Drafting in the top 10 can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a team has the ability to select a young player of immense talent and skill. On the other hand, the owners will have to part with large amounts of cash to entice the athlete to their under-performing club.
This makes picking in the top 10 risky business. A team should only pick a player they really need and who will be taken in and made a keystone of the franchise. The drafted player needs to be a leader by what he does on and off the field.
The Raiders eventually managed to do this with their 2004 No. 2 selection Robert Gallery, are getting there with their 2007 No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell and will hopefully break the shackles with Darren McFadden, their 2008 No. 4 pick, in 2009.
However, Michael Huff (2006 No. 7 selection) has never panned out as a leader and the Raiders currently have had to ante-up a large amount of cash for a squad player.
This is the dilemma facing the Oakland Raiders as they enter the 2009 draft. They need more leaders in the locker room, but need to avoid an overpaid bust as it will be bad for morale.
Despite the depth in some positions and the recent poor record of the Raiders, there are actually only two players in the current draft that could be said to be real “difference makers” for the Raiders.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, would make an impact to a struggling, but improving passing game. His catching ability would be an instant upgrade and would give Russell another weapon.
BJ Raji, DT, Boston, is a force of nature right where the Raiders most need it—in the middle of the defensive front stopping the run. He would instantly improve the play of Tommy Kelly and the Raiders linebackers and safeties.
If neither of these players is available at No. 7 or the Raiders have doubts about either one, then the smart play would be to trade down and stock the roster with hungry, less expensive players.
DT, DE, OLB and S need to addressed on the defensive side of the ball. Improvements at WR, a blocking TE and depth on the offensive line would continue the good work of coach Cable in building an offense fit for the playoffs.
So it’s Crabtree, Raji or Trade...which is it going to be?