allocate the majority of their resources with one word- defense. As stated earlier, they could address their aerial deficiencies by improving their secondary, or pass rush.

If they used free agency to address their needs, the top players. Calais Campbell, Kawann Short, Trumaine Johnson and A.J. Bouye headline this years class. Of course, that’s assuming they aren’t resigned to their current teams.

If they wanted to address these needs with young talent by way of the NFL Draft, there are also a bevy of options. At the defensive line position, it is possible that Chris Wormley from Michigan will be available. Or, in true Raiders fashion, they could draft a physical freak like Tanoh Kpassagnon from Villanova in the third round or later.

If they wanted to address their secondary, they could potentially select Jalen Tabor from Florida or Sidney Jones from Washington. It’s also possible that these players will warrant trading up for, as there are teams ahead of the Raiders with similar needs. Overall, a solid defensively focused draft and prudent free agent signings could make this Oakland Raiders defense look drastically different in 2017.

PostSeason Prospects

This section is largely irrelevant for teams that have made the playoffs. But, it still serves as a good measuring stick for critical areas that need improvement. Below are, in my opinion, the most relevant offensive and defensive statistics that can determine post season success and where the Oakland Raiders stack up.

Oakland Raiders analysis

As you can see, the Raiders offense wasn’t perfect. For all the success Derek Carr had, I was genuinely surprised to see where he and the offense ranked in yards per attempt. Now, he did injure his finger and that limited the amount of downfield throws he could make.

Maybe next year, with a clean bill of health, this number will increase. This could be the result of an underrated rushing attack and the possession receivers Carr is targeting. Also, the Raiders need to become more efficient on third down against secondaries like Denver and Kansas City.

Oakland Raiders analysis

Even with a healthy Derek Carr and a divisional title, I don’t think the Oakland Raiders would have gotten past the Steelers. Why? Because of this defense. Sure, they probably would have capitalized on some errant throws by Ben Roethlisberger, but that isn’t enough.

Methodical, consistent defense is the goal once you reach the post season. Sadly, nothing about these defensive metrics say consistency. They must find a way to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks; and find a way to limit teams to field goals, not touchdowns. While the situation may look bleak, this defense can look completely different in 2017 after signing and drafting defensive players.

2017 Prediction

You may have noticed there’s one looming issue I haven’t addressed yet. The potential move to Las Vegas. Honestly, I have no idea how or if the move would effect this team. Given their veteran coach, general manager and rising quarterback, the impact will be minimized if they are approved to move.

If the organization makes prudent free agent and draft decisions that are focused on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders will take the next step. I like the Raiders to finish 12-4 again, but this time, as champions of the AFC West.

 

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The Best Wide Receiver of All Time

The best fans of any sport know stats don’t tell the whole story. Stats play a huge role in judging which players are good, bad, or legendary. If stats were the only thing to judge a player by then the man who scored the most points in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, should be the best right? Most would answer that with a no. Well if stats don’t determine who the best of all time is, maybe it is championships that determine the best of all time. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but you won’t find any basketball fan who thinks he is the best of all time. It is a consensus that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever.

(http://www.thedailybeast.com)

How about in baseball? What do you use to determine the best baseball player of all time? Do you go by home runs or strikeouts? Do you look at how many championships a player has won? Is Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds the best baseball player ever?

How about in football? How do you determine who was the best of all time? Is it how much you ran for, threw for, or how many yards you caught passes for? Or are championships how you determine who the best of all time is?

(Detroit Lions-Associated Press)

There is no way to definitively determine who the best of all time is, it’s subjective. That is why there are sports debates about who the best is. Stats and championships don’t tell the entire story, which is why the eye test is so important when judging sports. Circumstances, such as teammates or coaches, affect who the best ever is as well.

There are issues with the eye too. A 13-year-old can’t possibly have seen how great Barry Sanders was without watching the film. Players from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s don’t have a lot of film on them to show people growing up now how great they were. When you bring stats, championships, circumstances, and the eye test all together, then it is possible to determine who the best really is.

So with all that said, who is the best wide receiver of all time?

 

Who Most Would Say

(Mandatory Credit:) Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

No matter how old you are or how long you have been a fan of football, if someone were to ask you who the best wide receiver of all time is, who would you answer? Jerry Rice, without hesitation. Nobody even thinks about it because it has been the answer for such a long time. How could it not be Jerry Rice? Rice had one of the greatest careers in NFL history. He played for 20 seasons in the NFL. Rice is a 13-time Pro Bowler, a three-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP.

Six times Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Rice still holds recordings for most receptions all-time (1,549), most receiving yards all-time (22,895), most receiving touchdowns all-time (197), and most all-purpose yards all-time (23,546). Perhaps the best season of Rice’s career came in a shortened 1987 season. In just 12 games, Rice finished with 65 receptions, 1,078 yards, and an astonishing 22 touchdowns. That is impressive to say the least. Rice has the stats, the championships, and the eye test as good as anyone in history. He also was always in the best of circumstances.

(AP Photo/Al Golub)

Rice came into the league with an established two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, Joe Montana. He played with Montana from 1985 until 1990. Once Montana was gone, Rice began catching passes from another Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young. From his rookie season in 1985 until 1998, Rice was fortunate enough to play with these all-time greats. Towards the end of Rice’s career, he caught passes from both Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon. These quarterbacks were good as well.

Jeff Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler and in his two seasons with Rice compiled 6,822 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Rich Gannon was also a four-time Pro Bowler and in his three seasons with Rice compiled 9,791 yards, 59 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Rice has never had an inadequate quarterback and was blessed to play with two Hall of Famers in his career.

Jerry Rice is one of the greatest players of all time and this is not to take away from his greatness. His stats are remarkable and are a testament to his longevity. There is just one receiver who was a better football player and had he been fortunate enough to have 14 seasons with Hall of Fame quarterbacks, such as Rice, he would be unequivocally considered the greatest receiver of all time.

 

Who is Really the Best WR of All Time?

(http://www.footballsfuture.com)

To describe the best wide receiver of all time, one would say he was, “straight cash homie”. That’s right, Randy Moss was the best receiver to ever set foot on the gridiron. He was so great his name became a verb. Anytime someone out-jumped a defender for a ball, the saying was, “he got mossed.” It takes a special kind of greatness for the world to turn your name into a verb like that.

Moss ranks 15th all-time in receptions (982), third all-time in receiving yards (15,292), and second all-time in receiving touchdowns (156). The stats are pretty remarkable over a 15-year career. He also holds the record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season with 23. Statistically speaking, he has been one of the best of all time. As far as championships go, Randy Moss never won a Super Bowl. It is one of the major accomplishments missing from his career.

The eye test is one of the areas Randy Moss excelled at above all. The man could flat out burn anybody and had some of the best hands in NFL history. This video shows how Moss revolutionized the game and became a defense’s worst nightmare.

Moss has the best eye test of any receiver in the history of football. His explosion, hands, and speed are unmatched. As mentioned before, one of the biggest flaws is the fact that he never won a Super Bowl. Moss was also rarely in a good quarterback situation. In his rookie season, he had both Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson under center. The following year in 1999, Jeff George took most of the snaps. There was a bit more stability from 2000-2004 with Daunte Culpepper, but once Moss was traded to the Raiders, the instability continued.

(http://www.sacbee.com/sports/article31643531.html)

In Moss’ two seasons with the Raiders, he had three quarterbacks: Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, and Aaron Brooks. Before ending up with Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2007, Moss had played in the NFL for nine seasons and had seven different quarterbacks.  To compare that with Jerry Rice’s first nine seasons, Rice only had two quarterbacks. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

Moss only spent three seasons with a quarterback of the same caliber as when Rice had Montana and Young. In those three seasons with the Patriots, Moss played in 48 games and amassed an amazing 422 receptions, 3,765 yards, and 47 touchdowns.

 

Better Circumstances

(http://gifsoup.com/view/4485570/randy-moss-td.html)

This makes you wonder, what if Moss had 14 seasons with Brady, a Hall of Fame quarterback like when Rice had with both Montana and Young? Moss didn’t play as long as Rice so it is hard to speculate. How about if Moss just had seven seasons with Brady? What would his all-time numbers look like then? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that after Moss left Minnesota he went straight to New England and finished his career there for seven seasons.

His stats after leaving Minnesota were 574 receptions, 9,142 yards, and 90 touchdowns. Moss averaged 83 receptions, 1,255 yards, and 15.7 touchdowns with Brady. Over 7 seasons, based on what he averaged with Brady for his three years in New England, his career stats would have finished with 1,155 receptions, 17,927 yards, and 200 touchdowns. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous to think about.

(https://www.pinterest.com/pin/573646071256029480/)

Now for the sake of more argument, let’s say he spent 14 seasons in the NFL with Tom Brady, similar to Rice’s 14 seasons with Montana and Young. Moss’s career stats would be 1,162 receptions, 17,570 yards, and 220 touchdowns. The receptions and yards don’t change significantly, but the touchdowns sure do. 220 is unthinkable and Rice finished with 197. Had Moss spent more time with a Hall of Fame quarterback, more people wouldn’t hesitate to call Moss the best of all time. Longevity also really helped out Rice’s overall numbers as well. 20 seasons is a long time and it is rare for a player to last that long in such a violent sport.

The stats don’t tell the entire story of who is really the best. Super Bowl trophies tell the story of how a team did, not an individual. Looking at the eye test, and given the circumstances Moss had to deal with, it is clear to see that he truly was the best wide receiver of all time.

 

 

 

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