The Raiders have made some pretty savvy acquisitions among undrafted free agents in recent seasons. Several undrafted free agents from last year either made the team out of camp or were on the roster by season’s end; including Desmond Bryant, David Nixon, and Nick Miller. Other prior Raider undrafted free agents on the current roster include Tommy Kelly, Hiram Eugene, Greyson Gunheim, Brandon Rodd and Marcell Reece.
There is a lot of quality players that can be found after the draft is over. ESPN recently did a study that showed UDFA players started more games last season than any other round than the first. Lately the Raiders have had a great deal of success in the late rounds as well. But every now and then, they take a chance that the player they like will slip out of the draft. At which point, players like these get a phone call.
Manase Tonga, FB, BYU
He was one of, if not THE first phone call the Raiders made after the draft. The team is desperate for a solid starting fullback. Oren O’Neal was drafted late in the ‘07 draft but he has been prone to injuries that have kept him out for nearly the last two entire seasons. Luke Lawton was not the answer and there was no depth behind him.
The Raiders probably take him in the draft because they knew they could grab him as a free agent due to the fact that he grew up in the Bay Area in nearby San Mateo.
Tonga was ranked as the 5th best fullback prospect in this draft by USA Today. Here is what the Local BYU Deseret News had to say about him:
“At 6-foot and 248 pounds, Tonga is a devastating blocker with powerful drive in his lower body. As a lead blocker in Robert Anae’s offense, he was fearless in tracking down and putting a bead on linemen, linebackers, safeties and corners for Harvey Unga. His pass protection is something Anae and position coach Lance Reynolds use as an example, a how-to tape”
This may just be the best acquisition the Raiders have made this offseason. There were a few great draft picks but Tonga was worthy of one of them so getting him as an undrafted free agent is a big time move.
Alex Parsons, G, USC
The versatile Parsons can play any offensive line position. He is said to be ideal for the zone blocking scheme. He fell out of the draft because he is considered more of a finesse blocker than a overpowering blocker which is why he fits in the zbs.
As a sophomore in 2007, Parsons was switched from defensive tackle to offensive tackle in 2007 fall camp. As a Junior in ‘08, he started USC’s last 10 games at right offensive guard and started every game as a senior for the Trojans.
He was ranked as the 11th best guard in the draft and projected as a round 7 selection by CBSSports.com and was considered a priority free agent by USA Today.
Trent Guy, WR, Louisville
Guy is listed as a wide receiver but he is actually a kick return specialist and not much more. He had a total of 45 catches for 750 yds, and 5 TD in college career with 18 catches for 329 yards and 2 TD coming in 2009. His story is a rocky one. In July of 2008 he was shot in the back outside a downtown Louisville nightclub after he got into an argument with a club patron who reportedly touched his fiancée. He recovered fully but the injury kept him out most of the 2008 season.
He becomes yet another short, speedy return specialist for this team. The Raiders now have four players on the team listed as wide receivers that will all be competing to be the Raiders’ kick and punt returners– all of whom stand around 5‘9″. Toss in Rock Cartwright and the return duties will be hautly contested this offseason. Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford have those duties locked up coming into camp. Offseason acquistions Cartwright and Yamon Figurs, along with Guy, will be the camp crash test dummies and insurance plan in case Miller or Ford go down with injury.
Alex Daniels, DE, Cincinnati
Gil Brandt had him listed as the most noteworthy performer at the Cincinnati Pro Day after Daniels ran a 4.73 40 yard dash, had a 36 1/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-9 broad jump, a 7.09 three-cone drill, and did 31 reps on the bench press. All of which would put him among the top 10 performers at the combine among defensive linemen. His 10-9 broad jump would have been good for third OVERALL at the combine, at any position– Just below CB Chris Cook (11-0) and S Eric Berry (10-10)
He led the Bearcats with 8.5 sacks last season. Four of those sacks came in a 37-13 rout of Miami of Ohio that saw the entire team rack up 10 sacks.
What’s more impressive about his numbers is the fact that Daniels has only played defensive end for the past two years and wasn’t the full-time starter for the Bearcats until his senior season in 2009.
The reasons behind his falling out of the draft tells the most inspiring story of all. Below are snippets of a fantastic article written on Alex Daniels by Antonya English of the St Petersburg Times:
Daniels was a four-star recruit and ranked the 11th-best athlete in the nation by Rivals.com as a high school senior in 2005. He and two other friends chose to attend Minnesota. He played in all 12 games as a freshman, then in 2006 moved to running back and was the team’s second-leading rusher.
But in 2007, Daniels was dismissed from the team along with three teammates after an incident involving a night of binge drinking and allegations of sexual assault on an 18-year-old woman. Daniels was never charged in the case.
“I grew up overnight,” he said, the only time his booming voice goes soft. “Just imagine a 19-year-old kid being put out on the street and really having to figure out what you want to do in life. I went home for a month and a half. It was the first time I hadn’t been playing football since I was 7. I was gone from the game, and I was really depressed, crying, emotional, didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Through the help of friends, then-Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly was contacted. Daniels was told that if he paid his way through school for one year and stayed clear of trouble, there might be a scholarship for him.
For the next year, he did everything he could to survive and live up to the rules Kelly laid out for him. He took out student loans, began school and worked odd jobs, which included selling cars at a used car dealership.
For a while, when gas hit $4.95 a gallon in Ohio, the drive back and forth between Cincinnati and Columbus wasn’t feasible, so he slept in his car. In the cold. Later, future teammates let the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Daniels crash on an air mattress in their small dorm room.
He struggled. Then he survived.
“It made me more of a leader, more of a person that can step up and take on the challenges,” Daniels said. “I think it was the best thing that could happen to me.”
“I want to change the cycle in my family,” he said. “I want to be the one that everybody looks up to in my family. I want them to say, ‘He was the same person that I grew up with, but he made a different decision to be a better person and not let the streets take over his life.’ “
–This kind of story of survival is one that Al Davis seeks out in the players he brings to the Raiders. Well, that and his impressive measurables.
Andre Anderson, RB, Tulane
Anderson was a Doak Walker Award candidate for the second straight season and is a repeat All C-USA honorable mention. He started all 12 games in 2009 and led the team in rushing attempts (238), yards (1,016) and rushing touchdowns (8), while ranking second in all-purpose yards (1,246).
Most impressive though is the fact that he achieved all of this while earning Academic All-America first team honors majoring in computer science. That honor led to Anderson being nominated for the Wuerffel Trophy, which is based on athletics, academics and community service.
He was rated as a round 5 prospect by Sporting News so getting this extremely talented and bright workhorse as an undrafted free agent is quite a coup for the Raiders.
The Raiders backfield is pretty sparse these days. Michael Bush and Darren McFadden have the top two spots held down but currently Anderson and the newly acquired Rock Cartwright are the only two remaining backs vying for the third and final running back spot.
Chane Moline, FB, UCLA
Moline, along with safety Rahim Moore and defensive tackle Brian Price shared UCLA’s Most Valuable Player honors for this past season. He led the Bruins with six touchdowns last season playing both fullback and tailback at times. He is seen as more of a receiving type fullback and he had 29 catches for 247 yds 2009. He was ranked as the 6th best fullback prospect this year by USA Today– Just below his new teammate, Manase Tonga.
In Moline and Tonga, the Raiders are hoping they have found their new fullback tandem. The tandem they had hoped to have with Justin Griffith and Oren O’Neal two seasons ago.
Kellen Heard, DT, Memphis
Heard is somewhat of a behemoth jack of all trades, master of none. Well, jack of two trades that is– offensive tackle and defensive tackle.
He transferred to Memphis with one year of eligibility from Texas A&M where he lettered three seasons on the defensive line. Upon arrival, he made the transition to offensive line in fall camp. With several defensive linemen injured, Heard moved back to nose tackle and finished his college career there.
I would like to say that he is a project with not much experience, but that is definitely not the case. At Texas A&M, Heard played 36 games on the defensive line with just three career starts. The Raiders see a guy that they can hopefully eventually mold into a nice NT type player for those times that they will run a 3-4 type defense. At 6-6 and 355 pounds, he has intriguing size which, unfortunately looks to be the only reason the Raiders brought him into the fold.
Special Thanks to our friends over at Silver and Black Pride for collecting the initial list of Raider undrafted free agents.