By Steve Corkran
Friday, April 27th, 2012 at 8:05 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders first selection of the 2012 NFL draft is Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, with the 95th and final pick of the third round.
Bergstrom, 6-feet-5 and 313 pounds, is 25 years old. He started 12 games at right offensive tackle for Utah last season and was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection.
The Raiders projected guards are Mike Brisiel and Cooper Carlisle. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Bergstrom will be worked at guard initially but that there’s a chance he will be used at offensive tackle at times, too.
Bergstrom played mostly right offensive tackle in college. He worked at left guard at the Senior Bowl and said he already views himself as a guard.
“There were some teams that I talked to that saw me as somebody who could play tackle,” Bergstrom said in a conference call with Bay Area media. “Even talking to the Raiders, they said maybe I could play tackle but I would probably move into guard first. I’m not sure. I kind of knew all along that I was going to be a guard first and maybe be able to play that backup tackle in the future, or right away. But guard’s my position. I’ve already changed my mind-set to guard. So, that’s what I’m thinking right now.”
McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen are rooted in the defensive-minded mold. Yet, they felt as if Bergstrom was too talented to pass on at the end of the third round.
McKenzie said he doesn’t view Bergstrom’s age — he will be 26 by the time the season begins — as a hindrance. Quite the contrary.
McKenzie said Bergstrom benefits from being more mature and grounded. Bergstrom is married and has a daughter. He went on a mission for his church straight out of high school.
Bergstrom said he spends most of his down time at home, studying and hanging out with his family.
“Physically, I feel like my body is as in as good a shape as any 20- or 21-year-old, and it will last just as long because I take care of it,” Bergstrom said.
Interestingly, Bergstrom was not one of the numerous players the Raiders had in for a pre-draft visit. However, the Raiders interviewed him at the NFL scouting combine and the Senior Bowl.
McKenzie said Bergstrom did well in the interview and showed that he is someone who loves football. McKenzie and Allen said they are intent upon selecting players who have a passion for playing football.
“We’re not gonna change our approach,” McKenzie said. “We want good football players. Of course, the bigger the better. The faster the better. As long as they are good football players that our coaches, we feel like our coaches can work with. That’s not gonna change. We’re not gonna take fliers just on guys, in hope that they can play.”
Allen said he loves Bergstrom’s versatility the most.
“He can play offensive tackle, he can play offensive guard,” Allen said. “He’s a guy that fits the type of scheme that we’re going to be here, with some of the zone-blocking stuff and his ability to get to the second level. So, when you watch tape on him, you can tell not only by watching tape that this guy loves football, but he also has the athleticism that you need to run our type of zone blocking scheme. So we’re excited about him and think he’s gonna be a real good player for us.”
Coincidentally, Bergstrom’s brother-in-law is Baltimore Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger, and the Raiders play the Ravens this season.
Bergstrom cited Kruger as being instrumental in his development into a pro prospect.
“He was a great help,” Bergstrom said. “Not just throughout this process. Even in my senior year, I talked to him and he’d kind of fill me in a lot on what it was about my game that needed to change and what NFL coaches were really looking for out of college linemen. That was probably the biggest help from him, just every week telling me what it is that I need to do to be more recognizable to NFL coaches.”
The Raiders took notice.