This year was the most interesting draft in a long time. Nobody had any identical mock boards. Perhaps the most stunning pick was WR Darius Heyward-Bey going #7 overall to the Oakland Raiders. Due to his low value, one would think that they would've traded down and got an extra pick so he wouldn't have to be paid a top 10 draft contract. Coach Cable was asked "Why did you pass on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin (who were projected as the top 2 WRs in the draft)?" His answer was "Maclin and Crabtree are both great football players, but they came from a spread offense which is non existant in the NFL. DHB, on the other hand, has actually played in a pro style offense and had he been in a spread offense in college, I think he would've had just as good of a season as Crabtree and Maclin." He was also questioned about DHB's hands but Cable said "The more I watched of him on film, the more I noticed his hands got better as he moved along in his college career. He appeared to have fairly reliable hands as a senior so I don't see that as an issue (kind of like Johnnie Lee Higgins became a more reliable target at the end of last year for us)." Other things that Cable was high on about DHB were that he's a good locker room guy, he has a strong work ethic and won't quit, He is big on studying the play book, and his speed will compliment Jamarcus Russell's arm strength well. Coach Cable really thinks that DHB was the one player on board that would make the Oakland Raiders a better football team instantly.
Another interesting pick was in round 2. They traded down with New England and aquired 2 extra picks. With their second round selection, they took DB Mike Mitchell, who wasn't invited to the combine yet had a stock that was rising greatly over the weeks preceding the draft. He actually got a call from the Chicago Bears saying that he'd be a Bear at pick 49, but was a Raider before the Bears got on the clock for the first time in the draft. Once I heard that I quit all my talk about them taking him too soon because now I know that he would not have been available to them on day 2. I watched this guy on film and he runs a fast 40 (4.43) and hits like Jack Tatum. He played SS in college, but some wonder if he will play FS as a Raider because of his speed. He and Tyvon Branch could make our most fierce duo of safeties since the Tatum-Atkinson era. We've had Vann McElroy, Eddie Anderson, briefly Eric Turner who passed away after 2 years of being a Raider, and Rod Woodson, since then, but none of them had a great compliment at the other safety position. I am very excited about Mike Mitchell being a Raider and I think he will contribute the most right away.
WR Louis Murphy from Florida was taken by us in the 4th round because Coach Cable saw him still on board and said "We can't pass on this guy." He has reliable hands, came from a championship team and is used to being the second option after having teamed with Percy Harvin. Adding Murphy adds good depth at the WR position. Chaz Schilens proved that we did have WRs on our roster that can catch the football at the end of the season because he was one of them. He caught everything within his arms reach and after that, Johnnie Lee Higgins stepped up his receiving game after making himself known as a punt returner. We still have an unknown in Arman Shields and despite not producing Javon Walker will be back. I'm not sure how many WRs will make the team, but we should have a good crop this year with Walker being the weakest link if you ask me.
TE Brandon Myers is almost a sure bet to make the team since there is a lack of competition at the position. Zach Miller has all pro caliber and Myers should be able to give him a blocking break. This will also allow Miller to split off as a receiver.
Then there were 3 DEs and 2 could also play LB. Matt Shaunessy is the one that only plays DE. Slade Norris is expected to play LB and special teams. Stryker Sulak has played both and Coach Cable expects him to compete for the SLB spot. Sulak's name was the only one I recognized but didn't know much about. Last year about when these guys were drafted, we took a DE from Buffalo that I never heard of named Trevor Scott who tied for our team lead and NFL rookie lead in sacks. It really looks like there will be a good run of competition for the DE spots because they thought really high on practice squad DEs Greyson Gunheim (who I had actually heard of prior to the draft and was activated halfway through the season), and Derrick Gray. I got a feeling Jay Richardson will be on a short leash and Derrick Burgess better regain his all pro form if they stand a chance at making the team this year.
Now here comes my biggest question: Why didn't we take a DT after ranking close to the bottom of the NFL in run defense (31st last year out of 32 teams)? Cable answers "We have 4 very good DTs that are all pro caliber; they just haven't been playing like it." The only one that seems to have all pro caliber is Tommy Kelly. Gerrard Warren only seems to show up when Kelly is double teamed and Terdell Sands has been a major disappointment since signing a 17 million dollar contract 2 years ago. William Joseph joined us as an UFA last year but was cut at the end of camp. Lane Kiffin favored Fred Wakefield over him due to his ability to play both OL and DL, but Cable didn't think he was good enough to keep around after Kiffin's termination so he brough Joseph back in favor of Wakefield. Plus Coach Cable is very hign on new aquisition Ryan Boschetti, so I think they will all be on a short leash this year and if run defense is still a problem for us, then there will be no excuse for not drafting a DT next year. Coach Cable also said that new defensive coordinator John Marshall's defense will be pretty much like Rob Ryan's but with better teaching because Rob Ryan was more of a 3-4 coach and the Raiders were set up as a 4-3 defense which is Coach Marshall's strength and ranked 18th against the run, but last against the pass. However I don't look for our passing D to fall too much because we have one of the best corners in the NFL (so good most QBs shy away from him keeping his numbers low).
Another question is "Why did we pass on two stud OTs?" Coach Cable's answer was "Mario Henderson gave us good hope at the LT position at the end of the season and we think he will be our guy there this year. Once he came in (in favor of Kwaime Harris who led the NFL in penalties and sacks allowed) the penalties and allowed sacks went down quite a bit...as a matter of fact, he didn't allow a sack and never drew a penalty at all. We've added Kalif Barnes, who is favored to win the RT spot and Erik Pears was brought in for depth. Cornell Green (who was second in the NFL in penalties) will compete for a roster spot too." Pretty much OL was addressed in free agency so they could focus elsewhere in the draft.
I look forward to next season and hopefully we will win more football games. RAIDERNATION 2009!!!!!!!!!