Thursday, January 22, 2009

B. J. Raji Soaring up the Draft Board, Oher Dominates

by: William P. Tomisser

Those scouts who have proclaimed that there isn't a defensive tackle worthy of a top ten pick this year are starting to eat their words.

After three days of practice at Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl to be held this Saturday, defensive tackle B. J. Raji from Boston College has dominated the practices. At 6' 2" and 334 lbs, he's not at all fat. In fact, he doesn't look that big until he gets close to another lineman who you know is a 300 pounder. He is absolutely a beast and is expected to dominate in the game Saturday.

He has pushed virtually every top college senior offensive lineman into the offensive backfield, including Alex Mack and Max Unger. No one has been able to stand up to him. Many draft boards have already pushed him into their top ten pick status and some are saying that the combine could power him into the top 5.

Here's what Rob Rang has to say about Raji:

Regardless of who lined up in front of him Tuesday, Raji overpowered him. Built like a Coke machine and just as tough to move, Raji holds up well against the run. His burst off the snap is impressive, as well, allowing teams to project him at nose guard and defensive tackle. When not pushing his opponent into the backfield, Raji often was able to knife through the gaps and disrupt the timing of both running and passing plays during the North Team’s morning practice. - Rob Rang

To Continue . . .

Read Rob's complete assessment here.

Could he be on the Seahawk's radar? There are some character concerns that have tempered some scouts' enthusiasm for him as a top 10 pick and have made them consider him only a probable top 15 selection. He has been suspended and ejected for on-field problems. The details are sketchy and there are some rumors that some of the issues aren't being placed fairly on him. I hadn't heard of any off-field problems, though.

His abilities are a very good match for what the Seahawks have been looking for in a defensive tackle for quite some time now. He's big, strong, and particularly disruptive in the middle of the line.

Not only is he an immovable object in the middle of the line that clogs the middle of the field against the run, but his quick feet forces offensive lineman to double up on stopping his penetration which allows outside rushers to have a much less impeded path to the quarterback.

He would be exactly what Mora needs to add to our defensive tackle rotation to have our front four provide a pass rush that would be difficult to stop, thus allowing our linebackers and defensive backs to do their jobs without the need to be involved heavily in blitz schemes.

There wouldn't be any holes in our defense for the opposition to exploit due to having to commit additional players to blitz, as the Seahawks have had to do to generate a decent pass rush in the last few years. We haven't had a defensive tackle with abilities like Raji is showing since Cortez Kennedy played for us.

Also, in the day 3 recap, Michael Oher received some rave reviews. They say he has pancaked several rushers and was able to hold up against the speed rushers as well. Some scouts called him the most dominating player on the field today. Definitely, Oher and Raji are the offensive and defensive players to keep an eye on in the game Saturday as the top talent in the trenches.

Here's what Rang had to say about Oher:

The most physically gifted player on either team remains Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher. While blessed with the strength and foot speed of an All-Pro, Oher's grade is lower with scouts than his physical talents warrant. The concerns are almost completely personality driven as teams try to determine if the All-American has the will and toughness to maximize his jaw-dropping potential.

If Tuesday's practice was any indication, Oher is out to prove he has the nastiness scouts are looking for. His initial match within the pit came against Hawaii defensive end David Veikune. Veikune, whose speed and quick hands gave pass blockers trouble at times Tuesday, allowed his hands to get too high and ripped Oher's helmet off. Undeterred, Oher forcefully controlled Veikune on the play, shaking him like a rag doll well after the Jacksonville coaches were yelling to stop.

Many of Oher's remaining matchups in the pit went the same way. On the first play of a later scrimmage, Oher, left uncovered, released off the line to snatch, lift and drive an unfortunate outside linebacker in his path. The physicality and aggression did not go unnoticed by scouts.

Like Raji, it appears that Oher has also had on-field issues, but no off-field problems. Both players will probably be interviewed by Seattle coaches and scouts and evaluated for those on-field problems they allegedly have had. It seems to me that someone who is willing to give those two players a chance is looking at the possibility of acquiring a truly dominating player who could be a perennial all-pro and pro bowl candidate.

Of course the flip side is that either one could become a problem and not realize that vast potential. We can rest pretty easy in Seattle that Ruskell will sort it out and not take too big a chance on any player with our number 4 pick. I just hope they don't get too cautious and pass up the player of the decade in the process as realized by another team with a little more tolerance and more willing to take some risk.

We all remember what happened when everyone passed on Randy Moss until Minnesota took him in the bottom half of the first round, as he was a dominating offensive player for a number of years for them. Right now, Oher and Raji look to be the two most dominating and talked-about players from the Senior Bowl practices. We're in the market for such a player here in Seattle, aren't we?

How about it, Addicts? Do we play it safe and just say no thanks to those two talents, or do we dig deeper and evaluate their past transgressions and consider how they could change our fortunes here in Seattle?


Bill T