The fourth episode of the Best Player Available Podcast is out, and this week’s guest is former Raiders Director of Pro Personnel Dane Vandernat. Dane, who is now the Director of Scouting for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, is not only well-spoken and has incredible insight into the draft, but he’s also honest and willing to discuss things that don’t necessarily make him look like a genius. It’s the kind of refreshing candor that I hoped to get from my friends when I launched this podcast, and so far, I’ve been really pleased.
Here are four (of the many) interesting points he made in this week’s podcast:
- On the No. 2 pick, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, only starting one year: “That was one of the things that early in my career, our coaching staff really kinda drove home to me was, No. 1, we want multi-year starters at every position and every draft pick, but especially for quarterback. You want a minimum two-year starter, and it was really, obviously, (former USC QB) Mark Sanchez that kinda changed some peoples’ opinions, or it became, hey, is it possible a guy could be only a one-year starter if he’s sitting behind supremely talented people like . . . (former USC QB) Matt Leinart, you know, who obviously also sat behind (former USC QB) Carson Palmer? So, you know, can you have certain situations like that? Obviously, not everyone’s gonna be (former USC QB) Sam Darnold where you go in as a true freshman and you win the job for the next three-plus years. And then, obviously, as we all know, people don’t stay in college for four years anymore. Most people come out as juniors, a la (former Clemson QB) Deshaun Watson. It’s not uncommon these days to not have four-year starters, especially at quarterback, but, for me, I definitely want a multi-year starter for no other reason but I need enough games to go back and really get a great feel for the guy.”
- On NFL scouts’ concerns about Alabama players: “Obviously, those guys at Alabama, they’re going full pads in the season. They run a physical program. Nick Saban’s coaching his tail off down there and you’re obviously seeing the results from it, but the one thing that’s consistent with Alabama players, or at least had been when I was in the league, was that a lot of their guys come out banged up. A lot of their guys are gonna show up at the combine and they’re gonna have labral repairs, they’re gonna have meniscus repairs just due to the physicality of these guys, obviously, even in practice, going up against the best of the best.”
- On preferring big-school players over small-schoolers: “(Raiders GM) Reggie McKenzie came from the Ron Wolf lineage up there in Green Bay, and Ron Wolf absolutely did not like small-school football players. He preferred the power conferences and, obviously, the guys who were four- and five-star guys coming out of high school, and that practiced every day against that caliber, that echelon of player, then obviously played on Saturdays against the same type. There certainly is a bias there, but it didn’t really manifest itself so much with Reggie, at least it didn’t have the appearance of it. We never truly knocked a guy in 2017. We drafted Jylen Ware in the seventh round out of Alabama State, so some of the times we certainly weren’t shy about adding players that came from non-elite programs. Our second-round pick in 2017, Obi Melifonwu, came from UConn, which is certainly no college football powerhouse, as everyone knows. So it wasn’t intentional to stick to Power 5 programs.”
- On how the Raiders stacked the running back board: “(Oklahoma’s) Samaje Perine, for instance, he didn’t really pan out that well in the NFL, but he was a guy that we had a little bit of love for, for instance. He was our fifth-highest rated running back that year, alongside D’Onte Foreman from Texas. For us, we did run a little bit more of a power scheme with our tailbacks, then we supplemented it with those Jalen Richards and D’Andre Washingtons who gave us a little bit more of a scatback/third down back-type skillset. . . we had it, (LSU’s) Leonard Fournette, (Stanford’s) Christian McCaffrey, (Tennessee’s) Alvin Kamara, then Foreman and Perine like I mentioned, and then (Florida State’s) Dalvin Cook, (South Florida’s) Marlon Mack and (BYU’s) Jamaal Williams.”
Next week’s guest is two-time NFL GM Randy Mueller, who was with the Chargers in 2017. It’s a lively and fun discussion, and it’s only a week away. For more on the business of football, make sure to sign up for the Friday Wrap, which comes out Fridays (duh).