And now for the big questions. Will Al Davis opt for the big, flashy, sexy pick with the Raiders prized #7 pick in this year’s draft? If Michael Crabtree is available, you can bet there will be some serious deliberation at very least. If he is not available, will Al put more thought into it or perhaps even let the decision be influenced by those NFL minds around him? In which case the pick could go in a number of directions which I have pointed out in previous entries in this series. Or will there be a nice free agent receiver landing in Oakland within the next month or so? The salary cap would suggest that if so, then it won’t be anyone of the stature of say, TJ Houshmandzadeh or Anquan Boldin (in a trade). While those two will have their names rumored to be going to every team with a need and money to spend on it, there will be those who will sneak in the back door in the middle of the night with little fanfare.
There are also those players that may not have been seen in the bright lights of a BCS team or may not wow scouts at the combine. The Raiders found one just last year in Chaz Schilens. Players such as those will be the ones who help solidify a team’s offense without prohibiting that team’s resources to fill other positions of need. Which way will the Raiders go in giving Russell a solid target in the years to come? Let’s start with which direction they should go.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Crabtree put together a freshman season for the ages. He had one of the best seasons for a receiver college football has ever seen, for a player of any year. Crabtree led the nation with 134 receptions for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns. He won the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver, was on every All America list, and was named the Big 12 offensive player of the year. And while his stats dropped in 2008, he was still the most dominant receiver in college football en route to winning the Biletnikoff award for the second year in a row.
Crabtree can do it all on the football field. He has an excellent frame with the size to create mismatches against corners, and combines that with fantastic body control. He is an excellent athlete that can go up and get the football in one on one situations, but also has the toughness and tenacity to cross the middle and catch the football despite the contact. Crabtree is also a guy you can get the football to underneath and allow him to make plays with the ball in his hands. He is a go to type receiver and a guy you want to get the ball to as much as possible.
Crabtree is the real deal. He has the size, the athleticism, the body control, and good enough speed to make plays in the NFL. He has big time upside in the NFL. The way I see it, the Raiders need not even bother to think about another receiver at the #7 pick than Crabtree. If Crabtree is gone then they need to go in another direction with this pick. Heck, I think they should go in another direction anyway but I wouldn’t be overly disappointed if Crabtree was taken.
Crabtree has conjured up comparisons to Cardinals all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald with his blend of size, hands, athleticism, and ability to make yards after the catch. And at this point, there is no better comparison that can be made than to Fitzgerald. The Raiders didn’t draft him when they had the chance and, if Crabtree is available, there could be a chance at a reprieve.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Has improved his totals every season for the Tarheels: 660, 958, and 1222 (the latter translates to 1629 yds in an NFL season).
Nicks runs great routes, and while he doesn’t have difference-making speed, he’s as fast as he has to be to get open and make plays downfield.
At 6′1″ and 215lbs, he is also below average size but he plays bigger than he is by having his way with Dbs and his knack for meeting the ball at its highest point. Think TO without the crazy.
Since his speed may not wow anyone, his stock will probably not go up at the combine so there is a chance he could drop out of the first round. And after some time has passed and other more flashy players’ stock rises, many could start to forget just how brilliant of a receiver he is and he could become a steal for some team in the second round or lower. Could it be the Raiders?
Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State
Williams is a jack of all trades type, and that versatility will help him in the NFL. He has played wide receiver, quarterback, running back, punt returner, and kick returner for the Nittany Lions. He clearly projects as a wide receiver but his athleticism has allowed him to impact the game in many ways. Williams is a good natural athlete, shifty and tough to catch in the open field. His quickness and ability to change direction suit him very well with the ball in his hands, and will allow him to make plays as a receiver and returner.
He has not lived up to expectations as a receiver, although his overall impact has been impressive. Williams should be able to be a very good NFL player because he will create a lot of problems for defenses with his versatility. He will need to put in more work to fine tune his game as a wide receiver, but the work ethic and talent is there. Williams is a guy who probably fits best in the third round area as a slot receiver with return ability, but workouts could push him into the second round.
There was no receiver at the Senior Bowl that lit up the defensive backs and generated a strong buzz, but Derrick Williams did everything just short of that. Williams proved to be the quickest receiver in and out of cuts all week. He showed sure hands catching the ball away from his body. He impressed equally in individual drills and the team practices. Williams showed his added value with a long kick return in the game, which all but reserves a top 40 selection for him with a good combine workout.
Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Oklahoma
Iglesias made a quick transition to the college game, making an impact as a true freshman for the Sooners. But he really broke out his junior season, hauling in 68 passes for 907 yards and five touchdowns to go along with a kickoff average of over 28 yards a return. Then as a senior, he topped those number by amassing 74 catches for 1150 yards and 10 touchdowns. He then ended his Oklahoma career by catching 5 balls for 58 yards in the National Championship game. And for those who wondered if he got those numbers because he had Heisman winner Sam Bradford throwing to him, he answered those questions by, after some stellar Senior Bowl practices, being the leading receiver in the game with 6 receptions for 90 yards.
Iglesias just makes plays. He has been a big play performer as a receiver and return man throughout his career. He has very good quickness and shows the shiftiness to make defenders miss and pick up big chunks of yardage. Those traits should allow him to return kicks in the league and have success. Iglesias is tough and willing to operate over the middle of the field and shows the ability to find a soft spot in the defense and get open. He has excellent hands and will catch anything near him, and has the body control to make the difficult grab look easy.
Iglesias is a player who will show up every week and catch everything thrown his way. He may not be a true gamebreaker, but he has the all around tools to impact the game in a number of ways and that versatility will definitely be a boost to some NFL team next year.
Mike Furrey, WR, UFA, Lions
Just two seasons ago, he was second in the NFL with 98 catches and had over a thousand yards. Now he is on the unemployment line after the Lions cut him a week ago. While this seems like a questionable move for the Lions, their loss will be some other team’s gain. Furrey is in the mold of Brandon Stokley and Wes Welker (not just because he is white) because he moves the chains. He won’t get a team big yards but he will keep the offense moving down the field and wear out a defense. And if the Raiders want to go to a more ball control offense (which they should), he would be the perfect candidate on a team that needs a steady slot receiver. The Bears are also said to be highly interested in Furrey as well as many other teams so he could be swiped up before Al Davis can say “offensive coordinator.”
Lance Moore, WR, RFA, Saints
Lance Moore had a breakout year in 2008, catching 79 balls for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has been in the league four years but the majority of the first two were spent on the practice squad and in NFL Europe. He is a restricted free agent but he was undrafted so the compensation would be negligible. He is just 5′9″ and 190 lbs but is really fast, runs great routes and has dependable hands.
His size was clearly the only thing that kept him from being drafted. At Toledo, he set school records with 222 receptions for 2,776 yards and 25 touchdowns in 50 career games and was the only player in Toledo record books to gain over 1,000 yards receiving twice. He was a first-team All-MAC selection his final two seasons.
He can return kicks and punts and compares pretty well to Eddie Royal (you know, the guy who torched the Raiders on opening day?). Those who argue that Moore did nothing once Marques Colston returned to the lineup may have missed his eight-catch, 91-yard, two-touchdown performance against Carolina in Week 17. The Raiders have no receiver of the calibre of Colston so Moore would have plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities.
Ben Troupe, TE, UFA, Raiders
He was aquired by the Raiders early in the season last year and almost immediately got injured (again) and was placed on IR then he was waived. If there was interest in him last year prior to the injury, there is likely still some interest and I think he is worth another shot. In 2005, which was his second year in the league, he had 55 receptions for 530 yards for the Titans. He also had a pretty good rookie campaign catching 33 balls for 329 yards. After that the injuries piled up and his stats dropped off and eventually the Titans found other options and let him go. So when he was healthy, Troupe was a pretty good player and I believe he can return to form and fill the role of second tight end for this Raiders team to take some of the load off of Zach Miller.
Near the end of last season Russell seemed like he was catching up to the pro game and putting things together. The only pieces missing were reliable receivers. Jonnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens stepped up to challenge and staked their claim to help this team in its rebuilding process. The unfortunate thing was that their contributions were thanks largely to injuries to the guys that started ahead of them. This team needs some competition desperately. We should be picking the best of the best — not the lesser of the evils. Javon Walker has it in him but will he find it? Curry has always shown potential but have we seen all of it? Todd Watkins looks like he could be a starter at times and yet there must be a reason why he is rarely activated. Drew Carter is a proven game breaker but will he be back and can he stay healthy? So many questions with no definite answers. It is enough to make a team and its fans pretty uneasy. For which Dr. Dizzle has but one simple prescription: Take one of these and call me in the morning.