ALAMEDA (CBS / AP) — After having a quiet first two days of the NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders started to make moves Saturday to add needed depth to their roster.
The Raiders drafted San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris, Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford and Arizona receiver Juron Criner with their first three picks Saturday and also planned a visit with Matt Leinart to possibly fill the backup quarterback role.
New general manager Reggie McKenzie had just one pick in the first three rounds because of past moves and used it on Utah guard Tony Bergstrom. McKenzie said he wanted to target players with a passion for the game and he found another in Burris with the 129th overall pick.
“I’m a very versatile player and I pride myself on being tough and playing through every game and practice no matter how I feel and no matter what’s going on with my body,” Burris said. “I’m an explosive and powerful player and I just love the game. I love the violence of it and I just love to go out and compete.”
Burris had eight sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and 78 tackles for the Aztecs last season when he was a first-team Mountain West selection for the second straight season.
The Raiders were in need of a linebacker with the ability to pressure the quarterback after releasing Kamerion Wimbley in a cost-cutting move last month. They signed free agent Philip Wheeler to take Wimbley’s spot and also have Aaron Curry returning at outside linebacker. But those two have combined for only 7.5 sacks in 107 career games. Burris had 17.5 sacks the past two seasons.
McKenzie then traded down with Detroit in the fifth round, dropping from 148th to 158th and adding a seventh-rounder in the process. He then picked Crawford, a latecomer to football who is viewed as somewhat of a project.
Crawford moved from England to the United States to play basketball in high school and picked up football in his junior year in high school. He then went to Penn State, where he started the past three seasons. He had 6.5 sacks for the Nittany Lions last season.
The Raiders then took Arizona receiver Juron Criner with a compensatory pick at the end of the fifth round. Criner had 75 catches for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns last season for Arizona.
He was a productive player for the Wildcats with 31 touchdowns and 202 catches for 2,770 yards his final three seasons but lacks the top-end speed the Raiders targeted in receivers under longtime owner Al Davis. He was clocked at 4.68 seconds at the NFL combine, which hurt his draft standing.
The Raiders are also looking to fill a void at backup quarterback by scheduling a visit next week with Leinart, a person familiar with the plans said on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced it. ESPN first reported Leinart’s planned visit.
Leinart has a familiarity with Oakland’s offensive system because new coordinator Greg Knapp was his quarterbacks coach in Houston. Leinart also has a relationship with starter Carson Palmer, whom he backed up to start his college career at Southern California.
If Leinart signs with Oakland, he would be in the mix with Terrelle Pryor and Rhett Bomar for the backup job.
After winning two national titles, winning the 2004 Heisman Trophy with the Trojans and being the No. 10 overall pick in 2006 by Arizona, Leinart has failed to meet expectations. He started 11 games as a rookie with the Cardinals but only seven games in the past five seasons. He lost the starting job in Arizona to Kurt Warner in 2008.
He got a chance to start last season with the Texans after Matt Schaub broke his right foot, but Leinart dislocated his left shoulder in the first half against Jacksonville on Nov. 27, ending his season.
In 31 career games, Leinart has completed 57.6 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns, 20 interceptions for a 71.6 passer rating. He has won eight of his 18 career starts.
Notes: The Raiders announced that they will donate 10 percent of any new season ticket orders paid for from May 1-June 30 to the Oakland public school system.
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