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“Answering Critics of The Oakland Raiders Draft; Why Draft Connor Cook? Grading the Picks.”

 

shilique calhoun
Michigan St. DE Shilique Calhoun against Ohio St.

For the first time in my life time, it seemed that most teams did fairly well at the 2016 NFL draft. One of those teams that did really well was the Oakland Raiders.

Many fans though have expressed their displeasure at certain picks, so let’s answer all the questions that people have in regards to these picks.

Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:

I got beaten up on Twitter a little bit when I was for the drafting of West Virginia Safety Karl Joseph. Like most people I had him as a top 30 player. My favorite DM on twitter was, “I thought you liked value picks; then how can you defend choosing Joseph?”

The answer to that is this. The Raiders desperately wanted Joseph in the second round. They also wanted Reggie Ragland. With the news coming that Ragland had an enlarged Aorta that would need yearly monitoring, Ragland dropped like a stone in the draft.   There were several teams that wanted Joseph in the late first round and early second round. NO WAY was Joseph falling to the Raiders in the second round.   The Raiders knew that to draft him they had to draft him earlier than expected. The hope was for Ragland to drop to them in the second round and he almost did; Buffalo nabbed him. But looking back Joseph is a really good player; probably a late first round talent that will greatly help your team. It was a risk they took and I would have too.

Emphasizing DL made me very happy. I’ve said it a million times; look at history; the DL is so important to Super Bowl winning teams.

Some say on social media, “where can you watch these players play?   I follow all the experts and I don’t see film on these guys”. The answer is, WATCH THE COLLEGE GAMES! College Football has DOZENS of stations that show games not once; but several times in reruns. Almost all college conferences have tv networks. You DVR the games and watch the players you want to see. If you watch a game and the player plays great or the announcers say he stands out you pay attention to them. If the player never gets mentioned but is drafted you say wow; I didn’t even remember this guy.

Our fathers began taping & recording famous games audio and then when VCR/VHS came out they taped the games. My dad has the Holy Roller on tape; a friend of mine’s dad has Notre Dame’s stunning upset of UCLA to snap their 88 game winning streak on a tape recording; from 1974! I have hundreds of games transferred to DVD in my large library at my home. If you are a sports & history junkie, start your own collection.

For example 2 years ago I taped 3 games with an up and comer in the NFL draft, WR Tre McBride from William & Mary. I fast forwarded and when you get the hang of it you can watch a players plays in 10-15 minutes. There are 128 college teams in Division 1 only, and many more in D II and DIII.   NFL is a passion for people; college football is a religion. Here in silicon Valley you can live stream anything and also don’t have to worry about regional games only being seen. We’re techies and you learn things.

With that being said let’s look at the Jihad Ward and Conner Cook picks below and all of the critic questions should be answered.

1st Round: Karl Joseph S (14, West Virginia)

I’ve already written about Joseph here.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/the-oakland-raiders-mindset-on-day-in-depth-evaluation-of-karl-joseph-lots-of-good-little-bad/

Grade A-

2nd Round Jihad Ward DL (44; Illinois)

I’m not a fan of this pick.  I thought the Raiders drafted him too early and even then I’m not a fan.  He’s more athlete than football player. The after draft comments were interesting. When Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if Ward was raw he snapped that he wasn’t. “The defensive line isn’t like playing QB”. When GM Reggie McKenzie was asked, he stated, “he’s definitely raw but we are not looking at him having a redshirt year. Hopefully if we coach him up he can be ready to contribute something this season”.

I don’t like quoting Pro Football Focus but to the few that defend this pick; PFF comments on Ward, “he had the 69th overall grade of edge defenders”. PFF then went on to say he may end up being a good run defender. Later on they say he may be a good pass rusher.   (see why PFF drives some people crazy?)

I watched Illinois several times and to be honest I barely remembered him. This was a reach at best in my mind. I think the Raiders were shocked too when Austin Johnson; stud DL out of Penn St.; and MLB Reggie Ragland was taken before their pick. With Alabama DL’s AShawn Robinson & Jarran Reed; as well as Clemson CB stud Mackenzie Alexander still on the board; this pick makes no sense in my mind but who knows. He’s a good story and I hope he does well.

GRADE: C-

3rd Round: Shalique Calhoun DL (75, Michigan St.)

Michigan St. was in so many featured games even the casual fan saw them often. Calhoun was a stud on a very physical and talented defensive line that at times carried the Spartans and kept them in games. He had 27 sacks for his career and 44 tackles for loss. He’s a playmaking pass rusher that needs to bulk up a bit and improve his run stopping skills. Some scouts say he’s too passive. I don’t think he’ll have a middle ground. Could be a diamond in the rough or struggle. I think the positive greatly outweighs any negative.  Great Pick!

GRADE: B+

4th Round: Connor Cook QB (100, Michigan St.)

The Raiders traded up to get Cook at #100. This one still has Raider nation scratching their heads. Let’s look at the facts.

History again is so important. All of those people guaranteeing the Raiders will move up in the first round every year forget that they’ve never done it in 57 drafts yet every year they predict it. Look at history. Well this pick was ALL about Ron Wolf and his history.

When Reggie was learning under Raider and Green Bay Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, the Packers drafted QB’s all the time. I’ve said it for years. Every team should draft a QB every year in the late round.

Even with Brett Favre as their starter, Ron Wolf and the Packers drafted Mark Brunell (5th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th round). These 3 became key NFL starters for other teams. (In a famous John Madden story, when Al Davis asked his staff about drafting a young Alabama QB with bad knees, Al’s staff said no. He then asked Ron Wolf who said yes; Ken Stabler was then drafted).

Wolf had an amazing eye for QB’s and ALL three of these picks were eventually traded for key draft picks and players who helped create a winning organization keeping talent flowing.

Some have now said trade Carr. Ridiculous; I personally don’t like Cook and don’t think he’s going to be a starting NFL QB; he’s not accurate in the medium and short game. Some teams like him though.  He’s also not exactly a leader type at times as was seen in some of his comments when he was injured and missed the Ohio St. game.   Some experts and teams will disagree with me but that’s my take. Some have said his personality is a turn off and he needs to greatly mature to be a leader in the Pro’s.

This was a Ron Wolf type pick that will eventually be trade bait if he pans out. If not, he can then be a backup.   Matt McGloin will be on trade watch this pre season. In today’s QB world with so little talent, teams are willing to risk money and picks on projects that they think they can make into something special and some will want Cook; maybe badly. If your starting QB goes down though, your team is in trouble.

GRADE B+

5th Round: Deandre Washington RB (143 Texas Tech)

I’m a Big 12 guy and I’d like to thank Deandre Washington for being such a fun player to watch these last 4 years. I hope he does well. Most had Washington either a 6 or 7th rounder; few had him in the 5th round; and a handful even had him going undrafted.

This is a productive player who plays hard every play.  He can catch and run and was a work horse back for the Red Raiders. He returned kicks as a freshman. Many scouts complained that Washington may be a system guy at Texas Tech. The Big 12 is known for bad defense and wild west offenses so some question his numbers.   He’s also only 5’ 8” 205 and many scouts said he will struggle pass blocking. He is not a speed merchant but he’s fast enough and he’s tougher than he looks.

I like Washington but my pick here was Paul Perkins who I like a little more.  Many had Perkins going in the 3-5th round. Washington is a bit of a reach but time will tell if he pans out. I think he can be a situational player and a good pass catcher.  A tough guy that plays confident with football smarts. Fans will enjoy this guy this season.

GRADE B

6th Round: Cory James LB (194 Colorado St.)

At 6’ 225 lb. James has been a consistent 4 year starter for the Rams.   They moved him to MLB in his senior year but he is too small for that position in the NFL. He was also used as an edge rusher on passing downs and showed speed and athleticism. Some experts have really trashed this pick and I don’t know why. A project who should do well in special teams and will be a good backup.

GRADE B

7th Round Vadal Alexander T/G (234 LSU)

My SEC friends are asking how in the heck did this guy make it to the 7th round. Most had him going 3-4 round and this is a great pick. Alexander came to LSU around 370 and even at 6’ 5” he looked too bulky. He’s lost 30 pounds as a 4 year starter and was all SEC last year. He played guard and then later switched to tackle in college. He is a masher in the run game with crazy strength. He lacks athleticism and good foot speed which is why teams dropped him so low. He has inconsistent mechanics and needs work but this guy should be a solid backup and even get a few snaps here and there in time. Huge potential. This is the type of pick that winning teams make. Huge upside. He’ll be projected as a guard in the pro’s for his lack of foot speed but he has the potential to really help this team as a backup. I am shocked he lasted so long.

GRADE A-

There you have it; it seems that there is still a need for an MLB but remember that many things can still happen in the off season, pre season and even salary cap cuts before the season starts. Overall I really like this draft. Pick for today and for the future.

OVERALL GRADE:   B+

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“Oakland Raiders Defensive Players Who Should/Shouldn’t be in the NFL Hall Of Fame”

 

jack-tatum-the-assassin

Yesterday we looked at Bill King, Tom Flores, and the Raiders offensive players that might or might not be placed in the Hall of Fame.  Today we will look at players on the defensive end who have been overlooked.

I was really happy to see so many eyes opened on social media yesterday and so many discussions on some of the players I put in my article.  It’s great and fun to discuss and many put some very intelligent thoughts into their responses.

 Eye Opening: 

I’ve tried to do my part of showing people about grudges and biases that writers and voters to the HOF may have had on some players who could possibly be inducted.  I never really understood totally just how vicious and deep some biases were, especially with east coast writers.  It was eye opening.

For the last year and a half I’ve researched the stories of Raider players that might get into the hall and seen how clueless or how vengeful writers are to some of them; especially Raiders.  Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum went through hell with them, and others have been black listed and will never see the HOF even though they deserve it.

Let’s also remember too, if a west coast team plays at night, usually east coast writers won’t even see them play.  They read about the game or look at highlights.  They are in bed sleeping.  They won’t admit that but let’s be real.

Without further ado, let’s look into some of these players credentials and make the argument for or against their inductions.

 

 

HALL OF FAME COACHES
Jack Tatum from Ohio State attends the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame class of 2004 induction dinner in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2004. (AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel)

Jack Tatum:

When Chris Berman and Chris Collinsworth were talking about players that should be in the HOF a couple of years ago, they both said one guy; Jack Tatum.  And Chris Collinsworth looked like he saw the Headless Horseman while saying it.

The running joke in the NFL in the 1970’s for NFL fans was that when you looked in your closet at night you don’t look for the boogeyman; you look for Jack Tatum.  Just like Dick Butkus, Jack Tatum revolutionized his position.  He was 225 pounds of educated, tough muscle from Woody Hayes University, Ohio St.  He never said much on the field; said less off of it; but wow did he change football and every safety want’s to be him.

“Jack was my guy”, said a proud Ronnie Lott.  “Everything I did I tried to copy from him.  He was the man”.

NFL Bad Boy Conrad Dobler was amazed at Tatum.  “Jack hit people so hard.  It was like when he hit them they would not be hurt but they would be buried”.  Running mate and trash talker of the Soul Patrol George Atkinson said, “Even I could not believe the force he hit people with.  It sounded like a car wreck when he hit someone. His angles and his timing were perfect.  No one wanted to come over the middle because it was like being hit by a truck.  I’ve never seen anything like it”.

Tatum could take on Tackles and stop the run, or eliminate a WR so that they would never want to catch a ball over the middle again.  He was so tough that if he was on the other side of the field and knew he wouldn’t make the play, he would go after anyone in his area just to hit them.  Iconic Dolphins WR Paul Warfield once said, “if you didn’t have your head on a swivel against the Raiders, you would not finish the game.  They were that scary.”

In his famous hit in the Super Bowl against the Vikings, people could not believe Sammy White caught the ball.  Viking great Fran Tarkenton explained the play.  “I was watching this helmet fly by me.  For a split second I literally thought Sammy’s head was in it.  I never heard a harder hit.  How he caught that is beyond me”.

Sadly in a meaningless exhibition game he hit Patriots WR Darryl Stingley in a very legal hit.  In fact the NFL and even the Patriots coaching staff went over the film dozens of times and admitted Tatum did nothing wrong.  Stingley was paralyzed and his family was very angry at Tatum.  Tatum said he tried to reach out to the family but they refused him.  John Madden actually visited Stingley instead and said Jack never got over it.  The east coast media; especially Boston; shredded Tatum in the papers for years and vowed he’d never be in the HOF.  He sadly died at the age of 61.

Deserves to be in the HOF: YES YES YES

Will be Voted into HOF: No

 

lyle alzado

Lyle Alzado:

Lyle Alzado roamed the field like a volcano ready to erupt.  His Raider teammates called him “Three Mile Lyle” after the explosion of the nuclear plant Three Mile Island.  No one knew when he’d blow up.

He grew up with an abusive father.  Once when a sibling was getting beaten, Lyle at the age of 15 protected them and hit his father and broke his jaw.  Lyle’s father called the police and pressed charges; assault.  He was arrested.  The scars on his soul were deep and unexpressed.

His life was one big tornado.  In an amazing career, this great pass rusher ended with 97 sacks.  Lyle is a hall of famer through and through but there is a saying if you work for or work with the NFL; Protect the Shield.

Just like with police and politicians, they feel you keep your mouth closed and Lyle didn’t.  While he was dying of brain cancer and losing over 100 pounds, he did interviews talking about his immense use of steroids.  Players hated him for it because it tarnished them; the NFL hated him for it because it embarrassed them.  A year after his death, the NFL started testing for steroids, many say due to the backlash of Lyle’s speaking out.

He sadly died at the age of 43.  Many said he was always looking for happiness and peace, but never really found it.  I hope he finally has.

Deserves to be in the HOF: For Sure

Will He be Voted into HOF:  No

Rod-Martin-Dominic-DiSaia-ESPN

Rod Martin:

I remember talking to an east coast writer and asking him what he thought about Rod Martin maybe going into the hall of fame.  His answer?  “Who is Rod Martin”.  See what I’m telling you?

Don’t get me started on how clueless some Americans are in our history. Sports is included.  Why sports fans don’t educate their kids on the history of their teams is beyond me.  We should have more of an appreciation of the foundation of a team and not just live life like we’re 15 year old girls. For the most part as a nation we are clueless if it happened before 1990.  (Rant over).

Rod Martin had a long and illustrious career as linebacker of the Oakland Raiders.  He had the greatest defensive Super Bowl of all time with 3 interceptions against the Eagles.  People also forget he played a key role in the Washington win in the Super Bowl too with many key plays including stopping John Riggins on a 3rd and 4th and short, once near the goal line.  He also batted down key passes and picked up a fumble.

He was AFC defensive player of the year one time and a pro bowler twice.  He was a mainstay for the Raiders and in the biggest games he played his best.  One of the forgotten Raiders who should be better remembered.

Deserves to be in the HOF: Yes

Will be Voted into HOF: No

john matuszak

John Matuszak:

He once overdosed when he was with Kansas City being taken to the hospital while his coach gave him chest compressions on the way to the hospital.  Raider staff members had to sleep in front of his hotel room to make sure he wouldn’t leave at night and party.  Fans saw him as a big ton of fun, but at times players saw him as a big pain.  A nice guy off of drugs, but a whirlwind while on them.

Matt Millen wrote in his book at what a pain John was at times.  He used drugs often.  Qaaludes, Valium, pot, cocaine, pain killers, alcohol.  Nothing was off limits when the Tooz was around.  His partying was of legend.  The night before the Raiders played the Eagles in the Super Bowl he said he would patrol Bourbon Street to make sure Raider players were in at a decent hour.  He ended up partying until 3 a.m. and was fined $1000.  Disciplined Dick Vermeil told the national media, “if that were an Eagle, his ass would be on a plane home by now”.

In the 1970’s the strong man competitions on ABC were extremely popular.  Most trained over 6 months for the events.  Just to pass time, Matuszak entered into one competition; without a day of training.  Most of the competitors kind of laughed at such arrogance.  After the smoke cleared, he placed in the top 10 at 9th.  “He’s super human”, said one competitor.  “I really never saw anything like him”.

Once when the Tooz was arrested, Ken Stabler had to bail him out.  When he got to the Police Station Stabler said, “Drunk, cowboy hat, cowboy boots and no clothes.  Yep, that’s my roomie; I’d know him anywhere”.

On the field John was a great player one minute, and a disappearing act the next.  He was a good guy when sober and he played well, but it was hard to get him when he wasn’t high off the field.  He was an inconsistent but solid player.  No telling how good this 6′ 8″ giant could have been.  Sadly at the age of 38 he died of an accidental overdose of pain killers.  A small amount of cocaine was found in his system.  Sadly 2 years later one of his sisters Dawn passed away suddenly.  Their family went through a lot of pain.

For many he will forever be fondly known as Sloth in the movies Goonies.  The stories of his kindness are of legend.  It took 4-5 hours to put on his makeup.  The kids in the movie adored the Tooz and they constantly played pranks on him.  He never said a word and just laughed.  He said once, “How can you get mad at kids who are just having the time of their lives”.  One of the kids said, “I saw him play football on television and he looked so mean.  But with us he was just our Giant friend; he was Sloth to us”.  He had several acting accomplishments including a memorable scene in North Dallas Forty.  He was well liked by a lot of people on the sets who still talk of him fondly.

Deserves to be in the HOF: No

Will be Voted into HOF: No

 

lester hayes

Lester Hayes:

When Hayes came out of college, many said he wasn’t very smart.  What the Raiders found out is that he had a stuttering problem.  Now Hayes will speak to anyone that will listen while showing a great personality.

Hayes was a pro bowler 5 times; all pro once; AFC player of the year once; single season record for interceptions in a year (13), and named to the prestigious all decade team for 1980.

It’s not even worth talking about; just like Branch and Tatum, of course Lester should be in.  I feel embarrassed to even defend it.  Eventually he will be but again, it’s a joke for him to wait so long.

Deserves to be in the HOF: Yes

Will be Voted into HOF: Eventually

 

“Ron Wolf enters the Hall of Fame With Tim Brown; Wolf, The Greatest Raider of Them All”

ron wolf Tim brown

The Greatest Raider of them all.

Other than Al Davis, NO ONE ever made an impact on the Oakland Raiders like Ron Wolf did.

When you ask a Raider fan who is the greatest Raider of all time, you will get several different answers. Maybe you will hear Ken Stabler, Art Shell or Gene Upshaw. Some may say Tim Brown or Marcus Allen or any of the other all time Raider greats like Jim Otto. In reality though, the greatest Raider of them all is Ron Wolf. Some under 30 years old are saying, “Who is Ron Wolf?”

Ron Wolf was Oakland’s Player Personnel Director and one of the greatest evaluators of talent in the history of the NFL and he now takes his place among the games greatest, recently being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the architect of the great Raider and Packer teams and was in charge of the draft and player moves starting in 1963. Few teams in history had a better scout team lead by Wolf.

ron wolf and al davis
Ron Wolf & Al Davis before a Raiders game

Wolf was the perfect fit to team up with Al Davis. He was the strong silent type who didn’t compete for attention. It is fairly common knowledge that Wolf was one of the few people that Al Davis actually listened to, and followed. Many of the great Raiders of all time like Stabler, Shell, Upshaw, Tatum, Villapiano and Cliff Branch were all key choices by Ron Wolf. Wolf and Davis had no peers when picking up castoffs that other teams gave up on.

In 1975 Wolf took the job of Vice President of Operations for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He went on to be the architect of the Bucs great early teams. His first draft included one of the greatest defensive lineman of all time Lee Roy Selmon and his brother Dewey, along with future 49er HOF QB Steve Young.  In the second draft he selected the great USC running back Ricky Bell (whose career was cut short tragically by a terminal illness which took his life in 1984) and 12 year NFL starter Charley Hannah who played 6 years with the Raiders and won a Super Bowl v.s. Washington. With these key players, Tampa Bay is still the fastest expansion team in the history of the post merger era to win a division, a playoff game, and host an NFC championship game.

ron wolf unveils his hof bust jpeg

Citing differences with the meddling Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse and head coach John McKay, Wolf came back to the Raiders before the 1979 season. In usual fashion the Raiders soon drafted players like Marcus Allen (who they literally had to con Mr. Davis into thinking he was faster than he was) and Howie Long. Allen was considered a question mark by many because he was considered too slow and Long was thought to be a long shot due to him coming out of Villanova who no longer had football. Unfortunately though, Mr. Davis transformation had begun.

Al Davis Change is Complete:

What changed the NFL and the Raiders forever was in 1982, when Dallas Owner Tex Schramm asked the NFL competition committee to hold an evaluation time for all of the players together, so all of the teams can evaluate them at the same time. Before that, teams had the option to share notes, films, and evaluations. Now players would be timed and rated on basic exercises and drills in gym shorts at the NFL combines. Al Davis loved it, especially the 40 yard dash times which was his main tool when drafting a player. Ron Wolf considered the Raiders evaluation of players to be superior so he hated it. When he was asked once why he doesn’t share information or films with the rest of the league he said, “why would we; we know more than everyone else”. A true Raider.

As time went on in the 80’s their relationship became strained. The draft became a mini war between the two. In the 70’s they both often said, “the quarterback must go down, and go down hard”. The key to that was a strong defensive front seven but Al Davis had gone away from that formula.

The Green Bay Magic:

In 1991 without new Green Bay GM Wolf’s input, Mr. Davis was in total control and the Raiders 1st and 2nd round picks were Todd Marinovich and Nick Bell.  Both would be out of the NFL in 3 years, which is easily one of the worst first 2 picks in history.  With pretty much no one to contradict him, Wolf’s first moves for the Packers was to fire head coach Lindy Infante, hire Mike Holmgren and trade for an awkward quarterback in Atlanta by the name of Brett Favre.  Within 4 years he transformed one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL to one of the best.  He signed free agent DL’s Reggie White, Sean Jones, Santana Dotson and “The Gravedigger” Gilbert Brown.  Along with free agency, he also drafted key pieces like RB’s Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens, TE Mark Chmura, WR’s Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks just to name a few.  A little vindication for sure.

In his 9 years as GM of the Packers, Wolf helped lead them to the second best record in the NFL (second only to Bill Walsh’s 49er’s) and two Super Bowl appearances with one Super Bowl win.

rw hof

His Rightful Place in the Pro Football HOF:

In time, every team that Ron Wolf directed became a winner. Last year during his daily interview on KCBS sports in the bay area, John Madden said, “The unsung hero of the Raiders will always be Ron Wolf. When Ron and Al were on the same page, it was pure magic. The genius of Mr. Davis at that time was to trust Ron Wolf and the scouts and it helped create a winning formula”.

Wolf’s mentoring tree is long and talented. It includes Packers GM Ted Thompson, Seahawks GM John Schneider, Chiefs GM John Dorsey, Washington GM Scot McCloughan, and Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.

During their glory years, the Raiders had not only the highest winning percentage in football, but the highest winning percentage of any U.S. sports franchise during a two and a half decade span.  In today’s world where teams tell you what they are going to do and mediocrity is celebrated, can you imagine how fans would react to such dominance?  There aren’t enough memes or gifs to express it.  Thus, every Raider fan young and old, should appreciate the legacy and foundation that was created with the talents of Ron Wolf; the greatest Raider of them all.