Why Michael Crabtree May Not Be a Lock for Raiders
On Apr. 25, Roger Goodell will approach the podium at the 2009 NFL Draft and announce, "With the number seven pick in the NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders do not select Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech University."
Shocked? Here's why Crabtree may not be a sure thing for the Raiders:
1. Crabtree Is Not Available
Many Raider fans are screaming that Michael Crabtree has too much talent to pass up on. Why then, do they think that the fans, coaches and upper management of the teams picking before the Raiders aren't screaming the same thing?
An argument can be made that none of those teams need a wide receiver, but with talent like Crabtree dangling in front of them, don't be surprised if he's gone by No. 7.
2. Wide Receiver Is Not the Raiders' Biggest Need
The Oakland Raiders have not finished better than 22nd against the run since 2002. Not surprisingly, that was the last time the Raiders made the playoffs.
Their scoring defense has ranked better than 24th only once during that time, ranking 18th in 2006. In other words, defense, and especially the run defense, is a problem for the Raiders.
Defensive tackle, strong-side linebacker, safety, and defensive end are all areas of weakness. No doubt, wide receiver and offensive line are also weaknesses. It will be up to Al Davis and someone else (see No. 4) to decide which need is greatest.
3. The Raiders' Receiving Corps Is Not as Bad as It Seems
Anyone who watched the beginning and middle of last season knows that no one, not Michael Crabree, Tim Brown, nor Fred Biletnikoff, was going to catch a lot of the balls JaMarcus Russell was throwing.
By the end of the season, however, he was starting to click with young receivers Chaz Schilens and Johnny Lee Higgins, and he was clicking even sooner than that with tight end Zach Miller.
In his last seven games, Russell threw seven touchdowns and four interceptions. That's not bad for what was essentially a rookie quarterback.
With Higgins, Schilens, and Miller returning, along with Arman Shields (who excited coaches last year before being injured for the season) and veteran Javon Walker (let the scoffing begin), the Raiders may have enough quality pass-catchers to get the job done in what is undoubtedly going to be a run-first offense.
4. Al Davis' Opinion Is No Longer the Only One That Counts
Everyone knows that Al Davis loves big-name players who sell jerseys and put butts in the seats at the Coliseum.
It is also common knowledge that Al Davis is the guy who makes the decisions in Oakland, damn what anyone else thinks.
That logic points straight to Crabtree. But a change is in the wind this offseason.
Examples: a) Word has it that Davis allowed coach Tom Cable to be involved in the selection of his own staff.
b) The Raiders re-signed the majority of their free agents, including the two most important: Shane Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha.
c) Davis renegotiated the contracts of several players, including Russell, Walker, Justin Fargas, and Robert Gallery.
d) Al Davis has yet to throw unprecedented money at a free agent with an attitude problem.
While none of this indicates that someone else is calling the shots in Oakland, it does seem that someone else finally has some input, and so far that input has been good.
The point is, just because Crabtree is the prototypical big-name guy for Al Davis, that might not make him a lock with the No. 7 pick if this new source of input (likely Tom Cable) is opposed to it.
5. Al Davis Hasn't Drafted a First-Round Wide Receiver Aince Tim Brown (1988)
This is a tenuous argument, especially in light of the previous one. Plus, Tim Brown was a pretty decent pick up, if memory serves, which would be an argument in favor of drafting Crabtree.
6. Michael Crabtree Has Not Worked Out for Anyone, Yet
Considering the emphasis that Al Davis places on a player's performance at the Combine, the fact that Crabtree has yet to work out for anyone could impact Davis' decision.
Al Davis loves speed above all else, or so it is said, and that characteristic was the biggest question mark with regard to Crabtree's performance in college, even before his foot injury. He was caught from behind too many times in the open field.
Without a 40-yard dash time to contradict that, Al may be wary of picking Crabtree at No. 7.
7. There Is Depth at Wide Receiver in This Year's Draft
There are several receivers in this year's draft who performed well at the Combine and/or at a Pro Day and some of them will be available after the first round, at a time when the Raiders are on the clock.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30 second 40-yard dash) could be available in the second round and Derrick Williams (4.37 at his Pro Day) could be available in the third, among others.
None may be better than Crabtree, but the draft is about weighing the depth and value of each position in each round.
The difference, talent-wise, between a first and second round player at another position may be greater, in the eyes of the Raiders, than the difference between a first and second round receiver.
8. The Raiders Don't Draft Well in the First Round, and Drafting Michael Crabtree Would Be Drafting Well
Michael Crabtree has immense talent and his performance in college warrants the No. 7 pick. He may even turn out to be a perennial Pro Bowl player.
So he can't go to the Raiders, right?
Only one eventual Pro Bowler has been drafted in the first round by the Raider in the last 10 years.
This argument was meant as a joke initially, but it's scary isn't it? One could argue that McFadden, and even Russell, might eventually make the Pro Bowl, but still, the record is not good.
But it's this own-hair-pulling unpredictability that both attracts and repels Raider fans year after year, and it's the real Raider fans who keep coming back. So while the "experts" have only a few guys on the radar for the Raiders, there are a bunch of surprise players, and potential mistakes, who could be selected No. 7 overall.
Who will it be then, that holds up the Silver and Black with Commissioner Goodell on draft day? That's up to Al Davis (and whomever else he allows to influence his decision), but there are an awful lot of reasons why it won't be Michael Crabtree.
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