AFC West: Justin Gilbert

Totally spit-balling here, like just about every other draft prognosticater out there, but if the Dallas Cowboys are as hot and heavy for Johnny Manziel as Twitter would have you believe, the Oakland Raiders might be sitting in prime position.

So long as two scenarios play out.

Manziel
The first, obviously, is that Manziel is still on the board when it comes time for the Raiders’ choice at No. 5 overall.

The second, is that both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are already gone, because if either of those guys are still available, that has to be Oakland’s pick, at least, in this corner.

In that combined development, though, the Raiders could reach out to Jerry Jones and offer up that No. 5 selection for a boatload of picks. Using the Trade Value Chart, the No. 5 pick is worth 1,700 points. The No. 16 pick, which is where the Cowboys currently sit, is worth 1,000 points.

So, for the swap to work, the Cowboys would have to come up with 700 more points in draft picks, or a player. Dallas’ second-rounder this year (No. 47 overall) is worth 430 points and its third-rounder (No. 78) is worth 200 points, while its fourth-rounder (No. 119) is worth 56 points. That gives the Raiders two seconds, two thirds and two fourths, but still nothing in the fifth or sixth rounds to go with three seventh-rounders. It also still leaves the Cowboys needing 14 points to make up the difference.

Of course, the Trade Value Chart is more of a guideline for teams than a hard fast rule, and the Cowboys would have to stomach gutting the middle of their draft, though they could conceivably involve future picks in such a deal.

Plus, from the Raiders’ perspective, going from No. 5 to No. 16 is a pretty big drop (last year, they went from No. 3 to No. 12). Because as has been mentioned in this corner, Oakland needs an impact player with its first pick, rather than a developmental one like in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first two seasons in Tony Bergstrom and D.J. Hayden.

So who could potentially be there at No. 16? Think UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, or Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, or Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III, or USC receiver Marqise Lee, or even Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Or should the Raiders simply stay put at No. 5 and take the best player available?

Might Raiders be in market for CB?

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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The Oakland Raiders used their top draft pick on a cornerback last season in D.J. Hayden, and big things are expected of him in his second season, what with his being healthy enough to have a full offseason. And while three other corners will be unrestricted free agents in Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and Phillip Adams, it does not seem likely Oakland will again take a cornerback with its first pick, at No. 5 overall. Then again, if a quality corner falls into their lap, perhaps.

A look, then, at three cornerbacks who intrigued the masses at the NFL combine on Monday ...

CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State)

Widely seen as the top cornerback in the draft, he cemented said status with a show in Indianapolis. The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, fastest among defensive backs. He also showed strength in getting 20 reps in the bench press, which was the second-highest number among corners, and explosiveness with a 35.5-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 10-6. Scouts rave about his ball skills and physicality.

CB Jason Verrett (TCU)

Verrett also did a lot to improve his draft stock at the combine. Besides showing speed in the 40 (4.38 seconds), he also had a 39-inch vertical (third best among corners, seventh best of the entire combine). Still, at just 5-9, 189 pounds, his future seems to be in an NFL slot, and it would be difficult to see a team using their lone first-round pick on a nickelback, no?

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)

OK, so, many critics think Jean-Baptiste stunk up the joint with a 4.61-second 40-yard dash. But he is big. At 6-3, 218 pounds he would not be dwarfed by the bigger receivers in the NFL. His 41.5-inch vertical was the second-best mark of the combine and his 10-8 broad jump was sixth-best in the combine.
Like most other NFL organizations, the San Diego Chargers are a team that builds and maintains its roster through the draft. General manager Tom Telesco doesn’t necessarily put any more value on securing impact players through the draft, versus trade or free agency.

But annually selecting rookies that can make an impact on a team’s roster is important, particularly when you consider the player will be under the team’s control for at least four years, likely at an inexpensive salary.

So getting detailed medical evaluations and vetting players through the intense interviewing process are the most important things for teams this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Of the 53 players that finished the season on San Diego’s roster, 23 were secured through the draft, compared to 27 free agents, two through trades, and one claimed off waivers.

The Chargers have seven original picks in this year’s draft, one in each round beginning with the No. 25 overall pick. So they will be paying close attention to the more than 330 players invited to this year’s combine.

Along with evaluating draft prospects, Telesco will have an opportunity to meet with middle linebacker Donald Butler's representation as the Chargers try to get him signed to a multi-year deal before he hits free agency next month.

Here are five things to keep an eye on regarding the Chargers.

1. Physical cornerbacks who can turn and run: A major area of need for San Diego is improving the overall talent and depth at cornerback. Last year’s top free agent signee Derek Cox likely will not be back after being supplanted in the starting lineup by Richard Marshall. San Diego’s 2013 fifth-round selection Steve Williams could work into the conversation at corner in 2014. The Cal product sat out his rookie year after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during preseason play. But the Chargers need to add a couple physical corners who can cover -- through the draft, free agency or trade. Some names to keep an eye on include Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy. Those players stand out to me because of their length, athleticism and playmaking ability.

2. Edge rushers needed: The Chargers have several veterans at this position, but you can never have enough athletes who can rush the passer. And San Diego struggled at creating consistent pressure, particularly on third down. Three guys potentially available on Day 1 of the draft who could make an impact include Missouri’s Kony Ealy, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, and Auburn’s Dee Ford.

3. A run-stuffing defensive tackle: San Diego gave up an average of 4.59 yards per carry on defense in 2013, No. 29 in the NFL. Cam Thomas started the most games at defensive tackle, but will be a free agent in March. Sean Lissemore finished as the team’s starter at the end of the season, but needs to add some bulk to effectively fill this position. San Diego could certainly use a two-gap defensive tackle to control the middle of the defense, similar to Dontari Poe in Kansas City. Potential candidates in the draft include Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III, Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman, and Penn State’s Daquan Jones.

4. Improved interior offensive line depth: With center Nick Hardwick contemplating retirement and veteran guard Jeromey Clary a potential salary-cap causality, the Chargers need to add some depth to the interior of the offensive line. Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Stanford’s David Yankey are the top rated guards in this year’s draft. And USC’s Marcus Martin could be the long-term answer for a team at center.

5. Add a couple explosive playmakers: San Diego could use some help in the return game. Keenan Allen should not be the team’s main punt returner. He’s too valuable on offense. And the Chargers could use someone with some juice in the kick return game. Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, and Oregon’s De'Anthony Thomas makes some sense because of their ability to create explosive plays on offense and in the return game. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers needs a few more weapons on offense to make his job easier, and all three of these players would fit the bill.
SAN DIEGO -- Upgrading the cornerback position for the San Diego Chargers remains the focus in the latest mock drafts published by ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.

Even though San Diego’s pass defense was much better during the stretch run of the team’s surprise entry into the postseason, the Chargers had just 11 interceptions during the regular season, tied for No. 26 in the league, and allowed an average of 258.7 passing yards a contest (No. 29 in the NFL).

In this ESPN Insider piece Insider, Kiper Jr. selects Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson for the Chargers at No. 25. Roberson makes some sense, particularly because at 6-0 and 195 pounds, he gives San Diego some much-needed size at the position. In his first mock draft Insider, Kiper Jr. had the Chargers taking Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. Here is what Kiper Jr. had to say about Roberson.

Kiper Jr.: “The Chargers did a pretty good job of scheming their way around some holes at corner during the late-season run, but there's no question they could use another good cornerback (or two), particularly because I think that defensive line and pass rush could take another step forward next season. Roberson can get a little lackadaisical, but it can also look easy for him out there because he has good instincts and a sense of where routes are going. He has long arms and can get his hands on the ball. He simply needs to be more physical against the run and grab a little less in coverage.”

In this ESPN Insider piece Insider, McShay has the Chargers selecting a different cornerback from the University of Florida, Loucheiz Purifoy, at No. 25. In his first mock draft Insider, McShay gave the Chargers Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Purifoy makes sense because of his athleticism and playmaking ability at 6-foot and 190 pounds. Purifoy also has the ability to return kicks, another high-priority need for San Diego. Here’s what McShay had to say about Purifoy.

McShay: “The Chargers need to upgrade at cornerback and in the return game, and Purifoy could help in both areas. He is raw with his technique but has the potential to develop into a playmaker at corner because of his very good ball skills, and because he's one of the most naturally talented defensive backs in this draft. If the Chargers pass on Purifoy, they could go with a smaller but equally skilled and more polished cover corner in TCU's Jason Verrett. If they take a CB here, they could target a pass-rusher like Auburn's Dee Ford in Round 2 and a guard like Baylor's Cyril Richardson in Round 3.”

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