OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Most teams are looking at this week’s NFL draft with optimism and renewed hope. Raider fans know better. The draft has crushed the hopes of Raider Nation perhaps more than any other team. Don’t believe me? That’s only possible if you haven’t seen the following info, which ESPN likes to throw on screen every time they speculate about the Raiders’ draft:
2010 PICK 8 – Rolando McClain – NEXT PICK (Bills) C.J. Spiller
2007 PICK 1 – JaMarcus Russell – NEXT PICK (Lions) Calvin Johnson
2006 PICK 7 – Michael Huff – NEXT PICK (Niners) Donte Whitner
2005 PICK 23 – Fabian Washington – NEXT PICK (Packers) Aaron Rodgers
2004 PICK 2 – Robert Gallery – NEXT PICK (Cardinals) Larry Fitzgerald
Notice anything there? Like a couple of future Hall of Famers who have never suited up for Oakland? It almost makes you wish they traded all of their first-rounders for Carson Palmer.
GM Reggie McKenzie was brought in to right the ship, and has been getting some kudos around the league for filling holes in the roster through free agency this offseason, adding big-names like Lamar Woodley (from Steelers), Carlos Rogers (49ers), James Jones (Packers), Justin Tuck (Giants) and local boy Marurice Jones Drew (Jags). He also landed the presumptive starting QB, Matt Schaub via trade with the Texans. According to draft pundits, that gives the Raiders a rare chance to draft the “best player available” rather than just trying to fill a massive hole in the roster, as they’ve done in the past – see Russell, JaMarcus. So who will be the best player available? Here are the names most frequently associated with the Raiders at pick five:
Greg Robinson, OT – Auburn
Viewed by many as the top tackle in the field, Robinson has the size and strength to be overpowering. He’s seen as a future anchor for a line at left tackle. There are few concerns about his ability to play in the pros; after all he was already playing in the SEC, that’s 90 percent of the way there. Here’s the NFL’s Draft Profile.
Khalil Mack, OLB – Buffalo
The Raiders may have filled holes through free agency, but they were 4-12 last year and are still in serious needs of a “playmaker” who will generate turnovers and set the tone for the defense. Many think Mack could be that player. He’s graded slightly lower than South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, and played in the afterthought Mid-American conference, but scouts are in love with his disruptive blend of speed and power. NFL’s Draft Profile.
Sammy Watkins, WR – Clemson
In a deep wide receiver class, Watkins stands out as the top pick to make an offense immediately better. He’s eventually expected to line up as a team’s number one pass catcher every Sunday. Plus he’s fast, and that has always been the top requirement to play wideout for the silver & black. NFL’s Draft Profile.
Johnny Manziel, QB – Texas A&M
Nobody’s draft stock will be more closely watched than “Johnny Football.” The undersized quarterback became a national sensation for his play-making in college, but he’s viewed as the highest risk-reward pick in the draft. That gamble could scare away the Raiders (have we mentioned they’ve been burned in the draft before) or entice them to land a potentially franchise-altering player who will help the team fill seats and avoid future blackouts. NFL’s Draft Profile.
Of course, there are two other options. There are widespread rumors that the Raiders are trying to trade the pick and move down to land additional picks – as they did last year. Or, they could select a player that nobody else has valued that high (Darrius Heyward-Bey anyone?).
To reverse the curse, they’re probably going to have to be sensible. We don’t really need to be wowed by the pick just the player on the field. Take Watkins or Mack if they get the chance and then look for a long-term quarterback and more defensive/wide receiver depth in the later rounds. What do you think?
The last time they hit a real home run in the 1st round? You could argue it was Nnamdi Asomugha in 2003, but we’ll take Charles Woodson who was happy to answer the call from Raider Nation in 1998.