The Raiders are drafting No. 7 overall. Seven. Not necessarily the "home run" pick that leads to a McFadden or a Russell, but still a top 10 pick with some potential.
So, as we begin our journey to figure out what the Raiders could/would/should do with the pick, I'll go thru the needs, and then talk about a few players after that.
First off, the Offense.
QB - We're set with Russell, and either Tui or Walter as a backup.
RB by Committee - Fargas, McFadden, and the recently re-discovered Bush are solid.
TE - Solid here with Miller and friends.
WR - Walker is definitely risky (at this point, only two good seasons since '02). Lelie only plays over-the-top vs Denver. Curry has forgotten how to catch, but Higgins and Schilens can play. Watkins and some other bit players have some potential, but potential don't pay the bills.
OL - I think the line did okay this year. I think the shift to zone blocking was a success, but only late in the season did we find the right combination of players.
Overall on offense, I think the biggest need is wide receiver. I personally believe that WR is the biggest need we have on offense. If you look at the old Cowboys model, the Bills model, and even the Giants, there's a "triplet" group that forms the core for an offense.
An elite runner creates space for a wideout, and vice versa. Right now, we don't really scare anyone, so they stack up against the run.
DL - We've got loads of guys, some over-paid, but in general a good core. However, our defense did not improve this year.
LB - Interesting group, but too many injuries to Brown, et la, to get a good feel. Morrison and Howard did well (although Howard was much better in my Madden 2009 season). The unit was hit pretty hard by injuries. A young stud could help out here.
CB - I feel pretty good about Asomugha, and whoever's opposite him. Depending on how our Lechler/Asomugha quandary goes, this could suddenly become a need. If we don't lose Asomugha, I wouldn't waste a pick here.
Safety - Huff didn't really make the huge leap we hoped for with his move to free safety, but Wilson did well, when not covering for our burned corners early in the year.
Janikowski's fine, and someday his Polish Cannon leg will win a game from 58-60 yards. Someday. Lechler is a superstar. I hope that we can keep him, but he's caught in the Asomugha/Lechler quandary of dollars.
On one hand, I think Lechler could stay, based on the positive vibes from the Cable-regime. On the other hand, he's witnessed some crazy stuff and may just want to go someplace stable.
Okay, so with that background, let me give you some ideas of where we might go (in no particular order).
1) Get a wideout
Finish out our triplets. Russell's career would skyrocket if he had a "separation" guy out there.
Get Michael Crabtree at all costs. He's a game changer—like Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson—this guy can flat out play. However, the Hawks have even fewer receivers than we do, and they're ahead of us in the draft. If Crabtree isn't there, and Maclin comes out; I'm not sure he's the same level, but it might be worth considering.
2) Go offensive lineman
Andre Smith, Jason Smith, or Eugene Monroe could all give us a lift over some of our weaker links. If we put a stud with Gallery and Henderson, we could have a great foundation for the future of our new zone-blocking scheme.
3) Go linebacker
Depending on who we get for a GM, and who we get for a Defensive Coordinator—if we shift to 3-4 or something, then a linebacker would be a good fit. Curry and Malauga are both good options here.
4) Trade down
This option is a little scarier, but it gives us the chance to go for other options. There's a bunch of DEs, DTs, and LBs in the top 30, and a couple first rounders would help us address more needs, and also get us some cap relief.
If we can address the WR need via free agency (Houshmandzadeh perhaps—averaged almost 10 yards a catch on a bad team) then that changes the draft perspective.
This is where we really need a GM to balance all of our needs against the draft and free agency. Someone who could decide—trade Fargas for a veteran wideout, or keep Fargas and shift the offense a little. I think after the past year, that Davis will hopefully not be quite as active in the "overpay for people to come to Oakland" category.
Those are the potential paths as I see them. I for one am gonna put a wideout wish under my pillow on the night of Apr. 24, 2009. Now we'll just see if that wish can come true.