In a year of quarterbacks, receivers have taken the rookie hardware, so far.For Week One, Packers receiver Randall Cobb was named the NFL.com Pepsi Rookie of the Week, with a receiving touchdown and a 108-yard kickoff return beating out Cam Newton and his 422 yards passing, a record for a rookie debut.In Week Two, Newton again was eclipsed, despite throwing for a rookie record 432 yards passing.Raiders receiver Denarius Moore, the 19th receiver taken in the 2011 draft, won the award with 146 receiving yards, 25 rushing yards, and a touchdown.READ MORE AT ProFootballTalk.com
ALAMEDA – The Raiders have struggled mightily covering tight ends. It hasn’t been a one-year thing. They’re notorious for letting that position run rampant over the past four years, allowing talent ranging from Travis Kelce to Gary Barnidge to tally huge totals against the Silver and Black.
The Raiders may have found a solution to that problem Friday in the second round. They selected massive combine freak and Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, a 6-foot-4 speedster who can match up well with most anyone.
“Look, this is no secret, we’ve struggled for the last couple of years covering the opponents’ tight ends,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We think this is a guy that can help out with his length, matchup against some of the bigger tight ends, some of the better tight ends. We’ll put him right in the mix.”
Del Rio can get creative with this kid. Melifonwu is a safety by trade, but can play cornerback – he proved that during Senior Bowl practices – and functions well from the slot. He can also play well in the box against the run game or deep in the pattern, providing versatility to the secondary.
The Raiders have incumbent starters at safety, with free safety Reggie Nelson and strong safety Karl Joseph. Nelson is 33 and entering a contract year, so Melifonwu could develop into a long-term partnership with Joseph, last year’s first-round pick.
Expect Melifonwu to help right away, especially against the recently bothersome tight end position.
“I feel like I’m a solid cover guy, especially versus tight ends,” Melifonwu said. “I feel like the majority of tight ends that I go up against I’m going to be faster than and really be able to cover them.”
The London, England native put on a show at the NFL scouting combine. He ran 40 yards in 4.40 seconds there, and did most every drill well.
“I think it did a lot for me,” Melifonwu said. “I think it showed my character, my poise and the ability to perform under pressure. And really the fact that not only am I an explosive player, I’m a player that has great hips and great range for somebody my size.”
Del Rio said is supported solid game tape, which improved as his college career progressed. He finished with a career-high 118 tackles and four interceptions. He also had 2.5 tackles for a loss and three passes defensed. He accounts the improvement to improved football knowledge.
“Just having a better sense of the game of football,” Melifonwu said. “My defensive back coach Anthony Poindexter was a great college safety and a great NFL safety. He really did a great job of helping me fine tune things like run fits, formations and really keyed every week to watch and how to watch the game of football, how to study the game of football which in result, helped me have the season I had.”
Position: Offensive tackle
Weight: 343 pounds
Selection: Fourth round, No. 129 overall
ALAMEDA – Donald Penn’s career is winding down. Their right tackle position is unset long-term, meaning the Raiders must look toward the future when it comes to the position.
Florida’s David Sharpe will get a chance to earn a starting tackle spot in time. He’s a massive individual, something offensive line coach Mike Tice prefers in his players. His long arms help keep rushers at bay, and he can block well on the move in the run game.
Analysts says he isn’t flexible or as agile as other lineman, and is better on his own off the edge than working on combination blocks.
The Raiders have great insight on Sharpe, considering head coach Jack Del Rio’s son Luke is Florida’s quarterback.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Sharpe is legally blind in his right eye, a claim Sharpe disputed leading up to the NFL Draft. He called it an unfounded rumor at Florida’s pro day, saying that his vision is fine.
Sharpe won’t be counted on to start this season, with Pro Bowler Donald Penn anchoring the left side and a trio of Marshall Newhouse, Austin Howard and Vadal Alexander compete to start at right tackle.
The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in football, status they’d like to retain by bringing in young blood to fill vacancies when they come.