The Oakland Raiders are the very epitome of dysfunction at the NFL level. A decade of poor drafting, poor free agent signings, and even poorer front office management has eroded the once proud team. This year, however, the Raiders finally appeared to put all of the pieces together in the right way on draft day. With the Jamarcus Russell experiment over the franchise is expected to be a competent, if not competitive, team. Their 2010 draft class added a good mix of players that will help this season and players to be developed for future years. Brent Foshee gives his insight on Oakland’s draft effort.
Throughout the league offices, media circles, and the internet Oakland is wildly considered a draft day wild card. This year the team was linked to several of the top boom or bust prospects with the 7th pick. Their selection of Rolando McClain came as a shock not because he wasn’t the highest rated player available (he was close on many boards) rather McClain was among the safest choices available at the time.
Known as a natural leader, McClain is a big thumper whose play is eerily reminiscent of the great Raiders linebackers of the 70’s and 80’s. A tremendous downhill player, McClain does have limitations in coverage but has a strong work ethic and the mental capabilities to overcome his deficiencies. McClain should be a dominant linebacker for years to come and was the Raiders best selection in recent memory.
Continuing to shore up the middle of the frequently porous defense, the team selected Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston in the second round. Houston, like McClain, is a high energy player that always gives good effort and can be counted on to do the little things. He needs some work shedding blocks and learning to play more explosively but he is a reliable, blue collar lineman. Houston figures to play early in the rotation and could be the opening day starter for the team.
The Raiders wisely waited until the mid rounds to start taking developmental players with huge upsides. They couldn’t have made a better choice than Jared Veldheer in round three. Veldheer is a mammoth physical specimen that has not played against top competition in college. His long arms and natural athleticism makes him a potential left tackle of the future for a team that has a serious need at that position. Veldheer needs exposure to NFL coaching before he is ready to start but he could be a very good player for the Raiders for a very long time and he represents excellent value in the third round.
One of the many players linked to the Raiders first round selection was workout warrior Bruce Campbell. Despite putting up the best numbers ever seen by an offensive tackle at the combine in February, Campbell did not have the game film to justify an early first round selection. That the Raiders waited and got him in the fourth round speaks volumes of their patience in approaching this year’s draft. Campbell is physically good enough to do anything asked of him at tackle. Once he learns the details of his position and stops relying almost exclusively on his athleticism, Campbell should have a long career in the league. Otherwise he will wash out in only a few years.
Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford is an explosive athlete that offers the team a complimentary receiver to last years early selections, Louis Murphy and Darius Heyward-Bey. Lacking the size to line up outside, Ford is an explosive athlete that is very adept at moving through open space. Ford has good hands and does a nice job of putting himself in position to catch errant throws. He also offers the Raiders potential as a return specialist.
The Raiders added to their cornerback depth by picking Auburn’s Walter McFadden. McFadden is a smallish cover corner that might be best suited for the slot early in his career. Quick footed and fluid in coverage, McFadden should add a few pounds to his frame in order to hold up over an NFL season. He may never be able to consistently battle large receivers when the ball is in the air but he should be able to find a home as the teams nickel or dime back.
Linebacker Travis Goethal is a heady player that offers the team a nice insurance policy against McClain and could be a contributor on special teams as well. Goethal makes up for his lack of athleticism with great anticipation. He is another draftee that is a high energy, infectious guy on the field.
Cornerback Jeremy Ware is a developmental player that will likely spend his first season or two on the teams practice squad while Michigan safety Stevie Brown is best suited as an in the box safety. He will compete with others on the team for the 9th defensive back role and will have to make his mark on special teams.
Grade: (A-) With the first two picks Oakland vastly improved their run defense. Through the mid rounds the team acquired developmental players with nice upsides for the future. Throughout the draft the team took high character individuals, for a change, and selected no fewer than four defensive prospects that are known for their hustling and strong work ethic. With a quarterback situation seemingly better than it has been in years, things might be starting to make a turn for the better in Oakland.