Following the NFL draft that saw three Tigers land in Oakland, we caught up with Levi Damien of Silver & Black Pride, SB Nation’s Raiders site to see where these Tigers fit in with the Raiders. Enjoy and be sure to give Levi a follow on Twitter (here) to stay abreast of Raiders happenings throughout the year.
STS: Fit within each NFL team’s scheme seems to play an outsized role in draft selection (from the perspective of college football fans). As such, can you tell us a bit about the Raiders defensive scheme that may have helped to push them toward DE Clelin Ferrell and CB Trayvon Mullen? How will they fit in the system?
S&BP: Ferrell is an ideal, hand-in-the-dirt 4-3 defensive end. The Raiders run a 4-3 and Paul Guenther likes his defensive ends big. Ferrell is that as well. Add that the Raiders were as desperate as any team in history to get a top edge rusher and there is no question why Ferrell was their guy. The only guy they would have taken over him was Nick Bosa.
Mullen has the size the Raiders like as well. They like big press-man corners so he fits in that mold.
STS: The Raiders will surely catch a lot of flack for taking Clelin Ferrell at #4, about 10 slots above most projections. What are your thoughts about how he compares to other potential D-line draft picks – namely Ed Oliver and Brian Burns?
S&BP: Oliver is a 3-tech/5-tech defensive lineman. He can play most any position on the line in a pinch, but that’s where he belongs. In the Raiders’ 4-3, he would line up almost exclusively at the 3-tech DT spot. Last year the Raiders made it an emphasis in the draft, getting PJ Hall in the 2nd round and Maurice Hurst in the 5th.
Burns may be best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He played some of both at FSU. He also played a lot lighter than he is now. He gained 15 pounds from the end of his college season to the combine. Word is he’s doing well to make it good weight gain that won’t hurt his performance, but it’s hard to say. He had one season of good production and came out early, while Ferrell is a finished product. He stayed a season longer than he needed to in order to make sure of it.
STS: The Raiders have now added Antonio Brown and Hunter Renfrow to their receiving corps. Who else is part of that group and where does Hunter Renfrow fit in as a rookie?
S&BP: Tyrell Williams is the starter opposite Brown. Renfrow will fill the much needed slot receiver position. They signed Ryan Grant to handle those duties and make previous slot receiver Seth Roberts a cap casualty. Last year Gruden signed Griff Whalen and traded for Ryan Switzer in the hopes that one of them would take the slot receiver job and potentially return punts as well. They competed all camp and then neither were part of the team. Whalen went to IR and Switzer was traded. Gruden will be hoping Renfrow is what they couldn’t be in his offense.
STS: What does the Raiders’ depth look like at CB? Will Mullen be expected to contribute major snaps immediately?
S&BP: He won’t be expected to jump in as a starter right away. In fact, with the depth they have, I was a bit surprised they went with a cornerback in their top four picks. It may have been that so many good corners were still out there at the top of the second, the value was too good to pass up. The starters are Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley. They also signed proven starter Nevin Lawson to compete for playing time. Lamarcus Joyner (formerly of FSU) was signed to play the nickel corner and sometimes safety spot. Mullen may end up watching an learning this season unless he just blows everyone away in the offseason and camp.
STS: While the Raiders are soon to gain a lot of fans in Nevada, they may be adding a bunch in South Carolina as well after picking three Clemson Tigers. Thanks for joining us for this Q&A.
S&BP: I said similar during the draft. They often do those fan base maps by county and there are always some strange counties in random states that have a seemingly random favorite team. For instance, there was a county in Oregon that was all about the Steelers. Being from Oregon, I knew why. It’s because it’s the county that has the city of Tenmile which is where Troy Polamalu was from. I can just see the map now with portions of South Carolina adopting the Raiders as their team.
STS: I also answered several questions for their site. These will be broken in multiple articles. The first is available here.