Throughout the 2008 season, the Raiders have demonstrated obvious needs on the offensive line and at the wide-receiver position. Both the O-line and the young wide receivers (Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens) have more than held their own in recent games so the need may not be as glaring as previously thought.
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell has improved tremendously and has clearly demonstrated that, to paraphrase a certain coach, “He is what we thought he was.”
While the defense seems generally solid too many times opponent running backs have made the D-line look like rice paper walls in a Japanese tea house. Special teams have been terrific since Coach Cable made Johnnie Lee Higgins exclusively a punt returner there.
The question is, what can the seventh pick in the first round of the 2009 draft do to enhance the team? There are many theories about drafting in any sport. Do you select the best player available, the best player for your needs, or trade a high pick away for additional lower-round picks and/or players?
Using the first-round pick will certainly be costly. In light of the fact that the Raiders need to retain Shane Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha to be competitive, that seventh pick may be a bit too costly.
If a player is taken with that pick they have to be extraordinary and as close to a sure-bet as possible. (I’m thinking USC linebacker Rey Maualuga here, although it’s likely he’ll be long gone by then.)
Being a first-round pick is no guarantee of being an impact player or even making any NFL squad, after all, while Mannings may be numerous, even their numbers are finite. There are many great players to be had in the later rounds for much less money and more guarantees for the team.
The draft is only a single element in any offseason strategy and as such will not solve Oakland’s problems by itself. The main problem for the Raiders is continuity. At this time, I believe it’s more important to retain Tom Cable, who has the players’ trust and confidence and who demonstrated that he can change the defeatist culture that has plagued the team for years now.
With all the other coaches except for James Lofton departing that becomes even more important. Mr. Davis should offer Coach Cable a contract and remove that incessant problem from the team so they can concentrate on winning. With that done, let Coach Cable have significant participation in the Raiders’ draft.
The plan for the offseason should be to retain the great personnel to build on the accomplishments of the past year while improving the O-line and wide receiver positions and enhancing the run-stopping potential of the defense.
If Rey Maualuga is still around at No. 7, it’s a no-brainer. Pick him. Otherwise trade the pick to bolster the offensive line with skill and experience and/or some lower-round picks.
Use the cash you saved to keep Shane and Nnamdi and see if you can land an impact wide receiver in the free-agent market (one who is not looking for a lucrative retirement on the Raider bench).