Feb 25, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Connecticut Huskies linebacker Sio Moore does the broad jump during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders Revival Depends Upon Players Like Sio Moore

As the Oakland Raiders continue to overhaul a roster once bloated with the fat contracts of high-priced veterans and underperforming premium draft picks, how long this rebuilding process takes could well be determined by the performance of players just like Sio Moore, a linebacker taken with the 66th overall selection in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

With Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie finally nearing the end of his toxic waste cleanup project, which included a salary-cap mess devoid of draft picks or impact players in Oakland, the Raiders are a year away from nearly $70 million in cap space and functioning normally once more, (the first-time General Manager went without a first or a second-round pick in 2012 and entered the 2013 NFL draft without a second-round pick, largely because of the disastrous Carson Palmer trade.) However, the talent suiting up for the 2013 Oakland Raiders is going to be even less imposing than last year’s 4-12 squad, a fact I think many Raider fans are in denial about this summer — but that is the reality.

Although there are still lots of reasons to be excited about the 2013 season, and one advantage to being a “talent deprived” team is that tons of young players are going to see major snaps for the Raiders this fall. I would expect coach Dennis Allen to have strict orders from above to error on the side of youth and potential when it comes to allotting playing time this year, and more than anything else, it is the emergence of young talent that can speed up the rebuilding process for NFL franchises.

Earlier this week I spotlighted Raiders first-round pick D.J. Hayden, the playmaking cornerback taken twelfth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Hayden is tabbed for stardom, but even more crucial for the Raiders, a team with so many holes to fill, may be identifying starting players in the third, fourth and fifth rounds of the NFL draft that can contribute going forward.

The core of a good team can often be found in its middle round picks, which provide depth, and reasonable contracts, helping smart franchises stay on top. While Sio Moore, the 66th overall pick, may be just a high third-round choice, he’s going to have ample opportunity to shine in Oakland this season, and unexpected impact from players like Sio would be just what the doctor ordered to speed up Oakland’s healing process. Fourth-round quarterback Tyler Wilson is another example, while the QB from Arkansas will be given a look as the starter, even if he just develops into a long-term solution as a No. 2 quarterback that would represent a excellent return on investment for the 112th overall pick.

Sep 8, 2012; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies linebacker Sio Moore (3) reacts after sacking North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Sio Moore was raised in Connecticut and North Carolina after being born in the African country of Liberia. Now he’s all grown up at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds.

I chose the scouting reel at the bottom because it touches on Moore’s flaws, not just his strengths. Sio can certainly bring the heat on a quarterback from the LB position, although he isn’t perfect when it comes to swiveling his hips in coverage or shedding blockers, so every-down linebacking play would represent a bonus. It is important to point out that this scouting tape was made prior to the NFL combine, where the 23-year-old linebacker out of the University of Connecticut was excellent.

Here are some of Moore’s combine numbers and his rankings among linebackers:

4.65 40-yard dash (5th), 29 bench reps (2nd), a 38” vertical (3rd), broad jump 10’7” (4th) and 4.31 20-yard shuttle (8th).

While we all assume D.J. Hayden is going to be a great corner, and most are optimistic that once 2013 second-round offensive tackle  Menelik Watson becomes a starter he will be a fixture on the offensive line for years to come, how good the Raiders will be in 2014, 2015 and beyond may hinge upon mid-round draft picks like Sio becoming big-time contributors — instead of just career backups or fringe starters.

I’m a big fan of Reggie McKenzie’s approach to team-building thus far, I think the discipline and patience he’s shown have been exactly what was needed in Oakland after the impulsive spending and ill-advised trades that came before. I think he’s a GM that’s interested in building a winner for the long haul, not just satisfying a success-starved fan base with some short-term gains that can’t be sustained and will hamper future growth.

It may be another long year in the win-loss column for Raider fans in 2013 before all of McKenzie’s seemingly boring diligence behind closed doors is rewarded with tons of cap room and a full compliment of draft picks in 2014 — but a breakthrough performance by a player like Sio Moore would make the road to rebuilding that much shorter, and that much more exciting.



Tags: 2013 NFL Draft NFL Oakland Raiders Reggie McKenzie Sio Moore

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