What up RaiderNation? Welcome to this week’s edition of My Two Cents, with your favorite prehistoric Raider fan, Old Timer. This week we will talk about the one real question mark the Raiders have on their roster, the Tight End position. When the Raiders let Brandon Myers walk this season, the Tight End position became up for grabs. With the addition of two Tight Ends via the draft, one via FA and another signed as a UDFA, the waters are muddier than ever. The Raiders now have six Tight Ends on their roster, none of which has shown anything as of yet to say that they will be the starter once the season starts. The six are David Ausberry, Richard Gordon, Nick Kasa, Mychal Rivera, Brian Leonhardt, and Jeron Mastrud. I will break them down one by one as to their strengths and weaknesses, and then give my prediction as to who will be the starter once the season starts.
Let’s start with David Ausberry. Ausberry was a WR in high school (Lemoore) and college (USC) but was been converted to TE by the Raiders when they drafted him in 2011. At 6’4″, 258 pounds and 4.48 wheels, Ausberry makes an intriguing physical specimen for the position, but as you might expect with him only having played WR prior to being drafted by the Raiders, his biggest deficiency is blocking. His catching and playmaking ability plenty good enough to be a starter, so if he can improve enough at blocking in his 3rd year with the Raiders, the job will be his. This video showcases his playmaking ability:
Next up is Richard Gordon. Gordon is another 3rd year player who is kind of the opposite of Ausberry. Gordon is 6’4″ and 268 pounds, but is not a pass catching TE, his forte is blocking, and is the best on the roster in that capacity. As long as the four new additions at TE to the Raider roster prove to be better blockers than Gordon, his spot on the roster is not safe, and he will not be a starter unless his pass catching ability improves dramatically. I was unable to find any blocking highlights by Gordon, in fact, the only highlight I could find on him was this 1 yard TD against the Steelers:
The Raiders did pick up a TE in FA, but he is not a big name signing. Jeron Mastrud was a UDFA that was originally signed by Tampa Bay in 2010. He played in all of the pre-season games with Tampa Bay before being cut during the last round of cuts. He spent one day on the practice squad in New England, before being signed a few months later by Miami. He was promoted to their 53 man roster 3 weeks into the season in a reserve role. Mastrud was not offered a qualifying offer by Miami, so was free to sign anywhere. He signed with the Raiders on May 13th, 2013. Mastrud set records at Kansas State for Tight Ends including receptions (106) and yards (1219) and started 48 games over his 4 years there. At 6’6″ and 268 pounds, Mastrud is known for his run blocking, but is a decent red zone threat as well. He will likely have to improve at both to make the final roster. Again, I could find no blocking highlights, but here is an 18 yard touchdown from Matt Moore:
Now for the first of the TE draft picks, Nick Kasa. Kasa started off his college career as a DE, converting to TE in his Junior year. Although he did not contribute much that year, his Senior year was much different. He started every game that year, making 25 catches for 391 yards and 3 TD’s. At 6’6″ and 265 pounds, Kasa is another one of the Raider TE’s that is best known for his pass blocking, but he is a big target with good hands and decent straight-line speed as can be seen in this highlight video:
The second TE drafted by the Raiders this year was Mychal Rivera. Rivera first went to Oregon, but when Chip Kelly asked him to change to an offensive lineman, Rivera asked for, and was granted his release from his scholarship at Oregon. In 2010, Rivera started school at Tennessee, and played in every game that season. In 2011, Rivera started all 12 games, catching 29 passes for 344 yards and 1 TD. In his Senior season, he started 10 of the 12 games catching 36 passes for 562 yards and 5 TD’s, and broke the single-season team record set by Jason Witten for most receiving yards by a tight end. Rivera is a move-the-chains type of guy, with great hands and an uncanny ability to catch the ball in traffic. He is not much of a blocker though, and will have to get better at that if he is to have any chance of being the starter. He has decent straight-line speed, but is not going to out-run the DB’s. He reminds me quite a lot of Brandon Myers. Here are some highlights:
The last Tight End on the roster is UDFA Brian Leonhardt. Leonhardt comes from a small Division 2 school named Bemidji State which is located in Minnesota. He was a bit small in high school and early college career, but by his Sophomore year he had bulked up enough to become the starting TE. His Junior year he started all 11 games, and caught 35 passes for 483 yards and 2 TD’s. He missed some playing time in his Senior year due to a foot injury, but still caught 25 passes for 343 yards and 3 TD’s. He played in the Texas against the Nation game, and was named Offensive MVP after he caught 4 passes for 62 yards and 1 TD. Unlike most of the other TE’s on the Raider roster, Leonhardt is very good at both receiving and blocking, but the question is, will he be able to perform as well against NFL talent as compared to Division 2 college talent. Only time will tell. Here are some highlights:
Now to make sense out of all of this. In my opinion, the job is David Ausberry’s to lose. That being said, the Raiders are going to rely on blocking this year even more than they did before with the offense being revamped to best utilize Darren McFadden’s talent. I see 4 of these players making the roster, and 1 making the practice squad. Mastrud or Gordon will be the odd man out. I also see Leonhardt making the 53 man roster, provided he lives up to his billing, otherwise, I can see him landing on the practice squad. So my prediction is the following depth chart at TE. 1. David Ausberry, 2. Nick Kasa, 3. Mychal Rivera, 4. Brian Leonhardt with Gordon or Mastrud going to the practice squad, and the other player cut altogether.
So what say ye my Raider brothers and sisters? Hit me up either by comment in the comment section at the bottom of the column, or shoot me an email (email address listed below).
Well, that’s it for this week my Raider brothers and sisters. Make sure to check back next week for another edition of My Two Cents. Peace out RaiderNation!!
Questions? Comments? Email me at OldTimer@silverandblackdaily.com