Raiders coach Dennis Allen walked into the auditorium in Alameda on Friday night with a bounce in his step, a smile on his face and not a hair out of place.
Like most NFL coaches on draft day, Allen was in a boastful mood, pleased with the day’s bounty, and ready to share with the world his take on the Raiders selecting offensive tackle Menelik Watson (Florida State) and linebacker Sio Moore (Connecticut) in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Watson and Moore arrived on the heels of the Raiders selecting cornerback D.J. Hayden (Houston) in the first round Thursday. The Raiders got Watson with the pick they acquired from the Miami Dolphins in a trade down from No. 3 to No. 12.
Here is what Allen had to say during a 6 minute, 30 second question-and-answer session before he returned to the draft room to prepare for the final four rounds Saturday:
How you doing?
“Great. Listen, I’ll just start off and say, first of all, appreciate you guys being here late this evening. We feel really positive about the guys we’ve been able to add to our team thus far. Both the guys we were able to add today we feel are really good football players and really stand for the things we’re looking for and stand for things I’ve been talking about and Reggie’s been talking about, guys that really love football, guys that want to work, guys that are gonna put the team first. So felt really good about the two picks we added today.”
How difficult to evaluate a guy like Menelik who didn’t play long?
“Well, I think that when you look at a guy like that, I mean, No. 1, you look at where did he play? What was the level of competition? This guy played at Florida State at a very high level of competition. He played extremely well. We like his athleticism, we like the fact that he’s been a boxer, he’s been a basketball player. He’s got excellent feet, and he’s got great punch, and we think that’s a good addition.”
Scouting reports say he doesn’t always know what he’s doing.
“Well, I mean, obviously he hasn’t been playing the position for a long time. But we’ve seen, it’s not like we’re taking a guy that was just a basketball player and we’ve never seen him play football. We’ve seen him play college football at a high level, and play really well. And this was a guy that we had rated as one of the top tacklers on the board, and he was available for us there in the second round, so we took him.”
Any idea where you will be placing either Watson or Moore?
“Well, I think Sio Moore is an outside linebacker. He can play either SAM or WILL. He’s a guy that could play either side. I think the great thing about either guys is we feel like both these guys can come in and compete and we can upgrade our football team. And as they get in and as they get a chance to work with our veteran players, they’ll settle into exactly where we play them and how we play them.”
Sio says he’s the best linebacker in the draft, you agree?
“I think he’s pretty good.”
He also said he was pissed off
“I like the fact that… I’d rather him say that than say ‘Gosh, I wish I’d got taken in the 7th round. I mean, you know, here’s a guy that we had an opportunity to spend a lot of time at the Senior Bowl. That’s one of the things that when you look at it, we spent a week with this guy; in the meeting rooms with him, in the dining hall with him, watching him interact with the other players. You talk about a guy that loves football. He really epitomizes when you talk about a guy that loves football. So, we’re trying to get as many quality football players as we can and he fits that mold.”
Did getting to know him intimately put him over the top with you?
“No doubt. I mean, obviously you look at the tape and you see the qualities on the tape and you see the play on the tape – I think he had the tenth most tackles for loss in the NCAA last year – he’s a guy that has that type of ability, but just being around that guy for a week, he’s the type of guy that we want to bring into that locker room.”
Menelik Watson’s learning curve from Saddleback College to Florida State show you something?
“Absolutely, I think one of the things you look at with a guy like that is you look at tremendous upside. This guy’s got tremendous upside. Having him here and having one of the top O-line coaches in the National Football League in my opinion in Tony Sparano, I have no doubt that this guy’s gonna develop into a solid NFL player.”
Q: What did Watson and Moore have in common?
A: “Well, a drive and a passion. I spoke to both those players after we took them and both of them have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. They want to prove that they belong in the NFL, they want to prove that they were worthy of being picked where they were picked and, really, in their minds, should have been picked sooner. So, that’s a great thing. Both of them love the game of football and both of them want to be really good.”
Q: Is pass-rusher still a big need for you guys?
A: “Well, obviously, that’s something that we’re going to continue to look at. Sio Moore is a guy that has rushed the passer. We put him in in the Senior Bowl, put him at defensive end and let him go rush the quarterback a few times. He sacked the quarterback and had a hit on the quarterback. So, that’s one of the qualities that he has is that he does have some rush ability.”
Q: Is taking Moore an example of taking the best player available?
A: “Yeah, well, he was the guy, as you’re looking at the board, that name just keeps jumping off at you, that he was really the pick at that particular time. Adding him to the linebacker mix, you got to look at special teams. That’s one of the things that you want to do. So, the better your linebacker corps is, the better your special teams are going to be. So, he can help our team in a lot of different areas.”