Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom is congratulated at Raiders headquarters in Alameda on Saturday after being picked in the third round on Friday.

Raiders go heavy on defense on final NFL draft day

Published: Sunday, Apr. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 30, 2012 - 7:11 am

ALAMEDA – Miles Burris was watching the NFL draft with family at home in Granite Bay when he received the call telling him he'd be an Oakland Raider.

By the time he was patched into a conference call with media, Burris said, he'd needed to make his way to another room.

"It's getting a little loud," said Burris, an outside linebacker out of Granite Bay High School and San Diego State.

After taking an offensive guard with their only pick in the first three rounds, the Raiders went heavy on defense on the last day of the draft, using four of their five selections to bolster that side of the ball.

They used their fourth-round pick on Burris, a potential pass rusher who had eight sacks and 78 tackles in his final college season.

"We said hey, we've got a quality football player that's got a chance to come in and compete for a position on this team," Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of Burris. "And we wanted to try to bring him in here."

The Raiders also added a pair of basketball players-turned-defensive linemen in Penn State's Jack Crawford and Georgia State's Christo Bilukidi in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively. Neither began playing football until their later high school years.

McKenzie said both linemen are "a little raw," but intrigue with their athleticism. Crawford, a 6-foot-5, 273-pound defensive end born in England, recorded 6.5 sacks in his final college season. Bilukidi, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound tackle born in Angola, had 10 sacks in two seasons for Georgia State.

"It's so unlikely," an emotional Crawford said on a conference call.

"I told myself coming into this situation that I wasn't going to get upset if I didn't get drafted. I have come so far already. I am just so happy."

The Raiders also drafted receiver Juron Criner of Arizona in the fifth round and linebacker Nathan Stupar of Penn State in the seventh round.

They had previously added offensive guard Tony Bergstrom of Utah with their first pick in the draft, a compensatory pick at the end of the third round.

At Saturday's end, the Raiders' draft class seemed to reflect the changes atop the organization, as even the receiver Criner, who was clocked at 4.68 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, does not promise track-team speed.

"We set out to try to upgrade the team," McKenzie said. "By the end of the day we felt like we did that. It remains to be seen just how good they will be, but we anxiously will await their presence here in Oakland and also into camp."

McKenzie said the wave of defensive picks Saturday was a result of how the draft unfolded. But, he said, "I think we went into the draft from day one to address the defense."

"You've got to understand we have a defensive head coach and a defensive-minded general manager," McKenzie said. "So let's win on defense."

Burris said he was somewhat surprised when it was the Raiders who called him on draft day. He, like several of the Raiders' draft picks, said they had had contact with the Raiders before the draft, but only Bilukidi said he was brought in for a pre-draft visit.

Meanwhile, McKenzie confirmed that the Raiders will be bringing in free-agent quarterback Matt Leinart for a workout. ESPN had reported the visit Saturday morning.

If the Raiders were to sign Leinart, the former Heisman Trophy winner would ostensibly compete with Terrelle Pryor and Rhett Bomar for the job of backing up Carson Palmer.

RAIDERS REPORT CARD

DRAFT MISSION

With no picks until the end of the third round, the Raiders wanted to add depth on both sides of the ball and take the best available players.

OUTCOME

The Raiders used four of their six picks to bolster their defensive line and linebacking corps. Both defensive-line selections are physically gifted but raw. Miles Burris can help his case at outside linebacker by showing he can get to the quarterback. On the other side of the ball, Tony Bergstrom could be in the mix at guard because of movement on the inside of the Raiders' offensive line, and Juron Criner adds size – if not speed – to the Raiders' receiving group. Said general manager Reggie McKenzie: "We set out to try to upgrade the team. By the end of the day, we felt like we did that."

GRADE: B

– Matt Kawahara

THE NEWEST RAIDERS

MILES BURRIS

• Selected: 129th • College: San Diego State

• Position: OLB • Height, weight: 6-2, 246

• Comment: The Granite Bay product, a high-motor player who had eight sacks as a senior at San Diego State, said playing in a 3-3-5 defense in college made him versatile.

• Coach Dennis Allen says: "We wanted to go out and get quality football players, and that's what we feel like we got in Burris. I think he's a tough, physical player that's got good athletic skill, has instincts for the game, plays the game the right way."

JACK CRAWFORD

• Selected: 158th • College: Penn State

• Position: DE • Height, weight: 6-5, 273

• Comment: An England native who didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school, Crawford had 61/2 sacks and batted down six passes as a senior at Penn State.

• Allen says: "He's big, athletic, runs really well, and he's had some production. … As we get a chance to work with him, I think we're going to be able to define a pretty good role for him."

JURON CRINER

• Selected: 168th • College: Arizona

• Position: WR • Height, weight: 6-2, 220

• Comment: Productive wide receiver in college has an impressive frame, though his speed was questioned after he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 4.68 seconds.

• General manager Reggie McKenzie says: "For a big guy, he's quick. If he was a slow guy with no quickness, probably it would have been a struggle to get him there."

CHRISTO BILUKIDI

• Selected: 189th • College: Georgia State

• Position: DT • Height, weight: 6-5, 290

• Comment: Another late comer to football, Bilukidi, who was born in Angola, said he has experience playing both tackle and end and can work on playing lower to gain leverage.

McKenzie says: "Bottom line, he's a big man with really good athleticism, and he plays like he loves the game."

NATHAN STUPAR

• Selected: 230th • College: Penn State

• Position: L • Height, weight: 6-2, 241

• Comment: Stupar, who recorded 80 tackles as a senior at Penn State, has NFL bloodlines – his uncle is former Raiders quarterback Jeff Hostetler.

• McKenzie says: "I think we went into the draft from Day One to address the defense. We have a defensive head coach and a defensive-minded general manager, so let's win on defense."

– Matt Kawahara

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Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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