OAKLAND (CBS/AP) – The Oakland Raiders decided to keep it in the family when it came time to make their first selection in the NFL draft.
Then they went for need.
After sitting on the sidelines without a first-round pick, the Raiders took Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski in the second round Friday night.
Wisniewski is the nephew of Steve Wisniewski, a former eight-time Pro Bowl guard with the Raiders who joined first-year coach Hue Jackson’s staff as an assistant in January. His father also played three years in the NFL as a defensive lineman.
As was the case with his uncle when he was a rookie in 1989, the younger Wisniewski is being penciled in as a starter. Only this Wisniewski will do it at center, a position he played for one season with the Nittany Lions.
“I would have been excited to go wherever, but you can’t help but be a little bit more excited, you know, being a Raider and being able to play for my uncle,” Wisniewski said Friday. “My dad, obviously, knows I’m in good hands playing for Steve. We grew up Raider fans, grew up cheering for Steve. It just feels right.”
The 6-foot-3, 306-pound Wisniewski was the 48th player selected overall after a stellar career at Penn State. He started 38 of 39 games over the past three seasons and earned first team All-America honors in 2010.
Jackson, who was promoted from offensive coordinator when Tom Cable was fired following the end of last season, said the Raiders were well aware of Wisniewski’s bloodlines but said the pick was made out of need more than anything else.
“By no means was this pick made because of Steve and by no means is (Stefen) here because of a relationship,” Jackson said. “He’s here because he can help the Oakland Raiders win football games.”
The Raiders tried to beef up their secondary as well, using the first of two third-round picks to acquire speedy Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Oakland needed insurance after two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha became a free agent.
Then following a trade with New England, Oakland used the 92nd overall pick on LSU offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale.
“The fun part is now we have big bodies who are athletic, who are tough and who want to get the job done,” Jackson said. “We have pieces now to work with. We had to get some bodies.”
The Raiders were second in the NFL in rushing in 2010 but just 23rd in passing behind a makeshift offensive line that surrendered 44 sacks, most in the AFC.
Oakland began renovating the line in the offseason. Free agent left guard Robert Gallery was told he would not be re-signed and owner Al Davis hinted in January that he expects Bruce Campbell, a fourth-round pick last year, to get a long look at right guard.
Wisniewski played guard for three of his four seasons at Penn State, but the Raiders want him at center.
Samson Satele started 27 games there over the past two seasons for the Raiders but could be a free agent depending on how the ongoing labor dispute works out. That, combined with Wisniewski’s pedigree and history, made the pick an easy one for Jackson.
“He’s very smart, very athletic, very tough,” Jackson said. “I think his body type will fit exactly the style of running that we hope to run this season. Obviously he needs to come in and earn his stripes but there’s no question.”
Wisniewski’s father and uncle both played at Penn State, so it seems only natural he was drafted by the Raiders in the second round—the same round Steve Wisniewski was selected in.
“He’s not going to go easy on me, that’s for sure,” Stefen Wisniewski said. “He knows what it takes to be a great offensive lineman in the NFL and he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure I become a great one and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Van Dyke started just three games at Miami (Fla.) as a senior but blossomed in offseason workouts. He was the fastest player at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.25 40-yard dash. It was the third-fastest time posted over the last decade at the combine.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder had three interceptions in four seasons with the Hurricanes but couldn’t stay in the lineup. He started only 21 of the 50 games he played in, including just three as a senior.
“We all know what he can do: run and cover,” Jackson said. “I think if you check with a lot of these guys, some of these guys have lost their job. We do our homework. Obviously he did lose his job at some point, but he also was a starter and played some tremendous football.”
The Raiders, who did not have a pick in the first round, later traded their second-round pick in 2012 to New England in exchange for the 92nd and 125th overall picks this season.
They used the additional third-round selection on Barksdale, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound lineman who started 39 consecutive games for the Tigers. Barksdale played both tackle positions in college but Jackson said he’ll keep the rookie on the right side for now.
(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)