Raiders wrap up: NFL Draft Rounds 1-3
on April 24, 2010
With Rounds 1-3 complete, the Raiders have hammered out the line of scrimmage, building upon last year’s mid-season acquisition, defensive end Richard Seymour. Oakland lost most of its games last season due to the team’s inability to stop the run. In its first three picks, the organization has done its best to fill that need.
“It’s important for us to make this team better and fit needs rather than just get numbers guys,” coach Tom Cable said at the conclusion of today’s events. “I don’t want to say we’re getting lucky, but we’re feeling pretty good because things are going our way. What we’re trying to do is become more physical on the defensive front, which is obvious with today’s first two picks.”
From Nick Saban’s first recruiting class at the University of Alabama emerged defensive signal-caller Rolando McClain. In 2006, before McClain started at ‘Bama, the team ranked 46th in the nation against the run. By the end of his campaign they boasted a No. 2 rank against the run with 77.92 yards per game in 2009. As a sophomore, McClain ranked 12th in the league in tackles per game with 6.79. He led the team with 105 tackles. When the Crimson Tide defeated Texas in this year’s championship game in January, McClain made his move and entered the draft.
“I knew I could bring intensity, not just as a football player but as a leader and teammate,” he said in his media address Thursday night. “I’m accustomed to winning.”
From the other side of that championship came Lamarr Houston, the defensive tackle picked by the Raiders in the 44th slot. Houston is known for playing a wide base against the run because of his ability to catch up quickly to handoffs. His agility made him an asset on special teams at Texas as well in short yardage and goal line situations. A great attribute Houston can contribute to the Raiders is his versatility, having played both an end as well as a tackle. He rounded out his collegiate career with a total of 239 tackles and 13 sacks in three seasons. Senior year, he rushed for 1,770 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Texas defensive unit ranked first against the run in 2009 (72.36 ypg). So far that’s the Number 1 and Number 2 run-defense team players the Raiders have nabbed.
Houston defines himself as “a silent killer… dangerous.”
“Houston will play defensive end in our scheme and we expect his transition to be smooth because he played the first half of his college career doing so, so there’s a lot of background there,” Cable announced. “He has the right qualities—power and speed—comes out of a program that’s used to winning and understands how to do that.”
There was some confusion in the second round as trades were happening last minute. The Raiders ended up trading down twice to Number 44. But enough was enough.
“We had targeted two guys and we knew if they’re both there we were going to get one of them. Fortunately the one we wanted was Lamarr,” said Cable. “He stayed in there and stayed in there and then after the second trade we were driving ourselves crazy but it worked out great. That’s who we wanted.”
Finally, Jared Veldheer, drafted 69th, may be an exception to the rule that small schools can’t produce NFL-pedigree blockers. Veldheer attended Hillsdale College in Michigan and caught the attention of coaches and scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and at the Texas vs. the Nation Game, where he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with guys from some of the country’s best conferences and performed as a high caliber athlete, standing out among the greats.
At 6’8”, he’s one of the tallest athletes to come out of the collegiate system. He will have to adjust to playing right tackle after spending career on the left side of the field. Hillsdale plays a multiformational single-back offense and plays zone D, which Veldheer believes will allow him to fit well into the Raiders defensive scheme. “I know outside and inside zone,” he said. “The way we block counter is how NFL teams block power so I’m pretty comfortable with how those run blocking schemes work.”
Veldheer becomes just the 13th Charger to be drafted into the NFL in the 72-year history of the program. Senior year at Hillsdale, he tallied 98 knockdowns and a career-best 16 touchdown-resulting blocks.
“You have to do your homework on those guys from the smaller schools,” said Cable. “If you hadn’t seen him in All-Star games or the combine you might have some bigger questions, but getting to see him go up against better competition, he performed very well. He carried himself at the combine like he could be there with whatever talent was with him.”
Saturday will wrap up the 2010 Draft with the remaining four rounds showcased back at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Raiders still have many needs they need taken care of, specifically in the backfield and at quarterback. But Cable says the key will be to stay the course. “There are still a bunch of good players on the board,” he said. “This draft is going to carry itself pretty deep.”
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