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UDFA’s are valuable to the Raiders

The NFLPA’s holdout continues and the NFL’s lockout of the players continues as well. Today, Michael Huff’s toenail on his big toe fell off. After receiving the news that this was not normal behavior for a toenail via his Twitter account, he attempted to make use of his health insurance, only to find out he no longer had it because of the lockout.

The lockout is certainly starting to affect the players in their wallets. I wonder how long it will take before they get sick of DeMaurice Smith — I know they are already sick of the owners. But the players won’t be the only ones hurt by the owner’s decision to lock them out. Ultimately it will negatively affect the owners themselves. One way is by not being able to sign undrafted free agents post draft. Let’s take a closer look at undrafted free agents the Raiders have on their current roster.

FB Marcel Reece:

Certainly one of my favorites and a guy who made his versatility more than evident last year blocking for halfbacks in a backfield that ranked second in the league in 2010. He also made his impact with the ball in his hands with 55 touches for 588 total yards and four touchdowns. His play stood out amongst fullbacks in the NFL and it’s really a wonder he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. But if he keeps going at the rate he was last year, it won’t be long before he starts drawing a more national audience. He’s got the ability to re-invent the job of fullback and make it a position that is desired on NFL teams.

DT Desmond Bryant:

This 6’5″ 290 pound Harvard graduate has given the Raiders a solid rotation of defensive tackles combined with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. In his first two seasons as a Raiders’ reserve he has amassed an impressive 53 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble and recovery. His most impessive game thus far came in the finale against Kansas City when he had six tackles and a sack in the Raiders rout of the Chiefs at Arrowhead. He has not yet reached his peak performance and he has a high ceiling that I’m sure defensive line coach Mike Waufle wants to take more advantage of this coming year. Playing behind feisty veteran Richard Seymour for two more years will only help to speed his development.

FS Hiram Eugene:

Eugene has certainly made his presence known on the Raider special teams unit. Last year alone he recovered three fumbles. Heading into his sixth season this year, Eugene has been credited with 127 solo tackles. Not bad for an undrafted kid from Louisiana Tech. This year he may have an opportunity to become the Raiders’ starter at free safety as he just signed a four-year contract extension. His teammate, the aforementioned Michael Huff, confirmed today that he indeed does not have a contract signed to remain with the team in 2011. It’s looking more and more like the battle will be between Eugene and 2010 rookie Stevie Brown. Eugene has a distinct advantage based on his experience alone.

LB Ricky Brown:

Brown has been riddled with injuries during his time with the Raiders but actually managed to be active in a surprising 14 games last year. It was not too long ago that he was penciled in as the SAM starter for the team and he was actually quite impressive when he was able to participate. He has shown enough promise to remain with the team in spite of his injuries and is a valuable backup at both the outside linebacker and middle linebacker positions. Brown is a bit undersized for an NFL linebacker but he makes up for it with good instincts and his passion for the game. He was credited with one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries last season and has started in 13 games as a linebacker for the Raiders.

LS Jon Condo:

He has made himself known as the exclusive snapper for one of the most formidable NFL kicker-punter combinations in the history of the game. Condo received a bid to play in the 2009 Pro Bowl as the AFC long snapper and Shane Lechler often cites Condo as a major reason why the Raiders kicking game has been so reliable over the past four seasons. Condo is officially listed as a linebacker, but rarely sees the field on defense. Odds are he will continue to have a chokehold on the long snapper position for the Raiders for years to come.

WR/PR Nick Miller:

Miller is very intriguing. He makes some terrific plays when he is given the opportunity, but unfortunately that opportunity has eluded him for most regular season games. He was mainly used to return punts for the Raiders in 2010 and only managed one catch — in true Nick Miller fashion, it was quite impressive. Still, Miller has made enough of a mark with coaches to make the 53-man roster in both of his first two years, including 16 games of his first year in which he was injured but not placed on IR until the final game. Miller gives the Raiders a talented depth player who appears to have a tremendous upside and will give them the leeway not to look for more receivers in the draft this year. Personally, I want to see him on the field more in 2011, but we’ll see what the future holds for this kid from D-II Utah State.

The current list of UDFA’s for the Raiders are all final-53 type players who have key roles with the team. Many of them have a high ceiling in terms of talent and ability and with some quality coaching could become legit starters for the squad. Not being able to sign undrafted free agents in 2011 could be a big setback for this team in terms of getting their hands on some guys who were overlooked by other teams, or who have question marks attached to them but have some talent.

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