Oakland Raiders Grab A Couple Of Potential Steals Late In The Day

Oct 25, 2014; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Colby Kirkegaard (11) is sacked by Colorado State Rams linebacker Cory James (31) in the second quarter at Hughes Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2014; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Colby Kirkegaard (11) is sacked by Colorado State Rams linebacker Cory James (31) in the second quarter at Hughes Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders wrapped up their 2016 draft class by taking a linebacker out of Colorado State and an offensive lineman out of LSU.

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Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie wrapped up a draft class that was full of surprises – as well as question marks – by addressing a couple of the team’s needs. Having taken quarterback Connor Cook in the fourth round and running back Deandre Washington in the fifth round, McKenzie concluded his draft class by taking linebacker Cory James in the sixth round, and offensive lineman Vadal Alexander in the seventh round. About the best word that can be used to describe McKenzie’s draft class would be that it’s – interesting.

Outside of first round pick Karl Joseph, there doesn’t seem to be any sure fire starters or realiable contributors in the draft class. That isn’t to say it was a bad draft class, as it did provide some depth in key areas, but at the moment, there seems to be more promise and potential than actual substance among Oakland’s rookie class.

But there certainly is a lot of potential in this class.

In taking James, the Raiders picked up a steady and consistent playmaker. In his four seasons with the Colorado State Rams, James averaged 57 tackles – with 10 of those for a loss – per year. He also notched 24 sacks, had three passes defensed, and forced four fumbles.

James was one of Colorado State’s leading edge rushers his first three seasons with the school, averaging a little more than seven sacks a season and wreaking havoc in the opposing backfields. He made the move to an inside linebacker spot in his senior year, and though his sack total dipped to just two, he had a career best 65 tackles – 10 for a loss.

James has a good burst and is able to get off the line and into the backfield quickly when he’s rushing the quarterback. But his transition into an inside linebacker role hasn’t been seamless, but he has made steady improvements.

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The one thing about James’ game though, that should be some cause for concern, is that James sometimes makes the wrong reads and is sometimes slow to drop into pass coverage. Given the Raiders’ problems with linebackers getting burned by tight ends and slot receivers, that is most definitely a big red flag and something they are going to need to work on.

But the potential for James to be a solid contributor is absolutely there.

In Alexander, the Raiders are getting a behemoth on the offensive line. At 6’6”, 329 lbs., he occupies a lot of space and there is a perception among some of the talking heads is that the Raiders got themselves a hell of a steal in being able to land Alexander in the seventh round.

Though naturally huge and powerful, there are some question marks and areas of concern about his game. From the Director of College Scouting of an unnamed AFC team:

"“Watch him play and you’ll notice that his man is always around the play. You hardly ever see him still blocking his man when the whistle blows because he can’t sustain blocks. All the size and power in the world won’t matter if you can’t keep putting it on the guy across you.”"

Alexander played both guard and tackle while at LSU. He started seven games at tackle in 2012 for the Tigers before moving inside to play alongside La’el Collins. Though he was moved back out to tackle after Collins’ departure, many believe that he doesn’t have the athleticism needed to play tackle and project that he’ll only be able to play guard in the NFL.

Alexander is very much going to be a project and a work in progress. But given the Raiders’ strength along their offensive line at the moment, the team has the time and opportunity to allow Mike Tice and his staff to coach him up and make him NFL ready. He doesn’t have to step in on day one to plug a hole. He’s going to have the time needed to develop.

And if the team decides that he is indeed best suited to play guard, you can be assured that Tice and the coaching staff are going to turn him into a good one. With his size and length, if they coach him up and turn him into another Gabe Jackson, the Raiders would be in really, really good shape on the line. He has tremendous power and untapped ability. If the Raiders can harness that power and ability, they’re going to have another beast to add to their collection along the offensive line.

Potential seems to be the key word when looking at the Raiders’ draft class as a whole. When you look at Oakland’s rookie class, that is what stands out to you the most – vast amounts of potential. There are far more projects and players that need to be developed in this year’s draft class and it’s going to be up to HC Jack Del Rio and his staff to tap all of that potential and turn these raw rookies into solid contributors.

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Though there is some uncertainty with some of these rookies, it is actually a testament to how far McKenzie has brought this team – rather than needing plug and play, must be a contributor on day one athletes, he now has the room and the time to thoroughly scout and develop the youngsters.

McKenzie’s 2016 draft has taken some unexpected twists and turns from the first round to the last, and suffice to say, it’s been – interesting.