Conventional wisdom tells us the Oakland Raiders must draft a spectacular wide receiver with the seventh pick of the 2009 draft. Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, and even Darrius Heyward-Bey have all been proffered. That’s the conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom also tells us the Earth is flat.
The Raiders started the offseason in structural disarray although they finished the season with some bright hope for the future. The team structure and organization evaporated, almost all of the coaching contracts expired, some key players were going to become eligible for free agency, and there were significant numbers of under-performers and toxic attitudes on the roster.
The word “dysfunctional” was ubiquitous when talking about the team and even that seemed to fall short.
The Raiders had glaring deficiencies. It was generally accepted that the defense couldn’t stop the run, the offensive line needed help, and there was no big receiving threat.
What was not generally mentioned was that there were no reliable backup quarterbacks, the safety position was weak and weakened further with Gibril Wilson’s necessary exit, and JaMarcus Russell had not improved enough to be the sought-after threat.
So the Raiders became quietly busy once the season ended. (I was gratified to see they did much of what I mentioned in my previous editorial.)
Tom Cable was proclaimed head coach and he and Mr. Davis quickly assembled a coaching staff, rebuilt the organizational structure, re-signed their key free agents, and dismissed many under-performers and attitude problems.
They added Erik Pears, Khalif Barnes, Samson Satele, and Marcus Johnson to the offensive line and DT Ryan Boschetti. To greatly improve the quarterback corps they acquired Bruce Gradkowski and Jeff Garcia.
As draft day approaches, the Raiders are in quite a different position than they were at the end of the season. So what do the Raiders lack that the draft can possibly help address? Fear and Trepidation!
Fear is that special player on defense that makes receivers sick to contemplate. That velociraptor who plays all out on every down, is always near the ball, and when he hits someone they don’t want to repeat the experience.
Fear is that ever-present threat who, even if he doesn’t cover a receiver, makes them fearful of hearing his footsteps so they lose even some modicum of concentration—the difference between a reception and an incompletion.
Trepidation is that quarterback-receiver tandem that makes a defensive secondary squeamish knowing they might be on the game highlight film getting beat for the winning touchdown, their faces masks of horror and disbelief.
So how do the Raiders get Fear and Trepidation in the draft? Trade!
Use the seventh pick and some players to trade down to one pick in the teens, one in the 20s and one around pick No. 80.
Take WR Percy Harvin (Florida) and a linebacker such as Rey Maualuga (USC), James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), or Clay Matthews, Jr. (USC.)
For the pick in the 80s select QB John Parker Wilson (Alabama.) The latter is considered to lack arm strength for the NFL, but his intelligence and leadership skills are significant and his style is similar to Gradkowski’s.
For the No. 40 pick take WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland), Brian Robiskie (Ohio State), or Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina), if they’re around. Offensive lineman Phil Loadholt (Oklahoma) could be possible here too.
At No. 71 aim for DT Fila Moala (USC) or S Chip Vaughn (Wake Forest) and at No. 108 OL Antoine Caldwell (Alabama), FS Sherrod Martin (Troy), or CB Deangelo Smith (Cincinnati) should be considered.
At selection No. 126 DE Brandon William (Texas Tech) could be a project, but could prove to have a very interesting upside. Character, intelligence, and attitude weigh more heavily than positional ability at picks No. 181 and No. 216.
The draft alone will not immediately bring Fear and Trepidation to the team. Fear requires the ability to stop the run and Trepidation requires the offensive line to protect the quarterback.
The draft can go far to address these essentials. A trade, however, is a must. I’d suggest Justin Fargas and Michael Huff to Arizona for Anquan Boldin and a draft choice. There are many possibilities but I wouldn’t let Michael Bush or Darren McFadden go.
I especially think Michael Bush will turn out to be the steal of the 2007 draft. It’s unlikely but, with the acquisition of Jeff Garcia, and depending upon his work ethic, it’s not unthinkable that JaMarcus might be offered in a trade in some complex scenario involving three or four teams such as Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Regardless, the next few weeks will be exciting for Raiders’ fans and the 2009 season will see the silver and black back in contention.