Upon further review, Mel Kiper Jr. isn’t lukewarm on the Raiders’ draft, after all.
Kiper was in the minority when he gave the Raiders a C-plus on his original post-draft grade, while Oakland’s first-round selection of Rolando McClain, second-rounder Lemarr Houston and linemen Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell (third and fourth) were considered decent values at a position of need.
Having been on two pre-draft conference calls involving Kiper, it seemed the pundit was influenced by the fact that the Raiders didn’t take Jimmy Clausen, the Notre Dame quarteback he had targeted for the first round.
Kiper is a big Clausen guy, and who knows, he may be right.
But in a recent “ESPN Insider” assessment (you have to pay extra to get it), Kiper had this to say about the Raiders draft and Houston in particular:
“I’m honestly starting to think I really underrated this guy. I look at the measurables and in terms of combine tests, he’s better almost across the board than Gerald McCoy. But that’s just the athleticism. In terms of tackles for loss he also topped McCoy, playing a similar schedule in the Big 12. He has plenty of size at 6-3, 305 pounds to be a solid part of the Oakland 4-3. If this guy becomes a big impact player early in his career I’ll no longer be surprised. As I look back at what he did, it’s another reason to think I may have undersold what Oakland did in the draft. Houston could be a steal.”
Not sure if Kiper knows if Houston is beginning his Raiders career as an end, and not a tackle, or if it even matters. Most national post-draft stories and evaluations have Houston as a tackle, even if he’s been exclusively outside during practices where media is allowed.
Coach Tom Cable’s rationale is that Houston will be lining up on the strong side over tight ends and winning that matchup, where he’ll be backed by trade aquisition Kamerion Wimberly and immediately upgrade a poor run defense.
Hard to know until they really start hitting how good Houston is, but based on his practices during “non-contact’ workouts, things ought to bet pretty interesting in full pads. He’s already been in a few scuffles.