Oakland Raiders Seeking Diamonds in the Rough
John Doublin – May 5, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is over, the Oakland Raiders' rookie camp has started and general manager Reggie McKenzie has been hard at work trying to find even more players to compete for a spot on the team.
Names like Kurt Warner, Jeff Saturday, London Fletcher, Arian Foster, Wes Welker and Raiders' legend Willie Brown have all been signed to NFL teams as undrafted free agents and went on to have great careers.
The 2012 off-season is no different than any other season—teams are looking for that "diamond-in-the-rough" that all the other teams over-looked in the draft. McKenzie and the Raiders have met with and worked out many of these unheralded guys.
Most of the names on this list are not as yet confirmed signings, but all have been to Raiders' camp for a workout and most have entered into negotiations with the team.
Andre Hardy-TE-Cal State Fullerton: Hardy is looking to be the next Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham. He never played college football, but was a standout basketball player at CSF who, for whatever reason, wasn't drafted into the NBA.
At 6'5", 250 pounds, Hardy has the size to be a solid TE, but still has a lot to learn. His position coach, Mark Hutson, will have his work cut out for him to make this former power forward into an NFL tight end. Hardy has been signed to the team, but that is only the beginning of his NFL journey.
Aaron Henry-S-Wisconsin: With the re-signing of Matt Giordano and the restructuring of Michael Huff's contract, the free safety position is pretty well set in Oakland. However, Henry has a legitimate shot to compete with Giordano for the back up role.
Henry, a former 1st team all Big-10 player, is likely to make an instant impact on special teams and all reports suggest that he has the intellect to study and learn the NFL game. Giordano better bring his "A-game" if he wants to beat out Henry for playing time.
Derek Carrier-WR-Beloit College: Carrier was extremely productive as a wide receiver at tiny Beloit college. His size, (6'4"-235) suggests that he's capable of playing tight end if he can add just a bit more bulk. Should he prefer playing wide receiver, he'll need to slim down some and work on his speed.
With a total of five tight ends and eight wide receivers currently on the roster, the road to the NFL is going to be a tough one for this Div-II prospect. Carrier is reported to be a hard worker and extremely smart. He will have to utilize both of these traits if he wants a spot on the Raiders.
Dominique Hamilton-DT-Missouri: Not known as particularly athletic, Hamilton was not signed to be a pass rusher, but rather a big-bodied run-stuffer. Hamilton has incredible strength and the ability to soak up double teams in the trenches.
With six defensive tackles currently on the roster, including Pro-Bowler Richard Seymour, Hamilton will have to be very impressive to make the team. It's more likely that Hamilton will be relegated to the practice squad until such time as head coach Dennis Allen makes a permanent commitment to a 3-4 scheme.
Lucas Nix-OL-Pittsburgh: Nix is perhaps the most surprising undrafted free agent picked up by the Raiders. Most "draft experts" had Nix being selected as early as the late 3rd or early 4th rounds, (including this writer). Getting him as an undrafted free agent makes Nix a value-packed prospect.
No team selected Nix, so McKenzie and the Raiders grabbed him up as soon as the draft was over. With a desperate need for depth along the offensive line, Nix's versatility, (having played both guard and tackle at a Div-I school) will give him an inside track at making the team for the 2012 season.
Brandon Carswell-WR-USC: Carswell is an interesting prospect. Graded as a 7th round pick by most, he has the size, (6'1"-201 pounds) and speed, (4.47-40yd dash) to be a quality NFL receiver. The only question is: How hard is he willing to work?
Having come from a premier college program, it's unclear how Carswell failed to be drafted, but McKenzie was true to his word when he said he wanted competition at every position in 2012. Adding Carswell to an already young and talented wide receiving corps certainly backs up McKenzie's statement.
This list represents only six of the undrafted free agents invited to Raiders' rookie mini-camp. There are six more:
- Conroy Black-CB-Utah
- Kealin Burnett-OLB/DE-Nevada
- Tray Session-WR-Nevada
- Marquette King-P-Fort Valley State
- Raphael Guidry-DT-Kansas State
- Thomas Mayo-WR-California (PA)
Closing: Thus far, only Hardy has been officially announced by the team, but all of these players have been to Alameda for a workout. Whether or not all of these young men are signed is still in question. One thing is for sure, McKenzie wasn't kidding when he said that he was going to create competition at every spot.
Obviously, not all of these guys will make the team. Some will, some will be moved to the practice squad and some will be forced to chase their dream of playing in the NFL with another team.
The players on this list with the best chance to make the 53-man active roster are Lucas Nix, Andre Hardy and Aaron Henry. The players most likely to make the practice squad are Dominique Hamilton, Brandon Carswell and Kealin Burnett. The rest will have to find other teams to take a chance on them.
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