2018 Raiders Draft Prospect
Name: Breeland Speaks
School: Ole Miss
Weight: 310 pounds
Whether manning a spot at end or tackle, Speaks’ confidence in his swim move does not waver. At end, he will use it early in the game. If a lineman tries to anticipate, Speaks will dart inside, especially if the tackle tries to slide his outside foot to meet him. Additionally, Speaks uses a bull jerk technique to free him. Meaning, he makes contact first, takes a step with his outside foot while pulling the lineman downward and off-balance. For his quick hands and coordination, Speaks needs to refine his rip move. At times, it alternates between quick and telegraphed.
Against the run, Speaks attempts to slide an arm free, guessing the path of the ball. Occasionally overanxious, Speaks will raise his pad level, giving blockers an enormous area to attack. With a season DL coach, Speaks needs intense drilling.
Most see straight-line speeds as detriment. On the other hand, defensive tackles that run like Speaks are a welcome addition. As mentioned, Speaks’ burst is pure north-south. He shoots gaps on the interior. When lined up at end, he gains the corner with regularity. At times, Ole Miss used him as both a stand up rusher and linebacker. To think of a 290-pound defensive lineman with the ability to rush from 7 yards away is incredible. Speaks uses his acceleration to disrupt screens, jet sweeps and reverses.
If Speaks wants to play the three-technique, he will need to get a little stronger. In return, he can add a better bull rush to his interior arsenal.
Aside from his quickness and ability, Speaks plays with ferocity. At times, that emotion transforms into rage. As a result, flags fly. In 2017, referees ejected him twice. First, Speaks went helmet to helmet with Kentucky quarterback. Next, he struck a Mississippi State player in the face twice. Speaks plays with contempt for all opponents.
When Reggie McKenzie drafted Jihad Ward, he thought Ward would provide a pass rush. After nearly 700 snaps, Ward tallied one sack. Consequently, Khalil Mack appears to be the lone consistently rusher. Denico Autry will test free agency. Not to mention, Mario Edwards cannot stay healthy. Speaks would give the Raiders a versatile player that enters the league more polished than either Ward or Vanderdoes. In addition, Speaks can multiple positions on the line and stand up to rush.
Granted, some will flinch at his drafting due to his checkered history with personal fouls. Meanwhile, he fits the old school Raiders attitude. With hard coaching and discipline, Speaks could turn out to be a Day 2 find.