2010 NFL Draft: Oakland Raiders Team Needs
Every year, especially of late, it seems the Raiders are in the same position-in rebuilding mode and in need of serious upgrades and discipline on the field.
The team did manage to pull off a few upsets against Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Denver, but it will take more than a few lucky wins to establish some valid legitimacy.
You can blame it on Al Davis, Tom Cable, and the rest of the front office, but ultimately, the weight of responsibility rests on the players themselves. The discipline on both sides of the ball was a source of mockery and sub-par performance all year long.
From players running into each other in coverage, wide outs getting tied up in routes, dropped balls, poor throwing, and missed assignments at the line, it’s clear the Raiders need to move in a different direction this offseason.
The front office has spent their last three first round picks on players who have not lived up to expectations (JaMarcus Russel, Darren McFadden, Darius Heyward-Bey). It’s doubtful Al Davis has learned his lesson and will divert away from his usual “speed supersedes all” mentality but either way, the team has a number of holes to address.
Biggest Needs: QB, OT, FB, WR
JaMarcus Russel is a bona fide bust and, with the possibility of losing Gradkowski to free agency, the Raiders have a lot of work to do in upgrading the quarterback position. Bringing back Gradkowski wouldn’t be the worst of ideas; the offense rallied behind the journeyman and were able to display an ounce of consistency.
If the team does decide to address the quarterback position in the draft, I doubt it will be in the higher rounds. Rather, expect them to go after a mid-late round guy like John Skelton or Jarrett Brown.
Of course, it’s difficult for any quarterback to throw the ball effectively without a proficient offensive line. Robert Gallery is still struggling with injuries and Cornell Green wasn’t on par with his expectations at all. Mario Henderson is looking like a dependable lineman but the team still needs a young tackle they can develop into a franchise player.
With the eighth pick in the draft, Oakland has a shot at picking up an elite rookie tackle, but that isn’t Davis’ style so only time will tell. If they do opt to go in that direction, Anthony Davis, Trent Williams, and Bruce Campbell are all likely to be available. Otherwise, Sam Young or Kyle Calloway are true tackles who will likely be around in the second or third round.
Fullback is never high on the list for costly acquisitions but the Raiders will still likely keep an eye out for worth blocking backs that become available. Luke Lawton is suspended for the first two games of next season, Oren O’Neal is still struggling with nagging injuries and Gary Russel is not a blocking back.
Darius Heyward-Bey had nine catches in eleven starts and it’s unclear whether or not he will ever be a true starting wide out. Louis Murphy looked good late in the season and Chaz Schilens showed a little potential as well. Javon Walker was slated to be the veteran presence they needed, but injuries prevented that from happening.
Ideally, the Raiders would do better to acquire a veteran receiver rather than clutter the roster with another youthful wide out. Terrel Owens, Antonio Bryant and Derrick Mason are all available though it’s doubtful Al Davis will shell out the big bucks for either of them. But couldn’t you picture the circus of Owens in Oakland?
Biggest Needs: DT, OLB, DB
Once again, the Raiders find themselves at the bottom of the run stopping category. As long as Gerard Warren and Tommy Kelly are the brunt of the middle, it’s doubtful anything will change. Desmond Bryant is a good rotation guy, but what Oakland really needs is a beefy nose-tackle type of player who can engage a number of guys in the middle and provide a nice pile of trash difficult for any back to wade through.
If the Raiders opt to go after a defensive lineman early in the draft, they’ll have to hope one of the premiere tackles falls to them or take a chance on a a guy like Terrence Cody or Cam Thomas. Either of those players can be effective immediately.
Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison are good finesse linebackers, but physicality is a major need for 2010. Since the Raiders run a 4-3 defense, I would expect the team to target an outside linebacker or a versatile tackle machine who can rotate around the backfield. Again, if they go for a run-stopper early, they will have their choice between McClain and Spikes, at the very least.
Expect them to go late in the draft, though, and if they do, Jamar Chaney and Micah Johnson are big, bruising linebackers that can dominate the weak side across from Howard.
One could argue that the Raiders have a decent starting four in their backfield, but it’s unanimously clear that a decent nickel corner is needed. Stanford Routt is not at the caliber the team needs, often getting burned or flagged in ’09. This year’s class of corners are all destined to be nickel corners next year so Oakland has an array of options at this position.
Should they opt to go early, Haden and Robinson will be available and ready to add speed and a high football IQ to a defense that needs a little discipline. Otherwise, Brandon Ghee and Perrish Cox would be great options as mid-late round acquisitions.
With a little savvy scouting and better luck in the first round (and a deviation from his normal thinking by Al Davis), the Raiders have another shot at making some noise in the AFC West next year. Head coach Tom Cable is still questionable and the team still needs a starting quarterback, but some of their issues are likely to pan out well after the draft. Either way, 2010 will hold good things for Raiders fans.