>\n\nWorst to First: 8. Oakland Raiders \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 8. Oakland Raiders

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/04/2010

The Oakland Raiders.. Ah the Oakland Raiders. It's always a surprise to see the Raiders this close to First and this far from Worst in these little breakdowns. Let's face it, the Raiders operate under the biggest handicap in the NFL. Al Davis. All his players talk about what a fantastic guy he is, and he has his place in NFL history long sewn up. A true Giant of the game. But, he's flat out the worst GM in the league and it's gotten so bad he's not much more than a joke. Everyone knows Al Davis always takes a great 40 time above college production. And it's a big reason why the Raiders get to pick so early most years. This year's not much different, though I guess picking 8th instead of 7th is some sort of improvement. Last year Crazy Al picked Darrius Heyward-Bey at #7. This came as a shock to everyone, except me apparently as I successfully guessed he'd go for DHB rather than the infinitely more talented but slower in a straight line Michael Crabtree. Now Raiders fans face the prospect of watching Crabtree reel in ball after ball across the Bay for years to come. Nice. Karmic some might say. They then followed that up with another headscratcher, Michael Mitchell. A Safety from, well somewhere. The Raiders are only predictable in their unpredictability.

So what will this year's draft bring? More of the same craziness and overvaluing of guys who can run sub 4.3 40 yard dashes? Or perhaps some sensible decisions based around solving the Raiders increasingly obvious problems on their lines? We'll see I guess but for now let's peruse the Raiders roster and work out their biggest needs.

2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
 Jon Alston OLB (Buccaneers, RFA), Cornell Green OT (Bills, UFA)  Kamerion Wimbley DE (Browns, trade)
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
 Greg Ellis DE (UFA-cut), Justin Fargas RB (UFA-cut), Thomas Howard OLB (RFA), J.P. Losman QB (RFA), Kirk Morrison ILB (RFA), Stanford Routt CB (RFA), Gary Russell RB (XRFA), Richard Seymour DT (Franchise), John Wade C (UFA), Javon Walker WR (UFA-cut), Gerard Warren DT (UFA-cut), Sam Williams OLB (UFA)  Michael Bush RB (RFA), Charlie Frye QB (UFA), Bruce Gradkowski QB (UFA), Mario Henderson OT (RFA), Johnnie Lee Higgins WR (UFA), William Joseph DL (RFA), Luke Lawton RB (RFA), Zach Miller TE (RFA), Chris Morris C (RFA), David Nixon LB (XRFA), Oren O'Neal RB (RFA), Jay Richardson DL (RFA), Samson Satele C (RFA), Kamerion Wimbley DE (UFA)
Quarterbacks Major Need
 Well, what a place to start. Bruce Gradkowski is the best QB on the roster. I think that's pretty obvious. Obvious to everyone except Al Davis anyway. Word is there's pressure from above to keep going with JaMarcus Russell. This despite Russell trying to eat his way into a job on the Offensive Line. Though I have my doubts he'd have the athleticism to zone block... ugh. Has there ever been a worse way to spend $60m? Unless anyone actually saw Fantastic 4 II? Charlie Frye (probably the second best QB on the roster) and Gradkowski are free agents in 2011 as well. They'd be wise to wrap up Gradkowski longer term. At the very least he can be a good backup in this league. At best he might even win you a few games, as evidenced by his superb display against his home town Steelers last year. Obviously this is still a Major Need situation. Russell can't cut it, Gradkowski is probably not a franchise QB and Frye is probably not even a backup. I'm not expecting Oakland to give up on Russell yet though. Not least because all of his salaries on his rookie contract are guaranteed. So if they cut him he still costs them as much as he does to keep him. Mental. But you know, this is Al's team and perhaps there's some truth in the rumours of Donovan McNabb and/or Sage Rosenfels being traded to Oakland? Either would be an improvement on who's currently there. McNabb being a big improvement.
Runningbacks No Need
 Coach Tom Cable stated that he wants one of his 2 main guys to emerge as an every down RB. The insinuation being they'd like to be early draft choice Darren McFadden. The problem I see is that McFadden just doesn't look like an NFL RB. At 6'2" and 210lbs he looks much more like a WR to me. He's a talented receiver out of the backfield too. Sadly he's not so talented between the tackles. 6'1" 245lb Michael Bush on the other hand, is, twice in 2009 the Raiders handed him the rock more than 12 times. Twice he responded with 100 yard games. But Bush is a guy who needs the carries to wear down defenses. McFadden is a guy who can hurt you with matchups against LBs in the receiving game and running outside. Tom Cable might want an every down back but I don't think he has one on the roster. He does have 2 backs who compliment each other remarkably well. For my money he needs to feed Bush the ball and work in clever ways to get McFadden the ball in space. That would be very tough for defenses to deal with. Coaches that try and force square pegs into round holes don't usually last long in this league. But entering his second year Cable has already outlasted a number of recent Raiders coaches... Whatever way they go it'd be hard to see them investing in a RB early in this draft. Especially when you add in a collection of FB types who have some rushing ability as well. There are many worse RB situations in the NFL and cutting Fargas highlights the growing confidence in McFadden and Bush. They could probably use some depth as a pure rusher, especially as I don't feel McFadden can be used much inside. But Gary Russell may provide that.

Wide Receivers Minimal Need
 The Raiders have already made one move to improve their WR corps. They cut Javon Walker. That's a bunch of dropped balls avoided. Chaz Schillens, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, plus a bunch of other guys you've never heard of. Not exactly awe inspiring. The one thing they do have in their favour, they're all young. Louis Murphy actually played well last year as a rookie and should develop into a nice target, I think it's fair to say he should have seen a lot more action last year. At points he was the #4 WR. Yet he caught more balls and scored more TDs than any of the 3 ahead of him. I have my doubts DHB will ever amount to much. WR is about much more than a 4.3 40 time and I'm not sure what else DHB has. But as an early pick he'll be given every chance to learn on the field. This is clearly a group that could use an improvement but some of it will come with increased experience. What they could really use is a quality veteran presence rather than another draft pick. They have 5 WRs on roster from the past 3 drafts, further investment in the position seems wasteful. You have to give WRs time to develop. They have 4 guys who could be useful, they could still use another one so it wouldn't surprise me to see the Raiders use a pick at some point on the position, but for me, they need a vet.

Tight Ends No Need
With good QB play Zach Miller would be an elite Tight End. 66 catches and 805 yards. That's a good return for an NFL TE. A very good return. Now imagine what he could do with a decent QB? Scary thought huh? Due to be a restricted free agent in 2011, he'll get paid and paid well after this season. He'll probably be a Raider for a long time and he's one of few Davis draft picks to really pay off in recent years. He's backed up by Tony Stewart who's had a long NFL career without every standing out. He's your #2 blocking TE. You figure if Miller were to get injured we'd probably see a lot more of promising Brandon Myers who didn't get much of a shot in the regular season but impressed in training camp as a rookie. Myers may even make Stewart expendable. The long and short of all this is it's unlikely the Raiders will be looking for much in the draft at TE this year. Unless there's value they just can't pass up. And I do wonder if the ridiculous combine performances of Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta might have  put Al off his Viagra, at least temporarily.

Offensive Line Major Need
Ugh where to start? Well let's begin with the best guy on the Oakland line. Robert Gallery. Another really early pick who hasn't panned out like they hoped. Gallery was drafted as a Left Tackle. He struggled and he's ended up being a good NFL Guard. Unfortunately Gallery injured his back last season and has ended up having a pretty scary sounding operation to correct the damage. He should be back this season but you have to fear for his career at this point. Mario Henderson was something of a bright spot in 2008 but regressed badly in 2009. Cornell Green has gone to the Bills. Chris Morris and Samson Satele failed to ignite much at Center and Cooper Carlisle and Langston Walker, whilst serviceable aren't exactly replaceable. So where does this leave them? Well Grabbing an offensive tackle at #8 could certainly enter the equation. The smart money would be Russell Okung, the consensus best OT in the draft. But a lot of smart money gets lost on the Raiders. If they go that way don't be surprised if it's ultra athletic Bruce Campbell who's name gets called. Going into round 2 they could do a lot worse than Maurkice Pouncey at Center or Mike Iupati at Guard. Frankly they could do a lot worse than spending both their first 2 picks on the OL but that's, well, boring. Raiders drafts are usually anything but boring.

Defensive Tackles Major Need
 If Richard Seymour was playing inside this whole situation might look a bit healthier but I'll go into that a bit more under Defensive Ends. Just looking purely at what Oakland have listed as Defensive Tackles doesn't make for the best reading. Tommy Kelly is experienced and been a pretty handy NFL DT. Gerard Warren got cut but really, let's be honest, Warren never lived up to his hype as an NFL player anyway. Desmond Bryant is expected to move into the starting lineup. Underneath them are converted DE Jay Richardson and constant disappointment William Joseph. This position needs a big upgrade in a big hurry. Now the most obvious way to do that is through playing Seymour somewhere you can make better use of his talents. But that's going to mean weakening your DEs. What to do... Well for one the Raiders could do with dramatically improving their run defense, and with several NT types in this draft that might even happen. Think Terrence Cody in round 2? If they're going to insist on keeping Seymour at DE they're going to need a DT somewhere else.
Defensive Ends Major Need
You know I wonder if Al Davis even understands the difference between the 4-3 front and the 3-4. He traded away Oakland's future (a 2011 1st rounder) to prise Richard Seymour (one of, if not the best 3-4 DE in football) away from the Patriots. So I'm thinking, that could be a nice move. He'd be one of the best 4-3 DTs in the league too with his skill set. And yet he ends up being a massive disappointment as a 4-3 DE. A position that's vastly different from 3-4 DE in assignments and skillset. Now Davis has traded a 3rd rounder for Cleveland's Kamerion Wimbley, a 3-4 OLB who should make a good 4-3 DE. Yet where are they going to play him? 4-3 OLB... where he won't get to rush the passer much and will probably be exposed in pass coverage. Sigh. I really hope these are pointers to the Raiders switching to the 3-4 this season, they have some really good personnel for it now, but it probably isn't I'm afraid. The one thing they don't have is a Nose Tackle. There's something of an embarrassment of riches at NT in this draft as well. Tommy Kelly should make a good 3-4DE, perfect size for it. Seymour is the best in the league at it. Trevor Scott should excel at OLB in the 3-4. Wimbley's already pretty good at it. Morrison and Howard inside at LB. Pretty tasty if they could sort NT. But I digress, let's assume it's not going to happen. Seymour is an ok 4-3 DE. Matt Shaunessy is entering his second year having done pretty well as a rookie. 4 sacks is not bad on a poor team. Importantly they all came towards the end of the year. Something of a sign that he's developing as a player. There's not an awful lot more there to talk about though. With Greg Ellis gone the position lacks a lot of depth with only the marginal Greyson Gunnheim listed at DE below them. Wimbley could fill in there and may well do some of that anyway if Seymour shifts inside on 3rd and long. But still, this is a position in strong consideration for the Raiders first pick. Jason Pierre-Paul fits that Raiders bill of being more athlete than football player at this point. Don't rule it out, but the Wimbley trade may make it less likely. But if it were me I'd be looking at the 3-4 very VERY seriously, find that Nose Tackle Al! I've listed both DT and DE as Major Need but realistically they could use one really good player and just use what they already have better.

Linebackers No Need
Oakland's doing pretty well for Linebackers. Kirk Morrison is one of the better MLBs in the league. Thomas Howard might be a little out of favour but he's a good player. Trevor Scott became a real impact player. They've added Kamerion Wimbley to play SLB which will be interesting... They have lost Jon Alston but he was expendable with the emergence of Scott. The only consideration at all is the status of a CBA for next year. If a CBA arrives Wimbley, Howard and Morrison might all end up Unrestricted free agents. But that's something I'd expect the Raiders to address long before it happens. At Linebacker Oakland is young, deep and talented. No need here.
Cornerbacks Minor Need
When you look at Nnamdi Asomugha you see the guy I rate as the best CB in the league. And opposing QBs know it. He never gets many interceptions, he doesn't even get to defend many passes. But if you read his stat lines he doesn't have to make many tackles either. The reason being? QBs just don't throw to his side. What this has created is major difficulties for the guy forced to play the other side from Asomugha. They tend to get picked on and Oakland has been through a few options with little success until Chris Johnson. Johnson's done a nice job. Underneath the 2 starters is Stanford Routt. Routt has had trouble being burned deep when asked to start which made the Raiders move to give him a $3m RFA tender very surprising. It's true that the Raiders don't have a lot of depth at CB but still, it's a puzzling move for a guy who probably wouldn't have gotten much interest elsewhere. Until that is you entertain the rumours of Asomugha being trade bait. Losing Asomugha would be catastrophic for the Raiders pass defense. One of the deals discussed in the media was Donovan McNabb and Asante Samuel for Asomugha. That, whilst diminishing the secondary somewhat, would probably improve the team as a whole, at least in the short term. What is undeniable is that there's a need for more depth there. Probably not enough that you want to burn a day one pick on the position but certainly a second day pick on a talented athlete would be smart. Trouble is The Raiders have a habit of burning a day one pick on a talented athlete with a second day grade.
Safeties Minimal Need
I'm not a fan of Michael Huff. Let's get that out of the way. I'm not a fan of Michael Mitchell either because frankly I still don't really know who he is. But, Huff did have a decent season last year and Mitchell was a second round pick. Consequently there's probably not going to be much attention paid to safety in this draft by the Raiders. Though Eric Berry is going to be a very strong consideration there's probably other players higher on the Raiders draft board who no-one else would even be considering in the top 7 picks. As much as I'm not a fan of the others, Tyvon Branch is much more than just an IDP stud. He's become a really good pro and had a great season in 2009.

Specialists No Need
Shane Lechler. Is there a better punter in the game? In addition to him there's Sebastian Janikowski at Kicker. He might not be the best kicker in any facet of the game but he's good and they won't be looking to replace him anytime soon.

Return Game Major Need
There's just nothing there at the moment. Not having any kick returner manage an average of over 20 yards is plain awful. No Touchdowns... Definitely needs an improvement. I'm not sure where that comes from unless some WR or DB they pick up can also return kicks. A team like the Raiders simply cannot justify a draft pick, at least not an early one anyway, on a guy who does nothing other than return kicks.

Dream Day One

 1.8 Russell Okung OT Oklahoma State  2.39 Terrence Cody DT Alabama  
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Last Edited: 04/04/2010

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