Version one of the draft preview left out many variables when considering the path the Raiders will take this draft. One of the complaints was that I didn't factor in the compensatory picks while previewing the draft in August. Since August, many events have changed the status of this year's draft.
1. Al Davis is no longer with us, physically.
2. The Al Davis that so many wished would be replaced has been—and so many now wish he was back. At least Al had a superb 35 year legacy before he was considered confusing.
3. The Raiders went 8-8 and missed the playoffs by one game, or a tiebreaker, however you want to look at it. In Raiders fashion, Hue Jackson was fired after one season and replaced by the defensive coordinator from Denver Dennis Allen. New GM Reggie McKenzie must have been impressed by the aggressive Broncos defense which allowed under 20 points in seven games last year (the Raiders had three). Reggie chose to ignore the five games Denver allowed over 40 points last year (the Raiders had none). It's a big reward, big punishment style.
4. Speaking of punishment, the NFL came down really hard on the New Orleans Saints for the bounty program they used to reward defensive players during the 2009-2011 seasons. Head Coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games. Defensive Back coach in 2009 and 2010 Dennis Allen is the new coach of the Oakland Raiders. It's amazing that probably without even knowing it, the Raiders picked the perfect coach for their culture.
5. Don't forget about those compensatory picks.
Who Will Win the AFC West This Year?
Thursday Night is the NFL draft and the Raiders will be on the clock. Okay, maybe not on the clock, more like a Day Planner. In the original draft preview, I had the Raiders picking Dre Kirkpatrick. Plans have changed (although the Fox mock draft does have Kirkpatrick going at No. 17, making my August prediction pretty sharp) mostly because of...drum-roll please...Carson Palmer.
Most of the time, trading for a 32-year-old who has never won a playoff game makes little sense, but then again this is a quarterback's league, and nobody wins playoff games with the Bengals. Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason have—and that's it in 44 years.
Trading the 17th pick in the draft and a conditional 2nd-round pick next year (a 1st-round pick if the Raiders make the AFC Championship game...that must have been a fun meeting to come up with this condition between the Bengals and the Raiders) is worth a shot at least. It's better than $94 million and a slinky neck.
Raiders Draft Preview
Most teams spend Wednesday night finalizing their draft board. Luckily, the board is already done for the Raiders for Thursday. Purchase board, done. They head out to the Burger Bar at the Parker Meridian and then hit up the Nick Lowe show. They need their "Cruel to Be Kind" fix to motivate them for the draft.
The other 31 teams have mandated the Raiders attend the 1st round on Thursday night, in case any teams want to offer trades. Some teams may want to move back in this draft and others may really want to move back.
Luckily the purchase order was never placed to connect the Raiders' phone, and since they get no calls early, they sneak out. The Raiders leadership does what every other war room isn't confident enough to do, or can't do because they are at the draft—they go to Game 7 of the Senators-Rangers series.
The Rangers game provides some playoff excitement (maybe they should take Carson also) and provides the group the opportunity to fool themselves by thinking the fans are chanting "Let's Go Raiders." Confidence, any way you can get it. The staff then goes to Hell's Kitchen and eventually blacks out.
With a few headaches, the Raiders staff read the complimentary paper in the hotel to see who was picked in Round 1. As they had planned in August, the Raiders are headed to the Intrepid, to watch the Space Shuttle fly-over (weather permitting). They won't see the Space Shuttle up close, however. After a stop for some Timbits at Tim Horton's (not sure why the staff doesn't eat healthy, plus the draft should be catered), the Raiders' staff heads to the hotel for a nap. It was a long night, after all.
With the 2nd round starting at seven, the group has an issue. Since they didn't have their compensatory pick in August, they ordered Book of Mormon tickets. The show starts at eight and runs around 2 1/2 hours, which means they have to hope the picks go really slow before No. 95, although it is the last pick on Friday. It also may be the only pick made in a cab or on 50th Street running towards the venue.
Once the 95th pick comes up, the Raiders will pick... I don't know. It's basically a 4th round pick.
Whoever it is will certainly fit in better than Terrell Pryor. After the 95th pick is made, the Raiders staff will head to back to their hotel and get ready for pick No. 129 by raiding the mini bars, after another trip to Hell's Kitchen.
The Raiders will be busy with four picks on Saturday, some actually in the slot they finished in during the season.
At this point in the draft, finding hidden gems is a challenge, but the Raiders have done it before.
In August, I pointed out how Trevor Scott was pretty useful, and he was a 6th-round pick. He's now with the Patriots. Jacoby Ford is exciting. Denarius Moore had some flashes in his rookie year. I can almost guarantee one of the five picks during the draft will be a receiver.
Once the picks are made, the Raiders staff will celebrate a job well-done by boarding a flight at JFK and heading back to Oakland. Saturday-night stays in New York are expensive.
For all of the fun I've had explaining the strangeness that is the Oakland Raiders, keep in mind they are in a division with the horribly run Broncos with a complete unknown in terms of health at QB, a San Diego team whose main goal is to move and the Chiefs who are only two years better than the Bengals in terms of playoff win droughts.
Oakland can win this division. Keep that in mind draft night Raiders fans.