Top Five players most likely to go 48

Do you want to know who the Raiders are going to take with the 48th pick in the NFL draft this year? Well, I have the answer for you. It seems that every year in the NFL draft, the pool of talent gets deeper and deeper. The Raiders think they have their QB in Jason Campbell, they think they have valuable skill players around him, but they need help on the offensive line as well as at tight end. Defensively, it appears that they are going to part ways with free safety Michael Huff, and the departure of All-World cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, could be an inevitable reality. That means secondary help is a must and has to be taken into high account as well. With all of this in mind, I’ve narrowed the field of over two hundred men down to five guys who I think will most likely be wearing Silver and Black in 2011.

Jimmy Smith CB Colorado

Smith is one of the more highly regarded cornerbacks in this draft and is certainly a first round talent. He is a very impressive athlete, but his character issues could cause teams to shy away from taking him as their first pick this year. He tested positive for drugs in 2007 and was twice arrested as a minor in possession of alcohol. But he is probably the best man-to-man coverage cornerback in this draft and the Raiders have already shown that they are interested in Mr. Smith with their scheduled private workout only two weeks prior to the opening night of drafting. Combined in 2009 and 2010, Smith allowed just 11 catches to his opponents, and collegiate coaches learned to gameplan around him which has caused some comparisons to the Raiders’ own Nnamdi Asomugha. If — and that is a big if — Smith falls anywhere in the vicinity of the early-mid second round, you could very well see the Raiders moving up to get this kid.

Marcus Cannon OT TCU

It is believed in some circles that Cannon projects better on the interior line than as an offensive tackle at the next level. The Raiders are in need of both help on the interior line as well as competition for their right tackle position. At 6’5” and 358 pounds, Cannon will be one of the biggest men drafted this year. Fittingly, he owns several TCU records for power lifting, and defenders have to be wary of his strength once he gets his hands on them. For the Raiders – who found future left tackle, Jared Veldheer, in the third round last year – Cannon could be exactly what they are looking for in the second round to come in and fill their right tackle position. They say they want to build a bully and pairing this mammoth on the right side of their line with Bruce Campbell inside of him may go a long way towards accomplishing that goal for the offense.

Stefen Wisniewski OG/C Penn State

It goes without saying that the Raiders have a keen interest in Penn State standout Stefen Wisniewski. But recently, ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper said there is potential for Wisniewski to fall into the third or even the fourth round of the draft. If the Raiders could get him with their third round pick, that would be more than ideal. Head Coach Hue Jackson was recently quoted as saying the Raiders know exactly who Wisniewski is, which is not surprising considering that his uncle Steve Wisniewski is their new assistant offensive line coach this year. For those of you who don’t know, Wisniewski is a fundamentally sound technician on the offensive line who has proven he can play multiple interior line positions. He is an excellent block finisher and has a high football IQ. But Wisniewski is most likely to project better as a center than a guard in the more power based Hue Jackson rushing offense. There’s a chance he goes into the third round, but a better chance that his pedigree causes some team to nab him in the second round of the draft. That team could very well be the Oakland Raiders.

Benjamin Ijalana OG Villanova

With Robert Gallery turning the other cheek and the Raiders turning the page, the team finds itself in dire need of interior help. They don’t know what they have with either Bruce Campbell or Daniel Loper at this point. Ijalana has been the subject of question marks due to a sports hernia that forced him to miss both the Senior Bowl and the combine positional workouts. But Ijalana was dominating at the FCS level during his 53 straight starts for Villanova. He has great agility and tremendous footwork which means he will be good at getting into the second level of defense and making a name for himself as a successful power blocker and pulling guard. Ijalana was the only FCS player to be named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy last year. He was the anchor of an offensive line that helped produce over 380 yards per game and scored 30.8 points per game in 2010 while allowing only 24 sacks. His sports hernia could land him right in the laps of the Raiders and they may even be able to trade down for more picks to get him.

Curtis Brown CB Texas

He didn’t blow anyone away with his meager 4.51 forty at the combine but his 10’8” board jump and 40” vertical jump are quite impressive. Brown was a head-turning wide receiver at the high school level. There were questions about his coverage skills when he first got to Texas, but he quickly dispelled those questions by sticking in the hip pocket of the wide receivers he was covering. He has naturally soft hands and shows a tremendous knack for adjusting to the ball and getting his hands on it. He is widely known to be very physical against his opponents which is a necessity in a press coverage scheme like that of the Oakland Raiders. As a former wide receiver, he has an excellent sense for reading the routes his opponents are running and excellent body control to get to the passes without drawing the flags. He is also more aggressive in run support and a better open field tackler than a lot of the cornerbacks in this draft.  Brown is another guy who has untapped potential at his position and could probably make a move to either safety position if he didn’t work out at CB for the team.

BONUS: Wildcard Titus Young WR Boise State

Just throwing this out there — are the Raiders likely to take a wide receiver this high in the draft? Probably not, but if Al Davis is going to be swerved from the plan of attack on draft day, then staring at a receiver like Young could drive Davis to the madhouse. Young is extraordinarily explosive and has tremendous vision to see the whole field and access the best route to the open spaces rapidly. He is quickly climbing the draft boards around the league and if he goes lower than the second round, he could end up being one of the steals of the draft. He is an extremely versatile and dangerous offensive weapon who could take attention away from other Raiders offensive playmakers like Jacoby Ford and Darren McFadden. Young is so talented that he is climbing the ranks in spite of the off field concerns surrounding him. His 71 receptions, 1215 yards, and nine touchdowns in 2010 placed Young on his conference’s first team for the second consecutive season and he was also recognized by the Associated Press as a third-team All-American. Young is an avid route runner who eats up yardage with very little wasted motion.

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