Assessing how Raiders rookie draft picks have fared at the bye week:
(Keep in mind the higher the pick, the more that is expected and the tougher the grade)
1/8_Rolando McClain . . . B
McClain has not been conspicuous in terms of playmaking, with only half a sack, no interceptions, a few passes defensed and no forced fumbles or fumble recoveries. He’s been beaten to the outside on some pass routes by quicker running backs.
Oakland is ranked 26th against the run, but has played very well of late, giving up 75.3 yards per game on the ground in their three-game win streak. While McClain hasn’t been stuffing ballcarriers like Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis, the fact is he’s the defensive signal caller for one of the NFL’s most improved units and coach Tom Cable is of the belief that opposing linemen are not finishing blocks on the likes of Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour so they can find McClain at the second level.
2/44_Lamarr Houston . . . B-minus
Almost everyone loved the pick of Houston because of his production at Texas, but most thought of him as a classic three-technique tackle, a disruptive interior player with a high motor. Cable said from Day 1 Houston would play left end for the Raiders because he saw a player who could do a lot of damage lining up over a tight end. There were were times early in the season when Houston, who played end early in his career at Texas, did indeed look out of place.
Lately, however, Houston has played quite well. He’s holding the edge, making some plays, pressuring the quarterback. And his energy and intensity have been evident since his first day in training camp. If the Raiders are scuffling on the practice field, chances are Houston is in the middle of it, and for the most part, it’s been a good thing.
5/69_Jared Veldheer . . . B-plus
The beginning was strange when Cable suddenly made Veldheer the starting center before the opener, with the rookie from Division II Hillsdale predictably struggling. It seemed even more weird when Veldheer was then shifted back to tackle, with Samson Satele resuming his job at center. Why would they give Veldheer just one game at center against a very tough Tennessee defense and then give him the hook?
Because Cable saw the Veldheer would be needed at left tackle earlier than expected. The rookie began alternating with struggling incumbent Mario Henderson before replacing him fulltime. He’s been good enough the Raiders may be able to scratch “left tackle” off the list for the 2011 draft. He and Robert Gallery did big damage against Denver. Veldheer had some difficult moments against Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali but showed he is a quick study by walling Hali off on the 47-yard Jason Campbell to Jacoby Ford pass that set up the game winning field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.
4/106_Jacoby Ford . . . B
No player in the NFL had a more spectacular game last week than Ford, who had 6 receptions for 148 yards, setting up both the game-tying and game-winning field goals, and igniting a second-half comeback with bolt-of-lightning 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Even in training camp, Ford looked more polished than expected (although he missed some time with a quad injury) in the way that he got both feet in bounds along the sidelines and caught the ball away from his body whenever possible. Has had some drops, but not an alarming number. At this point there have been glimpses of promise and one huge game to build on.
4/108_Bruce Campbell . . . . C-minus
The Maryland combine warrior has struggled with with getting his own prodigious speed up to NFL levels in terms of turning it loose and playing with the quickness and violence necessary along the offensive line.
Instead of moving him to different positions, as Cable usually does with his offensive linemen to enhance their development and expose them to new techniques, Campbell has been at right guard since Day 1, behind starter Cooper Carlisle. Cable said Campbell is coming along, but the better the Raiders play, the more likely it is Campbell will be used sparingly all season with the hope he’ll be ready to push for a job in 2011.
5/138_Walter McFadden . . . Incomplete
McFadden’s play opened a lot of eyes during training camp, as the Auburn product looked as if he would challenge for playing time as a rookie in some packages.
However, McFadden began to have hamstring issues, which carried well into the regular season, and as a result he’s mostly been inactive or on the bench.
6/190_Travis Goethel . . . Incomplete
Goethel spent most of training camp as a backup middle linebacker along with Ricky Brown behind McClain, and his willingness to mix it up and play hard endeared himself to the coaching staff.
When the Raiders left Napa for Alameda, Goethel was quietly moved to the weakside and was even challenging for a starting job as the club decided to move Trevor Scott back to defensive end. However, Goethel’s back began to act up and he underwent a “discectomy,” a procedure in which involved the shaving of a disc in his lower back in a procedure similar to an arthroscope. It cost him the first eight games of the season.
7/215_Jeremy Ware . . . B-minus
Gets a grade bump for an end zone interception which halted a Chiefs drive at the end of the first half and kept the score at 10-0. Ware plays a very aggressive style of corner which can get him in trouble, but he doesn’t back down and after an ankle injury to Nnamdi Asomugha, the Michigan State product became the Raiders’ nickel back.
7/251_Stevie Brown . . . C-plus
Seemed to have made the final cut, only to find out later in the day he didn’t after he’d already spoken to the media. Brown opened the season on the practice squad but signed to the active roster on Sept. 19, dropped to the practice squad again, and then promoted again Sept. 23.
Brown showed a knack during training camp and preseason of being around the ball and with Michael Huff having void year in his contract, could find himself competing to be the starting free safety next year. He’s done some solid work on special teams, although he lost a touchdown on a fumble return against Seattle which Cable said the NFL confirmed was a mistake.