This is the third of a team-by-team series, analyzing five prospects each team should consider in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Considering that the Oakland Raiders dropped from 8-8 in 2011 to 4-12 a season ago in their first year under the guidance of general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen, it might not appear that this is a team on the rise.
Allen, however, would disagree.
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"We have a real plan, a real vision for what we want with this thing," Allen said at the owners' meetings.
Gone are the free-spending ways the Raiders used to employ under late owner Al Davis. McKenzie and Allen are taking a more sensible, frugal approach to building the roster, which might include jettisoning incumbent starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who is due $13 million this year.
A move involving Palmer appears imminent, after the April 1 acquisition of Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks became official.
This is an outright indication that the new Raiders' brass has hit the reset button.
With few better options readily available, it might have made more sense for the 2013 season to keep the former No. 1 overall pick in town, but the Raiders are clearly focused on the big picture, which requires a healthy salary cap.
The Raiders wouldn't gain much under the cap by releasing or trading Palmer at this point. Over $9.5 million of his salary is already on the books for the upcoming season. The sting of giving up on Palmer will be felt on draft day, as well, considering that the Bengals possess the Raiders' second-round pick as the final compensation for the deal.
The Raiders are still more focused on retooling a defense that lacked any teeth.
Oakland finished 31st in the NFL in 2012 with just 25 sacks. Considering the road to the playoffs in the AFC West runs through Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, improving the pass defense is critical, whether it be in the form of a pass rusher or help in the secondary.
Oakland Raiders' 2013 draft picks: 3, 66, 100, 172, 205, 209, 219
Primary needs: CB, DE/OLB, OG, OT, QB
General manager: Reggie McKenzie, second season
Five draft picks that clicked:
--LB Miles Burris, 129th overall, 2012
--OC Stefen Wisniewski, 48th overall, 2011
--WR Denarius Moore, 148th overall, 2011
--DL Lamarr Houston, 44th overall, 2010
--OT Jared Veldheer, 69th overall, 2010
Five players who should be on the Oakland Raiders' draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)
Despite signing three veteran defensive linemen in free agency in Pat Sims (Bengals), Vance Walker (Falcons) and Jason Hunter (Broncos), the Raiders are simply filling in holes as the club released Tommy Kelly this week after previously allowing Desmond Bryant, Matt Shaughnessy and Dave Tollefson to leave. Floyd, who played outside at defensive end for the Gators in 2011 before making the switch inside to defensive tackle in a breakout junior campaign, has the quickness and strength to be a considerable pass-rush threat from the interior. Paired with Houston, he'd give the Raiders a formidable rush up the middle.
The Raiders could be fortunate enough to choose between Floyd, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated defender, and Milliner, the unquestioned top cornerback in this class. Milliner would fill the bigger need, as Oakland's most glaring weakness at this point is at cornerback. The 6-0, 201-pound Milliner plays with the physicality, speed and toughness to stand out immediately, but the unique depth at cornerback this year could allow the team to push off this concern until the later rounds.
While Alabama's Chance Warmack and North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper certainly deserve all of the credit they're getting as the elite interior linemen of the 2013 draft, the dropoff to Warford, a first-team All-SEC performer, isn't as steep as some might think. The battle-tested Warford would give the Raiders a formidable run blocker to pair with Wisniewski.
After a solid showing at his pro day, Simon is generating momentum as one of the more intriguing pass-rushers of the 2013 draft class. Oakland has been hesitant to characterize their defensive plans in 2013, but its moves in free agency haven't curtailed speculation that the club might be looking to incorporate more 3-4 principles into the attack. Simon, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, is a high-motor pass rusher who is at his best when moving forward.
Although the Raiders are set at one tackle position with the young and talented Vollmer, the club is gambling if it's planning to rely on free agent Alex Barron on the other side. Williams is a unique athlete who could prove a better NFL player than he was at North Carolina. He has all the tools but could slip a bit on draft day due to the unique depth at offensive tackle this year and the fact that a torn labrum caused him to miss the final four games of his senior season as well as any opportunity to compete in a senior all-star game or the combine.
For more NFL draft news and analysis, follow Rob Rang on Twitter at @RobRang.